Ask the grumpies: How to decide to leave/stay in a tenured position?

Should I stay or should I go #? asks:

I’m considering leaving a tenured academic position for a soft money position at a private foundation. I’m very excited about the vision of the new program and the resources and time it potentially affords. I’m worried about the pressure of needing to get grants and walking away from tenure. What would you consider (or negotiate for) if you were making a move like this? What would make you decide to stay put? Financially, what would you consider necessary to be prepared for a move of this nature?

#1, as always, starts:

Save a lot, in case your funding runs out. If I were on soft money I’d be stressed; hard money is one of the good things about my current job.

I was lucky that I couldn’t stay put in my tenured position because it was so bad. (Although lots more money would have kept me there for a while; but if they had lots of money for me I wouldn’t have been considering leaving in the first place.)

I mean, you gotta do a mental balance sheet. Leaving is bad: loss of tenure, possible loss of ability to do your own research, loss of stability, have to move. OTOH, never teach again; no more grading; possibly more money; could be a better work situation.

Academia is an extremely flexible and independent schedule; are you willing to potentially give up some or most of that flexibility?

If you pass on this opportunity now, will you be able to find employment later if you should need to leave your current tenured position? Balance that with, if you go for this opportunity and it doesn’t work out, will you be able to find employment later?

What would it take to definitely make you leave? What would it take to definitely make you stay? Which one is more likely?

If things stay exactly as they are for 5 more years, would you be ok with that? 10 years?

#2 chimes in:

One of the things that made it easier for my DH to leave academia was that we had savings and I had a stable position. That meant we weren’t dependent on his income and he was better able to deal with the loss of job security that an academic position affords.

If you haven’t yet, read Your Money or Your Life. Here’s our post with more info on the book.

Finally, what $ amount in the new place would make this decision obvious?  What would your current location need to do to make it obvious in the other direction?  Don’t forget to include the value of benefits (health insurance, retirement matches, etc.) in your decision as well.

Update:  Shannon in the comments adds:

Many institutions have a leave of absence policy for tenured faculty so rather than resigning right off the bat, you can take a 1 (or more) year leave of absence and have the right to come back if things don’t work out. This might give you some reassurances if you make that leap – if you really don’t like it, you can go back to what you have now. It’s definitely worth exploring, and even if there’s not an official policy, it’s worth asking. Given that you have tenure, they can’t let you go for being disloyal or anything, and the worst they can say is no.

She is absolutely correct.  In fact, my DH took a one-year unpaid leave pre-tenure to work on a start-up.

Here’s some related posts:
What would make you quit mid-semester?
What to do after tenure denial?
Bad Work Situation
Here’s one from Inside Higher Ed about Stepping off the tenure track. It also references a website that SIS may find useful.
When #1 quit
When #2’s husband resigned

Dealing with a 10% paycut at work

When DH’s boss asked all the employees to take a 10% paycut everybody but DH and the guy who recruited him said yes immediately.  DH, said, as he always does when it comes to large decisions, that he would have to talk to his wife.

After talking it over with his supervisor, his colleague and with me and with his colleague again, DH has decided to accept the pay cut with the stipulation that he be allowed to use 4 hours of each week working on important but not urgent tasks for the company.  He wants to make the documentation, instructions, and examples for their open source code better so that they get more clients through that venue.

He thought about saying no, but we don’t really need the money and there’s no reason to be difficult.  He thought about asking for 10% unpaid time off instead, but he doesn’t really need that time.  He thought about seeking another job, but he really likes this one and this paycut isn’t enough of a reason to leave it.  What clinched it for him, though, was feeling like he’s made more of an impact on economics than he has on his own field.  His work does, eventually, save lives, but only if it gets used and not relegated to an electronic dust-bin.   So he needs to write papers or make their main product more user-friendly so more people will want to use it.  Given the time frame and the current state of their projects, he prefers the latter to the former.

So that’s how he’s dealing with a temporary 10% paycut.

How would you deal with a two month 10% paycut?  How about not being sure if your company was still going to be around in a few months?

Ask the grumpies: How to grow jobs in an area and general entrepreneurship

First Gen American asks:

My latest interest is around how to grow jobs in an area and general entrepreneurship. Anything around that topic would be interesting.

How to identify unmet needs
How to make a business plan
How to decide what to do
How to do the quick back of the envelope calculation on roi. (I’d have to sell how many ice cream cones to just cover rent!?)
How to take a risk without putting it all on the line and if that is even possible. (Many of my customers emptied their retirement savings to start their businesses. It was rough going for a while for many of them and I am only talking to the ones who made it.)
How to determine if a market is saturated. (I.e. Microbreweries)
Where to find businesses for sale.
How to assess the numbers and make sure they are real and not just lipstick on a pig.
Places to find resources for research. Like tax incentives for a region or female owned businesses, grants, etc.

Since my company, one of the major employers, is leaving the area, I also would like to focus on non service type ventures. (I.e. Jobs that don’t rely on the health of the local economy….a product that can be shipped outside of the region.)

