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"...another reason I'm intrigued with the hanged of Salem, especially the women, is that a number of them aroused suspicion in the first place because they were financially independent, or sharp-tongued, or kept to themselves. In other words, they were killed off for the same sort of life I live right now but with longer skirts and fewer cable channels." Sarah Vowell, The partly cloudy patriot.


I want to write about this,

but I don't want it to show up on the pages of the chronicle...

I've mentioned before that part of my job is helping people with their P&T applications (not spelling that out to avoid google searches). I think I'm in a halfway decent place to proffer some advice. I know the limits of my knowledge - and I think what I know is not unhelpful. So, I am sharing it with you.

Here's my advice.
1. Read the application early and get to know it.
Not only do you want to be familiar with it in order to fill it out, it also can give you a sense of what kinds of records to keep. This is crucial for young faculty because good record keeping will make your life so much easier when it comes time to do this process. And don't forget to read the directions - even if there are 7 different instruction packets with so much detail you want to scream. Reading and knowing all of it will help.

2. Keep good records.
Don't expect the admin staff to maintain records on your students/advisees/trainees (incl. how much time you spend with them), your committees, whether or not your publication has moved from "in press" to published, your contract history, where your students/advisees/ trainees are now. They just won't. Admin staffs change over with alarming frequency - especially the good ones. Record keeping varies wildly from institution to institution, department to department, staff person to staff person. Don't rely on anyone else to keep your records - you do it.

3. Use your cv as a record keeping mechanism.
Each month, update your cv. Keep track of all of your publications (including in press and in progress), all of your students/advisees, all the classes you teach and the evaluation means, every talk you give, every poster you do, etc. Alternatively, create an excel spreadsheet to track everything, including the hours you spend on each part of your job (service, teaching, clinical work, research). Start early, update often.

4. Develop connections and collaborations.
A large part of your application comprises the referee letters. Some schools want those to be people who know and love you (professionally speaking) and some want completely objective referees (ours is the latter; and Harvard is just freaky*). Regardless, you want to make yourself known. Collaborate with big names, meet people at conferences, give talks - get out there and make sure people are aware of your work.

5. Relatedly, develop a national reputation.
You want some name recognition among your referees. If you are at a school where the referees need to be objective, you don't want letters from people who have never heard of you (they may refuse then to not write them too, and every response to the request for referees becomes a part of your application!!!). You want them to have heard of you, your work, you want them to have heard you speak, you want them to have cited you or used your articles in a class, or to have some way used your research.

6. No one cares more than you do.
If you are lucky enough to have admin help with your application, don't expect them to kill themselves over your app. If you are lucky enough to have someone dedicated enough to try to do everything they can to help you create a successful application, treat them well and feed them often. Seriously, a good admin person can be the best thing that could ever happen to you because they will keep an eye on things for you, help you fill in holes, work tirelessly to make sure every little thing is complete and perfect. But, they are not you - they don't know your work and some errors they just will not see (like authors who are switched) and they cannot be expected to go much beyond what you give them (if your CV is wrong, so will be your app unless you catch it!). It is to your advantage to keep that person happy and engaged, otherwise YOU will suffer because they will stop caring and stop going the extra mile

7. Find someone who cares more than you do.
Your application will be reviewed by your peers - and others. So, why not have your peers look at it before you turn it in? Don't be the only one looking at it - rely on your mentors and peers. If you don't have mentors and peers, find them. Find someone too who thinks the sun rises and sets with you, and have them read it because they'll be able to tell you when you could or should promote yourself and your achievements more or better. They might be able to remember stuff you can't as well. Rely on your more senior colleagues too.

8. Pay attention to what happens to your articles.
Keep track of how many times it has been cited (and get those articles - my old advisor had me check every month and get every article for her), and don't just rely on web of science - it underestimates (google scholar is pretty good - use a bunch of different sources, it helps - even amazon.com can help). Make sure you get your impact scores too and that you understand your field's range so you know how yours compare to others in your field.

9. Become a CV collector.
Every time a CV is distributed, keep a copy. Read them and see what you like, what you don't about the formatting and what is kept in it (ooh, I've seen some doozies - like one that was completely center justified - ouch. Another had his entire sordid marital and offspring history in it!). Also use it to engage in some HEALTHY self-comparison. Where are these people in their careers, and how do you compare? Use it to create goals.

10. Create goals.
Part of your statements should not be unlike a Miss America pageant speech - if you are crowned, what will you do with your newfound power? If you get P'ed or T'ed - what will you do? (increasing service is one typical one, applying for grants, etc.).

11. Get examples.
If your peers will share their statements and applications/dossiers with you, take them up on it. So much is ambiguous and unclear in these forms- and you want to see how others have positioned themselves.

12. Think about your own story.
You know how to look at data and see what story it is telling, do the same with your own work. This is part of packaging yourself - what sets you apart?

13. Imagine someone from a completely different field (chemistry, medicine, history, art) reading your application.
Would they understand everything? Would they get the significance of your achievements? Would they understand the acronyms and the research?

14. Don't avoid it.
Getting an early start will save you so much pain and excrutiating torture later. Trust me.

15. What is your program of research?
One of my mentors told me that all of my weird research fit together because it all came from me. She encouraged me to come up with one sentence that described all of my research (mine was: I want to understand the unconscious mechanisms underlying problematic behaviors and experiences). If you have no program yet, work to create something cohesive, but that still has some breadth.

16. I can't reiterate this enough.
No one cares as much or more than you do. If you find yourself not caring or disengaging, reengage, pronto! If you don't, the burden may fall on someone else (like the admin staff) and that's simply not fair, and the stakes are too high to put someone in that position. And please don't make the admin staff write your essays for you - that's just not okay.

17. Rent the series "Firefly" on DVD.
This is just because I've just finished watching it and want to talk about it with someone! :)

* I guess Harvard chooses your competitors and they allow them to write letters for you, but also compete with you for your job - it's a way to trying to get in even better people than you. It's also why so few young faculty get tenured there, and most tenured profs are new to the university.


At 1:20 AM, Blogger StyleyGeek said...

That sounds like really great advice. (Not for me, sadly, since this country abolished tenure and I don't even have a job or anything, but a variation of it is something I'll take to heart for record keeping to be used in future job applications).

And Firefly rocks! I really love that series. Do you watch Atlantis? Because the same actor who plays Kaylee plays the doctor. She manages to make the two characters totally different.

At 6:52 AM, Anonymous toby said...

#2, 3, 10 and 12 are especially excellent pieces of advice. It's always interesting to see how different the process is from place to place. There is no "application" form for P&T where I am (though I like the concept - as if you are truly "applying" for P&T, rather than being reviewed to be sure you've met the criteria.) Our CV and dossier formats are fixed. We have no staff support available to compile materials, and I'm not sure I'd turn it over to someone else to do anyway. #5 is more the case for promotion to full rather than associate, and #8 isn't possible when journals in your field aren't in the citation indexes (really only works for natural sciences, not so much for social sciences, except perhaps psychology?) Thanks for writing this!

At 2:07 AM, Blogger Breena Ronan said...

I love Firefly! Brilliant stuff.


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