Dear BI Career Consultants: When is the best time to make an academic leadership career move? What are some positive and negative benchmarks?
When considering an academic move, assess what you offer your current institution and what it offers to you. If both sides of the equation are positive, it’s an indication that where you are continues to be professionally challenging and rewarding. You will then need to ask yourself why you would consider leaving. These reasons may be personal or professional. If both sides of the equation prove negative, then you must ask what you can do to change your circumstances and whether it is possible to save the situation by diminishing or eliminating the negatives. If there is nothing you can do or are willing to do, then you must consider opportunities elsewhere.
When the politics at your current institution constrain your ability to achieve your goals or your ability to make meaningful contributions, and you find that you are not effective in changing or influencing the political dynamic, then exploring new horizons is in order. On the other hand, when your current institution has generously provided all it can to support your professional development and advancement and you have, in turn, made significant and valued contributions to your institution, then you have an excellent springboard to a new position with greater challenges, either at a more complex institution or at one in greater need of your talents.
One should always consider an opportunity when it presents itself, meaning that you do not want to regret not making an active decision. At such times, reflect on where you are along your career path, how your current institution supports your development, what remains to be accomplished in your current position and whether the time is right personally to accept a new position if offered.
Do not overlook the importance of personal matters in deciding whether to make a leadership career move. In your personal life, especially if there are young family members to consider, there may be narrow windows of time when a move would have the least adverse effect on all concerned.
When that narrow window appears, take the time to reflect on the possibilities and the opportunities available in order to determine whether they are in keeping with your career plans. You may decide to stay, but you will feel better and in control if you stay after due reflection.
Dr. Betty Taylor,
Dean of professional studies
Plattsburgh State University at New York (SUNY)
The best time to make an academic leadership career change is after you have undertaken an analytical review of your situation. Call it a career checkup.
Ideally, we get physical checkups as an intervention strategy to keep ourselves healthy. But to engage in a regular career checkup as an academic is almost unheard of. Instead we usually wait until a crisis situation occurs, such as getting fired or becoming depressed, before we take notice that the time has come for us to move on.
A career checkup means spending a few days taking an introspective look at your situation. This can be done with a colleague, friend or career counselor. There are five questions that you should ask yourself:
Have you adopted a way of thinking and acting that affects your attitude toward life and your career, thus developing patterns that restrict your vision?
Have you personally stopped growing in your career? Has the job has become dull and routine?
Are you less decisive than you were in the past (sometimes being asked by your staff when you are going to make a decision)?
Are you playing it safe with your current job because you are afraid to take a risk?
Have you become less comfortable with people on the job than in the past?
If you have a few of these symptoms, perhaps you should ask yourself if things could be better. If the answer is always yes, steps should be taken to improve the situation. This is not always easy; you may have settled into a comfort zone that can make it difficult to change your work situation. If this is the case, your career will eventually go downhill regardless of any mitigating factors.
Take the time to do this assessment annually. If you decide not to leave your job, you may find some positive aspects of your current job that may energize you. If you decide to move on, leave your current job with tact and grace and engage in a job search that assesses opportunities and how those opportunities are affected by external forces — such as culture, race, gender, age, etc. — that could limit your career marketability.
– Compiled by Joan Morgan
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