The tenure process is probably unsettling for everyone on some level.
Even if everything goes well, the process of being judged by your peers and others, with the possible outcome of losing your career can pretty much give anyone a stomachache. Sometimes we can channel worry into productivity and use it to keep from coasting or becoming complacent. Sometimes it is just discouraging or paralyzing.
Maybe some level of worry is unavoidable, and we just need to push through. But what about when a concern calls for action?
The following concerns are based on real situations that have occurred at a variety of institutions. What would you suggest?
Concern #1: What if by the time I manage to get tenure, I don’t like my colleagues or institution enough to stay for the rest of my career? Should I cut and run sooner, later or never?
Concern #2: What if I do everything my mentor advises, and get positive feedback from my department, but then the committee evaluating me doesn’t agree with my department and decides not to promote me? How can I make sure I am getting good enough advice to avoid this situation?
Concern #3: What if people at my institution disagree about the spirit and the letter of the guidelines for tenure? How can I best prepare my case (and set directions for my teaching, scholarship and service) when I don’t know who will be on the committee when my case is heard?
Concern #4: What if I was observed teaching by a member of my department and was given advice I really don’t like? Under what circumstances should I take the advice and when can I ignore it?
The concerns are complex, situation-dependent and certainly have more than one possible appropriate response path. If you have one of these issues, I think it is worth finding a few mentors you trust (perhaps outside your institution) and discussing the issues with them.
Crowdsourcing solutions: If you (or folks you know) have successfully navigated one of these critical issues, please share the idea in the comments.
Clarification: These are not my situations – they are situations that I have heard about from colleagues nationwide. I’m a full professor at this point (yay!) but often mentor junior faculty and wanted to hear what other people advise.