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