Karen Kelsky

Founder and President at The Professor Is In

The Professor Is In: The ‘I’m About to Start a Tenure-Track Job’ Summer Checklist

Full 08182014 summer

Image: 'In the Good Old Summertime," c. 1905, Detroit Publishing Co.

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What should you be doing the summer before you start a tenure-track job? How much contact should you have with your new colleagues and new chair? What questions should I be asking? I find this part confusing as someone who got a job while ABD.

It is nerve-wracking to start your first tenure track job, especially if you scored it while still ABD. You’re pretty green, and you’ve only ever operated in academia as a grad student. How to instantly transform into a faculty peer between May and August?

Well, this might surprise you coming from me, but … don’t overthink it. Other than finishing, defending, and submitting your dissertation, and getting ready for your classes, there is nothing you must accomplish for the new job that is so urgent you must prepare for it over the summer. Pack up your household, make sure your research materials are very well organized, exchange friendly (but not intensively work-focused) emails with your new colleagues, and come in as relaxed and open as you can.

Here is a list of things to prioritize:

Make sure your dissertation is defended and the finished document submitted to your graduate college. Under no circumstances should you be working on the dissertation after starting the tenure-track job.

Prep the syllabi for the courses you’ll be teaching. Confer with your new colleagues for basic info about syllabi policies or conventions, scheduling, reading loads, and so on.

Think ahead to the syllabi for winter or spring. Once you’re in the thick of your first semester, you’ll probably find it quite difficult to carve out time to construct new courses and order books for the following semesters. Summer is a great time to get a jump on this.

Google your new location and figure out what life is like there. Wrap your mind around your new home. Figure out how you and your family might fit in. Investigate resources for fun and recreation.

Think about the weather and assemble some or all of the wardrobe to get you started in the classroom. If you’re living in a place with good secondhand stores (i.e., the typical R1 college town), and moving to a place with fewer good secondhand stores, use them now! They are a precious resource.

Finally, establish friendly relations with your new colleagues, but don’t go all neurotic stalker on them. Don’t inundate them with picayune administrative questions. (“Provost’s document 13, clause 11, part B on page 47 states that all final exams must be given in week XX. But I’m concerned that...”) Be chill. Get the basics down, but leave the administrative details until you arrive on campus. Even then, half of them you can ignore anyway.

Dear Readers: Have a question about the academic job market and/or professionalization? Send it to me! I welcome any and all questions related to the job market, preparing for the job market while in graduate school, coping with the adjunct struggle, and assistant professorhood. Send questions to me at gettenure@gmail.com.

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