Overcoming Tenure Paralysis

The Stress of the Tenure Track

Feeling stressed about tenure?  Whether it’s called continuing appointment, promotion, tenure, or permanent status, I have seen countless people become paralyzed at how to embark on this journey. Many of my clients come to me with this feeling, often years before their tenure packet is do. This is actually a great sign because it means that they are thinking ahead and taking their tenure evaluation seriously.  So how do you turn that stress into action? Here are 5 steps to stop feeling stuck and start building a strong tenure file.


Image of the WEB DuBois Library by Step used under Creative Commons License.

Step 1: Know the Tenure Requirements at Your Institution

Tenure requirements vary from institution to institution. Mainly they include academic service, teaching and publication–and of course being excellent at your job.  Your first step is to research the tenure requirements at your institution.  What do the actual written guidelines say? Find out what is required and who will evaluate you. Reading the actual guidelines may not answer all of your questions, but it will help you to clearly formulate what you need to know to build a strong portfolio.

Step 2: Find a Recently Tenured Friend

Once you have read the tenure requirements you can understand them better by talking with others who have been through the process.  Perhaps a friend or colleague has recently been tenured? Perhaps your supervisor is familiar with the process? Maybe the person in charge of faculty appointments can help? Talking to people who have real-world experience with the specific tenure process on your campus will help you to find out what is it takes to earn tenure.

Step 3: Seek out service opportunities

Each year, ACRL, ALA, SLA and other library associations call for volunteers.  Check with your local and specialty library associations about how to get involved.  This may seem an intimidating process but these groups rely on librarians at all career stages to carry out important committee work. Talk to your boss about library and campus committees you could contribute to.

Step 4: Don’t Be Intimidated by Publishing or Presenting

Submitting a paper for publication or conference presentation can be a very intimidating process. But think about it this way: the economic models of academic publishing and professional conferences would not survive without faculty librarians submitting their work. Publishers and conference organizers need you! So don’t be intimidated. Be aware of upcoming conferences and their calls for proposals. Check out the submission guidelines of your favorite journal and think about what you have to say. Perhaps you can collaborate with a colleague? Talk to your boss or mentor about your research ideas. Not sure how to get started? A coach can help you through the process.

Step 5: Get involved in Teaching

Effective teaching is often a component of the tenure evaluation. Even if your job is only tangentially related to bibliographic instruction why not volunteer to assist with the BI program? Have specific subject liaison responsibilities? Maybe there is a professor you could partner with. What about contributing to another program on campus, like faculty or staff development or new student orientation? If you prefer to contribute more broadly to the profession you can contact a local library school about an adjunct teaching appointment. If a shorter duration of teaching appeals to you approach ALA’s Online Learning or a local library association about providing a professional development course in your area of expertise.

The Tenure Track Doesn’t Have to Be Stressful

Like any large project it is helpful to keep your tenure process well organized. With each new project, accomplishment, committee assignment, presentation or publication, update your CV. Each year keep a “running” annual review draft to which you can add these things. Keep all of your professional feedback in a designated place. Take the process one step at a time, and seek out help. You were hired for a tenure track position because your organization believes you can do it. Now go show them how it’s done!

Are you on the tenure track and not sure of how to start building your tenure application?  Contact me! Working with librarians on their tenure case is my coaching specialty.  I offer an affordable, targeted session to help you focus your thinking around your tenure journey that is guaranteed to help. 

How to Ace a Library Job Interview: An Overview

New Series:  How to Ace a Library Job Interview

Happy New Year!  If, like many people, you have resolved to find a new job in 2015 you have come to the right place.  It is only natural that as a coach I would help a lot of clients who are on the job market–coaches help people in transition, and one of the biggest transitions is finding a new job.  I am happy to present this five part series on job searching (some virtual mentoring) to share with a broader audience the tips and advice that my clients have found useful.

  • Part one addresses some practical approaches to the application packet.
  • Part two describes the single most important thing to demonstrate in any library job interview:  that you understand the organization.
  • Part three discusses the importance of fit, and how you can determine if a job is right for you.
  • Part four lists some questions to ask at your next library job interview.
  • Part five provides some common questions to be prepared to answer.
  • Part six explains an important but often overlooked part of the interview:  the debrief.