Unfortunately this is all completely out of our wheelhouse.  We’re not even sure where we’d start asking to find out the answers to these questions (maybe Paula at Afford Anything, but she’s pretty focused on real estate, still, she might be able to 6 degrees of separation you to a good answer).

Grumpy Nation, any ideas?

Stocks and bonds, Writing and outreach

I had an idea.  Follow me, here:

For academic careers, writing is like investing in stocks.  Outreach and translational research are like investing in bonds.

Stocks and writing:  Get lots while you’re young.  You need to write prolifically enough to get tenure, and gain the national or international reputation you need for those outside letters.  Spread your name, become known in your field.  Start early.  Because the return is uncertain, put a lot of writing out there in the world (and buy stocks).  Stocks are a good investment when you have a long timeline until retirement; you have time to weather the ups-and-downs of the market and can have a higher tolerance for risk, in exchange for possibly higher returns.

Bonds and outreach/translation:  These are more effective when you’re older.  When you’re more experienced in your field, you have more experience and a reputation that you can leverage for influence.  Research-wise, you’ve got a better idea of what works and what’s worth developing further, as well as potential pitfalls and objections.  You also know people who can help spread your ideas.  You may have more time to devote to making the world a better place.  When you’re closer to retirement, you also want the safety and security of bonds: potentially lower return, but steady.

In financial investing, as in an academic career, you’ll need a balance and variety throughout your life.  You might want to be doing both of these things (and more!) at all times, but in varying ratios.  Diversify and rebalance your portfolio and life.

This idea: off the wall, or right on target?  Tell me, Grumpeteers.

Where do I get my research ideas?

This year I have been giving an awful lot of talks.  Along with these talks, I’ve been meeting with a lot of graduate grad students during my visit.  A  common question I get when I meet with a group of students (you know, the ones with free time) is how I get my research ideas.  This usually comes from students who are floundering without a dissertation topic.  I thought I’d write up my answer.

  1. First, I get ideas from my contrarian nature.  Perhaps it’s my math training, but I am always looking for a counter-example, I am always questioning statements taken to be true.  My own job market paper topic, in fact, was a reaction from a statement one of my professors had made in a second-year class that struck me as possibly not true and when I looked into it, I found very little research on the topic.  I figured out how to test it better than the one or two previous papers, and voila, an amazing paper.
  2. Another place to get ideas that haven’t been worked on over and over is to think about your own unique experiences.  This can be something as broad as thinking about your own female perspective on sexist things that your male-dominated field takes for granted (ex. all the new research coming out showing that women aren’t irrational, they’re just working under different constraints) or as specific as a public program that not many people know about but you know lots about because your grandfather was on it.  You have lots of unique things that you bring to your discipline.  Think about what they are.  Think about who you know.  Look at the broader world around you and question it.
  3. It is ok to start out feeling like you keep coming up with ideas that have already been done– when I started out, it seemed like when I started the lit review I’d find that the exact paper I wanted to write had been written 10 years ago.  But my next idea had been published 3 years ago.  And the one after that, maybe just out.  Eventually I started coming up with ideas that were working papers.  And then new papers.  You may also find yourself in the situation where you’re half done with a paper and it seems like you’ve just been scooped– but you haven’t been really– it is unlikely your paper is identical to this other one and if it is, you can still change things, pursue different directions, answer some things better, etc. to differentiate it.  You want to be working in a hot field because it means your question is important.  See if you can create conference panels with this other paper.
  4. It gets a lot easier once you’ve gotten immersed.  After you’ve started a project, you start realizing there are huge gaps in the literature– things you really need to know now in order to fully answer your question but that are themselves their own projects.  You’ll also come up with new questions that your project has provided you… if this is true, then why this other thing?
  5. If you don’t do a perfect job, that means future people will fill in the gaps in your literature later!  It’s kind of exciting seeing people do a better job than you did because they are taking your paper as a starting point.  You know, so long as they cite you.

Where do you get your ideas?  What advice would you give current graduate students looking for inspiration?

Part 4 of writing series: Hope

This part’s about treating writer’s block and being more productive.

Here are the other parts of the series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

What follows is a series of chunks from a paper I wrote for a class.  If you’re my boss or co-worker (or mom), please don’t tell anybody my secret identity  :-) 

The paper is about a topic near and dear to us here on this blog: how to be a more productive writer.  These sections are mostly unedited, but some parts have been snipped out for snappier reading (hahaha!).

Text behind the cut, for lengthiness.  (snerk.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Part 3 of Writing Productivity Series (prevalence)

Here are the first parts of the series: Part 1, Part 2Part 4 is next.

What follows is a series of chunks from a paper I wrote for a class.  If you’re my boss or co-worker (or mom), please don’t tell anybody my secret identity  :-) 

The paper is about a topic near and dear to us here on this blog: how to be a more productive writer.  These sections are mostly unedited, but some parts have been snipped out for snappier reading (hahaha!).

 

Text behind the cut.

Read the rest of this entry »