Career Talk

New faculty members enter a community with distinct cultural norms and practices that vary from university to university, and among colleges and departments within a university.  These norms may not be explicit or obvious; instead, they are often clarified over time in the form of boundaries that become visible only when crossed.  It can be invaluable to investigate and identify local norms as you navigate through the first few years of an academic career.

In Career Talk we examine suggestions and strategies for finding an academic position, understanding academic culture, and building an effective record of accomplishment that faculty members who have been successful in their academic careers have shared. The purpose is to uncover some of the expectations, workable strategies, and helpful tools that offer access to academic life for those with a passion for teaching, research, and service.

The suggestions provided in this section come from faculty members who have successfully navigated through academic careers, and are offered in the spirit of mentoring. The ideas represent a composite derived from a diverse group of faculty ranging from those new to academic life to veterans, from many different socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, working in many different sorts of institutions, and coming from multiple perspectives. These suggestions are intended to help begin a dialogue with peers, to offer questions to ponder, and to outline areas to pursue, not as absolute truths.

Career Talk focuses on five areas of academic life:

Finding and securing a faculty position is a rigorous endeavor, one that requires a systematic and determined approach. Preparing yourself ahead of the application process and campus interview will enhance your chances of being hired. If you know how to communicate your accomplishments, what supporting documents to provide, what to expect, what questions to ask, and how the decision making process works, you will be more at ease, and the likelihood that you will make each cut in the job search process will increase.

Knowing basics about campus governance structures and the policies that guide practices on a campus is invaluable whether you seek a faculty position or are already employed. Be sure to familiarize yourself with campus policies and practices to help you decide whether the campus is a good match for you. Knowing how things are accomplished and by whom offers a window into the philosophical underpinnings of an institution and how effectively it is run.

The academic world has well-established standards of ethics and professional conduct. Beyond that, each work setting has particular expectations for behavior, demeanor, dress and interactions with others. These expectations may be written or implied. Understanding the expectations of your institution and department will be critical to your success. It is possible to stay true to your own commitments as a professional within the framework of institutional expectations, and doing so will likely enhance your experience, your interactions with others, and your students’ learning.

New faculty members are faced with myriad responsibilities and challenges. Fortunately, each campus has numerous resources to assist faculty members in their professional endeavors. In addition, faculty members should be aware of the services that campuses provide to students. Take advantage of professional development opportunities as well as the full complement of resources available to faculty, staff and students on campus by learning what they are, and when and how to employ them.

Faculty members on the tenure track progress through a series of ranks over the course of their careers. Each campus has its own expectations for retention, tenure and promotion, and in fact requirements are often specific to the discipline. Campuses may even have developed their own unique terminology associated with the process  From the day you arrive as a new faculty member, it is imperative to understand clearly what the standards for tenure and promotion are so that you will be able to focus your individual choices about which activities to pursue. This will keep your career moving on a satisfying and successful trajectory.

We hope Career Talk will be a great beginning to your preparation for the various aspects of life as a faculty member. Take time to explore all that is available to you on the CDIP Community Commons. Once you have a faculty position, seek out the resources the campus offers, and become an integral part of the culture and community in which you work. That engagement with the community is what makes the difference between having a job, and being part of a profession.

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Career Talk


Resources for Career Talk

American Association of University Professors
Defends academic freedom and tenure, advocates collegial governance, and develops policies ensuring due process.

Association of American Colleges and Universities
Leading national association committed to advancing and improving liberal education for all students.

NEA Higher Education Publications
National Education Association
NEA publishes the Advocate newsletter six time a year, the Thought & Action journal, and the NEA Almanac of Higher Education.

AAUP magazine that analyzes issues from the faculty perspective.

Review of Higher Education
Forum for discussion of issues affecting higher education.

The Chronicle of Higher Education
Source of news, information, and jobs for college faculty members and administrators.

University World News
Global window on higher education.

Faculty Orientation Site
California State University
This website serves as an introduction to the CSU for new faculty members.

From Student to Scholar:
A Candid Guide to Becoming a Professor,
Cahn, S.M. & Stimpson, C.R. (2008). Columbia University Press.

So You Want to Be a Professor?
A Handbook for Graduate Students

Vesilind, P.A. (2000). Sage Publication.

Chilly Climate for Women Faculty in Academe
References compiled by J. Freyd and J.Q. Johnson, University of Oregon.

Faculty of Color: Teaching in Predominantly White Colleges and Universities
Stanley, C.A. (2006). Anker Publishing Company.