Need More Information?

As you go through these posts I am happy to answer any questions you have on library job interviews through my comments form.  Stay tuned for part two, and learn how to present the best resume/CV and cover letter you can!

Go to Part 1:  Resumes and Cover Letters

This is the first in a five part series that provides useful tips for interviews. Although provided in the context of interviewing for professional library jobs, the information in this series has application for other industries as well.



7 Brain Biases and How to Minimize the Impact on our Work

Forbes.com recently published an article about our mental biases and how they effect your investment choices.  As I read this I couldn’t help but think about how these biases also impact our work.

  1. Recency is short term memory winning out over the long term.  Is it really time to find a new job, or are you just having a bad stretch?
  2. The Sunk-Cost Fallacy is kind of the opposite of Recency; it is the notion that you have already invested the time so you may as well stick around so that invested time isn’t a waste.  It is the notion that you can’t “cut your losses”–but usually you can!
  3. Overconfidence is seeing only the positive. At work this could be fear of failure or perhaps the “halo effect” that can happen during personnel evaluations.
  4. Confirmation Bias is the basic human trait of thinking you are always right.  People naturally go to great lengths to seek out information to uphold our preconceived notions. this could include opinions on people you hired or projects you ran.  Are they really perfect?  There is always room for improvement.
  5. Status Quo Bias is sticking with what you know.  Over time this can weaken an organization as they hire more of the same type of person, leading to a lack of diverse thinking in an organization.
  6. Bandwagon Effect is going along with the crowd.  Does your organization offer services and products the same as everyone else’s or do you truly innovate?
  7. Negativity Bias is giving more credence to bad news than good news. At work this could translate to focusing on what your organization is doing wrong or failing to learn from failure.

So, if you can see some of yourself or your organization in the list above, what do you do about it?  the Forbes article lists some strategies that are worth taking a look at.  The coach in me says that simply being aware of these biases in your self or your organization can be a tremendous catalyst toward managing them.

Coaching and Questioning

[The following was prepared for Leadership Lab participants.  It is posted here partly as an easy way to distribute the information to Leadership Lab participants, but also because of the wider usefulness of the content]

During the course of the next six weeks we are all going to be coaches. We are embarking together on a learning journey. Just what is a coach? A coach is someone who facilitates learning in others. Generally this is done by helping an individual to clarify a goal and identify actions toward meeting it. In Executive Coaching with Backbone and Heart, Mary Beth O’Neill writes that coaches approach clients with, “the kind of trained yet natural curiosity of a journalist or anthropologist to the leader’s work situation.” As such, it is important to understand just how to question your fellow participants (and indeed yourself) to facilitate this learning.

To facilitate learning in ourselves and others our goal is to question with a truly inquisitive spirit as opposed to a skeptical one. By questioning we want to help the coachee to grow in their understanding of solutions. In her book Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, Marilee Adams describes moving from the “judger” path to the “learner” path by changing the way you question:

learnr vs. judger

Click on the image to improve the clarity.

While it is pretty natural to judge, it isn’t productive. If you feel yourself instinctively wanting to judge, simply acknowledge the feeling and control the impulse, instead opting for a more productive line of inquiry. This goes for coaching others as well as your internal dialogue. For many of us this will be a new way to approach challenges. The goal of each question should be to help bring about clarity on how to approach the challenge. Pondering such questions should help bring about wisdom. Here is a list of “wisdom access questions” to further assist in this new way of thinking:

What is this costing you?

What is the goal?

What is beyond the problem?

What is ahead?

What are you building toward?

What has to happen to call this project a success?

What’s in the way?

What would make the biggest difference?

What do you hope to accomplish?

What’s the first step?

What’s important about that?

What’s the ideal outcome?

What’s working for you?

What would you do differently?

What haven’t I asked that I should ask?

What needs to be said that has not been said?

What else do you have to say about that?

What is left to do to have this be complete?

What do you have invested in continuing to do it this way?

What do you suggest?

What is the simplest solution here?

What are you willing to give up?

Please keep this approach in mind not only in our group coaching sessions but also in your interactions with colleagues and perhaps most importantly, in your own internal dialogue.