Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Chainsaw Professor Wants Some Post-Tenure Advice.

Miserable people,

I've been following this site since the old RYS days, but have not posted recently. I did a PhD in chainsaw studies almost 10 years ago at the old Chainsaw Forum, and now I have a tenured position at the Logging Institute. The Logging Institute is okay -- my main complaint is about the chainsaw department: it is lame. (I can't be bothered with hamster fur...) In fact, I'm the only one with more than one working chainsaw; suffice it to say that I have the longest bar around. :-)

In any case, my question is this: have any of you made a move post-tenure? What are the potential pitfalls? How does one negotiate giving up job security for the chance of great improvement, at the risk of utter failure? What the hell am I doing!?

I can keep on felling trees -- sustainably, of course -- at the Institute as long as I want. Yet at the same time, I wonder if I am settling for mediocrity. Perhaps it is difficult to weigh in, without knowing all the specifics of the situation, but I invite you to weigh in nonetheless.

= Chainsaw Professor


  1. I read your article ("A Meta-analysis of Sequoia Bark Fireproofing Effectiveness") in last month's Journal of Logging. Interesting speculation. My provost has mentioned that we might benefit from having an associate proffie with that perspective.

  2. Do it now , while (if) you're young. Immediately after getting tenure. I've tried making such a move every few years (strongly dislike where I live), but I waited too long.

    Main thing: keep a good number of close, active contacts with people slightly more senior than yourself, as a "panel of possible letter-writers". When visiting a more desirable place, ask if they'd be interested in starting a group in your area, or in adding to an existing one. It is not common for places to hire with tenure, but "one year until tenure review" (which you can take as leave-without-pay without resigning from your current position) is often possible.

    Part of the problem is that you don't want to "hurt your brand" or look desperate through overexposure, so you shouldn't do this too often, or send applications everywhere if you don't have a contact, or some reason to believe it will be successful.

    Pretty soon your age will become the one consideration that overwhelms any possible desirability. After the mid-40s (or maybe early 40s) it's all over, unless you're the kind of person other places would actively recruit.

  3. Notorious, Ph.D. is currently doing a series on the mid-career job search. Perhaps you might find some ideas/insight there.

  4. Unless you are in a field where the school name is relevant for your research career (ease of attracting grants), embrace mediocrity and be the best there. Better be the head of the mouse than the tail of the lion.

  5. Are you 35 or 55? That really matters a lot, I think.

  6. I can't comment on the research part of your career, but I left a community college job immediately after getting tenure, with no prospects in mind. I was that miserable there, I'd have left earlier, but thought that leaving before getting tenure would mean that I'd never work in my field again. Within two months I had a one-year post at a different community college (after a sudden retirement) that eventually turned into a tenure-track position I had to apply for pro forma. I earned tenure again and love the place to this day.

    It's relevant that I was fairly young. But it happened and I have never regretted resigning from St. Miserable.

  7. Okay, I finally figured out how to comment with this new profile.

    I'm in my mid-30s, so not too old. I am on the market this year, but in a limited way. I appreciate all the advice, and if I make a move this year I will let you know