Teach the Earth > Early Career > Getting Tenure > Preparing Yourself > Strategic Approach

Taking an Active, Strategic Approach to Tenure

This webpage is based on a presentation given by Dr. Magali Billen to early career (pre-tenure) faculty at UC-Davis. Both the talk and this page were written for an audience at a research university.

What Are You Trying to Achieve?

It's worth asking yourself, pre-tenure, what you are trying to achieve as a faculty member. Here are some typical answers:

1. To keep my head above water.

(Okay, yes, but then what?)

2. To get tenure.

(Yes, but the measures of success seem vague: How many papers, grants, awards, articles in the "right" journals, etc. do you really need? Exactly how good does your teaching need to be, and how will you know when it is? How much service is enough?)

These answers are typical, short-term answers. But they don't help you look beyond the short-term to your long-term career goals. Here's another possible answer:

3. To build a stimulating academic career.

There are several advantages to thinking this way. First, it allows you to focus your attention on pursuing your passion, seeking new understanding, and contributing to your field. After all, this is why you chose an academic career. Just make sure that other people find out about what you're learning: publish your results, present them at conferences, and give a copy of each article you publish to your department chair. Second, thinking this way allows you to take a long-term perspective, with a short-term achievement horizon. Your research success is (at most institutions) the most important factor for tenure, so focus your efforts on becoming a respected scholar in your field.

Useful Advice I Received: How to Be Strategic

Hit two birds with one stone.

Look for ways to gain research benefits from teaching and service.

1. Is there professional service that directly benefits your research in the long run?

2. Are there new avenues of teaching that would lead to new avenues of research?

Share milestone results before finishing the race.

As you decide when to publish results,

People who know you are more likely to invest in your potential.

Take time to make time.

Be happy.

Develop a Strategic Mindset

When "opportunities" come knocking, ask yourself:

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