Demystifying the “T” Word – Tenure

I don’t have to tell you what a depressing subject this is–the nature of the market makes the competition ridiculous.  And it’s worth remembering that it’s ridiculous because you need to develop coping mechanisms for dealing with what seem like and are impossibly high standards, especially for entry level jobs.

Requirements for a tenure-track entry level position at a graduate degree granting university include, as a general rule: 

1. Ph.D. in hand (3/4s of dissertation to show by December-Jan.)
2. Book or Book contract (this is not fair)
3. Other publications–placing publications in refereed journals is especially important (one article in a well-thought of academic journal makes a real difference)
4. Teaching experience–something in addition to teaching assistantships.

  • do you have lectures written?
  • can you teach service courses?
  • preference for post-Ph.D. teaching experience
  • can you manage graduate students?
  • can you handle a full load of teaching (2/2 to 4/4)

5. Recognition of your work–honors, awards, grants, fellowships (in these times of tightening budgets for higher education everywhere, a streak of entrepreneurship–the ability to bring in money to support your research or some other academic enterprise–may seem very attractive.)
6. Recognition of your work by scholars in your field outside of your home university (letters of recommendation from outsiders is important)
7. Evidence of connectedness (have you been asked to do the sorts of things that come by networking–write book reviews, serve as commentator on panels, serve as officer in local chapter of your professional organization, organize panels, etc.)
8. Administrative ability (service on program committees, organization of conferences, etc., academic advising, etc. )
9. Collegiality (Questions to ask yourself)

  • What is the evidence that you work well as part of a team?
  • How will you navigate the lunch test? 

10. Firm plans for future research–being able to go to an interview and give a first rate paper on a subject other than your dissertation is especially impressive.  (This is important for a department’s assessment of whether you’re likely to achieve tenure at their institution.)

Note: A good 5-20 people per job may have all or most of these credentials (at least in quantity if not in quality)–that’s what you’re up against.

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