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

Preparing Yourself for the Tenure Process

Contributed by Kristen St. John (James Madison University) and R. Mark Leckie (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)

Mountaineers leaving the top station of the Aiguille du Midi.
Mountaineers leaving the top station of the Aiguille du Midi in the French Alps. Photo by Benh Lieu Song. Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

The information below contains advice and strategies to help you be plan and prepare your strongest case for tenure. The advice here is structured to give you concrete steps to be your own best advocate and to be as well prepared as possible. Each institution and department will have its own specific requirements and processes so it is imperative that you inform yourself of the tenure expectations at your own institution and use them as your primary guide.

Take Charge

Here are a few important ways to be proactive in your progress towards tenure:

Make Concrete Plans

To make your best case for tenure it is valuable to actively plan for it, and to start on this plan as early in the tenure track as possible. Central to this plan is (a) articulating in writing your goals for teaching, research, and service, and (b) assessing how they align with departmental and institutional expectations, and (c) putting together a concrete plan of action to meet your goals. Below are two organizational and planning strategies to help you in this planning process:

Example 1: Charting Your Progress Toward Tenure (developed by Rachel O'Brien, Allegheny College)

This progress chart is formatted with space for you to track your teaching, scholarship, and professional service activities. It can be used to help identify your strengths and weaknesses and help prioritize short-term goals as you prepare for mid-tenure and full tenure review.

Example 2: Career Planning Worksheet (adapted from the Department of Geology & Environmental Science, James Madison University).

This worksheet is formatted with space for you to write down both your career vision and your anticipated activities in the areas of teaching, scholarship and professional service for a moving 3-year time frame. Articulating a vision is critical and should guide your anticipated activities. This is a document that you can and should be revisiting throughout the year because it can serve as both a guide post and a record of what you are doing and why. It can also serve as a document to draw from when writing your narrative (personal statement) for your tenure package.

Time Management

Once you have developed a concrete plan you will need to follow though. This will require time management.

Additional Strategic Advice on Preparing for Tenure

Recently tenured geoscientist Magali Billens (UC Davis) prepared a presentation on Taking an Active, Strategic Approach to Tenure for the new faculty orientation on her campus. It includes advice on: how to hit two birds with one stone, how to share milestone results before finishing the race, and how to take time to make time. Although written for an audience at a research university, much of Dr. Billens' advice is relevant for early career faculty members everywhere.

Tenure Narratives and CVs

A strong tenure package is essential to successful tenure application. At a minimum, the tenure package will typically include a narrative and a CV.

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