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I have decided to take a new job, mid tenure case. I am having trouble finding information about how to job hunt in academia at my mid-rank. Specifically:

  1. How to communicate my status
  2. Whether to apply for Associate or Assistant level positions
  3. How to socialize my search with my department mid-tenure, and with my students, and with my sponsors
  4. What considerations I might have not thought of

My state university's COVID policies are unsafe, and I have sat with my family and decided to leave for the sake of our health. I am mid-tenure case (submitted in August, finished by June 2022), with success all but assured. I have read that this time is an 'opportune' time to go on the job market, and indeed within my network a number of colleagues have done it. However, they all seem to have had an 'in', and applied through a friend, etc. I am actively networking for the same. At the same time, I am (back) on the usual job sites, and wondering if sending out a round of applications might not make sense.

One advantage I have: my chair and department is aware I am potentially looking for a job to get out of the state. Many of us are. That said, once I start this, word will get out. I foresee hard questions from my tenure committees, and also my students, and also sponsors...

I am in the US South, at an R1. I previously worked at a top 10 university. I have a strong network, and I am well-funded. My work is multi-disciplinary, and so I could be portable across a number of department types.

Questions above, but broadly: How do people ally for jobs mid-tenure case, traditionally? How does the recipe for success in this change in these non-traditional extended-pandemic times?

Resolution: I have accepted an industry position which begins soon. I will conclude my classes, find new homes for my graduate students, wind down my grants, shutter my laboratory, help my postdocs and research scientists to find a next step, and begin my own new chapter. In doing so I will be leaving the university mid tenure process, forgoing millions in grant funding, and otherwise burning my bridge. That said, and although this is heartbreaking for me, and is also the least bad outcome. After an initial time away from my family I know this is not something I could do happily for any real length of time. I am deeply thankful to have options. Indeed, while I am sad to leave, my new job pays almost 4x my university job's salary, and it appears will afford me more support in my work than does the present position. This helps.

I thank all of you for your thoughtful responses. In different circumstances, many might have found me a way to remain a professor.

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    "One advantage I have: [...] is aware" - no. This is a disadvantage. Unless you are a department superstar, they are working on your replacement now if it is clear that you really intend to leave (rather than haven't made up your mind). "Portable across [...]": again, a disadvantage. It is not enough that you are multitalented. Multidisciplinarity is often touted, rarely sought by depts. Make sure you have a very strong publication and grant income profile in the area you apply for. I cannot comment specifics about mid-tenure job searches, but I guess this is not unheard of. Sep 8 at 11:49
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    Whether it would make sense for you to apply for associate professor jobs would mostly depend on your track record--are you competitive against other candidates? Coincidentally, I managed to get hired for an associate-prof-level job from an assistant professorship during the pandemic. Sep 8 at 12:55
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    Let me warn you that there may be no truly good outcome here. You may have to settle for the least bad situation according to your own judgement. Good luck. And vote the bastards out.
    – Buffy
    Sep 8 at 13:07
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    I would have thought, at your level, it would be easier to get a new job after you get tenure than before. If there's a way you could wait a year and get tenure before applying, that might help you in the search. I'd be curious what other people think about this.
    – Andrew
    Sep 8 at 14:34
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    I had a department meeting last week, and jobs in my department's field was literally discussed. It's bizarre... and rational, given the state of the state. There is no map for these territories. It will make letters of support marginally more straightforward. Sep 8 at 16:52
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There is no script for this situation, and in my view the timing is awkward as well.

Let's talk about the timing first. At the moment, you are an assistant professor, and for all any other department knows, you have not gotten tenure and there is no guarantee that you will. So, universities at the same rank as your current one will not want to hire you with tenure, and they will think twice about hiring you to begin with because presumably you would insist on a short tenure clock -- which is always difficult because it does not give your future department much time to get to know you. In other words, everyone is taking risks: You have to go somewhere without tenure when you could have tenure at your current institution, and any hiring department will have to make a decision in a year or two without really knowing you well by then.

As for hiring someone later in their career than as a starting assistant professor in general: These are generally all individualized processes. In many cases, the hiring department and the prospective hire already know each other, or at least someone in the hiring department knows the candidate. These sorts of cases are typically more controversial than starting assistant professor hires because (i) more money -- salary, start-up, etc. -- is involved, (ii) immediate tenure or tenure soon after is involved. As a consequence, the people who are hired later on with tenure are generally not simply as good as the "average professor", but are substantially better. If all a department is interested in is filling a position, then can cheaply and easily do that with a starting assistant professor. Hiring someone beyond that career stage is so much more difficult that the people getting hired that way are generally around the top level in the hiring department.

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    Excellent response, with useful information. Sep 8 at 14:35
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    Note that changing universities, even if you already hold tenure requires, in my experience, an additional probationary period. Perhaps a couple of years. A superstar might be offered immediate tenure, or someone who was invited to apply for a senior position, but for most of us, expect an additional review. It might be fairly pro-forma, but a dean, say, wants to look at you for a bit before giving tenure.
    – Buffy
    Sep 8 at 15:55
  • Useful; thank you. I agree with all you have said, and believe there are considerable challenges. Happily, I have a strong track record to bring to the table, but as an earlier commenter notes there is not necessarily a positive outcome on offer here. I'd opt to wait a year, and have a simpler situation, but in this case I would lose my partner; they will not spend another year here. Notably, because of this, an exit to industry may also be an outcome, although I hope not. Sep 8 at 16:43
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    @Buffy That's not generally true. Once you have been in rank (associate, full) for 2-3 years, you can reasonably expect your new university to hire you at that rank and with tenure. I would think it insulting if an offer was made to someone who has held tenure for 3+ years that didn't come with tenure-upon-arrival. Sep 8 at 18:23
  • Perhaps not "generally" true, but it matches my experience, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it happen in a case like this. The OP isn't yet tenured.
    – Buffy
    Sep 8 at 18:31
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This is an outside the box suggestion, but my real intent is to suggest that you do just that; think outside the box for a solution.

If you are vaccinated and, perhaps, willing to wear a mask in most situations, then you are probably pretty safe, yourself. But it can leave you family, especially children, quite vulnerable to the disease.

If you have an option of sending your family to a safer place for the remainder of this year, perhaps to live with parents, or such, then they will be safer, while you continue where you are for the year and get through your tenure decision. If tenure is granted, as you suspect, then you would be in a much better position to move in '23 than currently.

The above isn't a very happy solution, but other families need to live apart for various reasons and it can be made to work.

But, again, the important point isn't to adopt the above "solution" but to think about other possible, not standard, things that can get your family and yourself to a better place.

It occurs to me that another option, if your spouse is also employed, that you could just resign and live on a reduced income for the year. It would cause a serious disruption in your career, but one that is easily explained in a more sensible place. You wouldn't have to be inactive professionally for the year, but would just have no employer. This is likely a worse, suggestion, further outside the box, but think about all your options.

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    I live in a mask. :) My family will indeed depart to a safer place soon, although that detail is not one I included above. I am deeply troubled by the idea of this separation, and indeed expect that after a few months will prefer losing my career to losing time with my children. Complicating matters are not only children but immune compromised individuals in my family. We have little choice. Sep 8 at 16:46
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    I have indeed discussed the 'year off' with my partner, and it is on the table, although highly financially difficult. I am also looking at exits to industry, nonprofit, and government roles in less difficult parts of this country, and others. One central challenge: my career is going great, and I am responsible for a large, thriving lab. Nonetheless, I will shut it all down to keep my partner. I'm looking for creative ways to give it away and keep it alive now. Sep 8 at 16:48

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