I was just at a conference where I get to hang out with lots of my friends. Some of us got to talking. They’re generally at better schools than I am and have longer and better CVs than I do. But I’ve got tenure and they don’t have it yet. And we were talking about trying to get stuff published and trying to find time for work… and they asked me why I care where I publish or about how much work I do because I’ve got tenure. My school doesn’t expect as much as theirs does. (And I have a higher teaching load and more service and a smaller salary…)
But I was never really motivated by the tenure expectations in my department. I placed lower on the job market than most folks in my cohort, and I’ve always thought that if I did what I want and then didn’t get tenure then I’d finally be able to move to Northern California and at least live someplace nice. I’ve always figured that if I stopped liking it, I could just leave. If I’d gotten an offer at one of these better schools maybe I would have been more nervous, I don’t know. (And, since getting here, the school has made a lot of really good hires, including mid-level hires with amazing CVs, and I am no longer under-placed. I’m placed!)
What motivates me:
1. I want to do good work. I answer interesting (to me) questions. I tell good (theoretical) stories with (empirical) evidence. My work is important and it’s fascinating.
2. People are doing things wrong and I want the profession to do things right! Efficiently!
3. It is a crime that nobody is answering these important questions.
4. I kinda do like the fame and fortune aspect. Gotta admit it. And they give me just enough of a taste of it to make me crave more. More.
5. I like to watch things grow. I want my department to do well, my school to do well, my little corner of academic research to do well.
7. And maybe just a bit the fact that I may need to be mobile some day, for example, if DH’s job situation changes. And I kind of like being able to occasionally get grants to pay for RA work and summer salary. And if they ever cross a line, I can walk and I’ll be in demand somewhere.
I used to be more motivated by being under-placed. Sort of an, “I’ll show them!” But I’ve kind of shown them, and, like I said, I’m no longer underplaced. So #4 has replaced that entirely. I probably worked a little harder when I was rage-researching, but it’s much more fulfilling to be love-researching instead.
#2 and #3 above bring me more self-confidence. They help me talk up my work in ways that #1 doesn’t. More of that contrarian aspect to my personality showing through. #4 and #6 sometimes give me less self-confidence.
The answers of #2 revolve around research. And then quitting.
What motivates you to work hard?