adjunct professor standing in front of book cases

There is no doubt that being on the tenure track in academia can be stressful. While the process can be daunting with the pressure to “get it right” and be perfect, faculty have many different reasons why they may want to achieve tenure status. As a tenure-track professor, I will share some strategies here that will encourage faculty to work and navigate the process in a way that creates more flexibility, autonomy, and sanity. The piece will share some “to-dos” and “must-knows” for living life on the tenure track.

1. Know the requirements and expectations

It is essential to know what you are signing up for. While some institutions hire faculty on the tenure track, some, like my institution, do not. In my case, you must apply and be granted a tenure-track position. In any case, you must know the requirements and expectations that the institution and promotion and tenure committee impose. Two significant things to be mindful of are timelines and materials/application.

  1. It is important to know the timeline of when you will need to apply for a tenure-track or tenure position. The faculty handbook or your department chair are the best sources of information here. Many institutions have a certain amount of time in which you will need to wait, but not to exceed, to apply for tenure.

    This is extremely important because unless granted permission, you shall not apply. Additionally, in most cases, your application will not be considered if you miss the window in which you are to apply. Missing your given window to apply for tenure could result in your termination and dismissal from the position.

    Moreover, it is essential to know what happens if you are not granted tenure. At some institutions, a rejection or decline of a tenure application is also cause for termination and dismissal from the faculty position. In other cases, if tenure is not granted, you can apply again when your faculty handbook says it is permissible to do so.
  2. The other part of the process to be mindful of is the materials needing to be submitted with your application. Tenure is often a review of your most recent academic work and teaching. This could span from 2 to 6 years, depending on your institution’s timeline for your tenure track.

    Therefore, it is essential to know what materials to include and how to present them to ensure the committee reviews them. Additionally, you will want to ensure your materials are thoroughly detailed and organized. Missing parts of a tenure application may result in rejection or refusal of tenure. Some institutions use an online system for these reviews.

2. Talk to folks who have tenure

This is such a simple and forgotten step in the process. Hopefully, you have colleagues who want to help you succeed. I encourage you to find at least one or two colleagues who have navigated the tenure processes successfully and can share valuable insights Gather your questions about the process, about life after tenure-track, about expectations, and whatever else you may want to know.

Have a chat with your tenure colleagues and get the answers you feel you may need to fill gaps in what otherwise could feel like a mysterious, lonely, and isolating process.

3. Protect your time

This piece of advice may seem complicated or go against the nature of wanting to say yes to everything to show you are a valuable candidate for tenure. However, saying yes to everything leads straight to burnout. Therefore, you must protect your time, especially when on the tenure track. I advise all tenure candidates to get used to saying no to things that will not support their tenure applications.

Furthermore, find out what weights the heaviest points and accomplishments to the promotion and tenure committee and focus on those things. For example, my institution highly values teaching excellence. So, while I enjoy research and college and community service, I know that I need to keep those to a minimum to give a majority of my focus to honing my craft and expertise of teaching in the classroom.

4. You got you!

Do not forget that you are your most prominent advocate. In the end, you have to apply and be granted tenure based on your actions, merits, and expertise. Therefore, you will always have your best interest in mind. If tenure is what you desire, stay the course, put in the work, and accomplish the goal. Only you can do the work it requires to support your mental and physical health while living life on the tenure track.

Do you have additional tips to add to the list? Or have specific strategies to help academics gaining or progressing in an administrative position? Please share. Feel free to send your responses via Twitter @TomlinAntione so that we can continue this conversation!

Author’s Bio:

Antione D. Tomlin

Dr. Antione D. Tomlin earned his PhD in Language, Literacy, and Culture from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and is an assistant professor + Chair of the Academic Literacies Department at Anne Arundel Community College.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusion or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.