You might not guess it by looking at me, but I've been to a lot of orientations in my life. A lot. I couldn't even tell you how many times I've been orientated. So as a seasoned orientation veteran, I can say with some authority that yesterday's new faculty orientation at NJU was one of the best.
It was a full-day affair, with much opportunity to mingle with my fellow n00bs, and mingle I did! I met people from all over NJU, from the Biology and English departments to the Art and Journalism schools. I even got to talk to the Dean of the whole school about my research! Oh sure, we were also inundated with hours of boring numbers talk--we have this many new TT faculty, our incoming students' SAT scores went up this much over the past 10 years, our external funding has doubled in the last five. NJU is teh awesomez!! Etc.
But once the dog-and-pony show (as an esteemed colleague of mine so eloquently put it) was over, they kicked out the faculty who were hired with tenure, and shit got Real™. They brought in several newly-tenured faculty for a 90-minute panel on How to Get Tenure at NJU, and their candidness and wisdom were much appreciated. I tweeted their bon mots as fast as my thumbs could go, but I figure those of you who haven't embraced the 140-character revolution might also like to be enlightened.
So without further ado, I present to you #tenurein90min:
I took this not to mean that we should prepare to seek other employment in five years--in fact, they explicitly said that they have positions for and intend to grant tenure to each of us--but that you should strive to make yourself as impressive as possible. First and foremost, of course, know the NJU requirements for tenure, but also talk to your friends at other institutions, and take inspiration from their tenure process.
This, I feel, is great advice no matter what stage of your career you're in. Get a new paper, a new grant, a new committee, a new award. Keep building.
I'm paraphrasing, of course, but the panel members could not emphasize this enough. Make sure that by year four or so, you know at least a good handful of the absolute top people in your field. One panel member noted that he realized around that time that he wasn't connected enough, and spent the next year inviting himself to give talks, introducing himself to the bigwigs, and making sure everyone important knew who he was. Self-promote, people! Nobody is going to do it for you.
"The first few years are all input and virtually no output," one panel member said, "and that can be demoralizing." He went on to say that it happens to EVERYONE, and that you can't let the lack of immediate reward get to you. I'm pretty sure my Scientopia peeps Prof-like Substance and Professor in Training have written on this very topic, but my quick search couldn't find the exact posts. Anyone have the links?
Yes, well, if my incessant iPhone-checking during yesterday's presentations is any indication, I am on their level, you know what I mean? Ooh, shiny!
Like most things in this crazy game, 'tis a delicate balance. I'd really like to hear from my faculty readers on this one--how do you manage to expand in new directions (that may require help from others) but at the same time show independence and leadership?
Armed with all this fabulous knowledge, we then proceeded directly to the reception next door, where we quickly drank away said fabulous knowledge. Aren't you glad I wrote it all down?