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I posted this on reddit, but I thought I would post it here as well in order to get as much advice as possible. I hope it is OK.

I am a tenured associate professor who is applying for new jobs at other universities. I have a lot of questions and I would like to hear some of your opinions.

I am at the stage where I can realistically apply for full professorship at my home university soon. This is actually an important reason for me to apply for jobs now because I feel that once I become a full professor, it will be a lot harder to get a job in another university because most openings in my area are at the assistant/associate level.

Already, one of my contacts in a university I am applying to already told me that they might not have the budget to hire someone with so much experience, even as an Assoc Prof (the salary there is calculated based on the number of years in service). But at the same time, some more senior colleagues told me that I should ask for full professorship (maybe not at the aforementioned university, but at the other places). I am worried that it might come across as greedy. But I also heard that being bold can pay off. In one of the openings, it says that "full professorship will be considered at exceptional cases". In others, only assist/assoc. What is the best strategy?

Another thing that I wonder is what I should do with my grad students and postdoc (there are 5 of them working with me at the current university). Should I ask the new school whether I can transfer them with me? Is it something I should mention at the interview stage, or only when an offer is made?

I am also supposed to be on sabbatical next year. Will it come across badly if I ask for sabbatical leave in the new school too early? Alternatively, how would it be perceived if I ask them whether I could start in the new school one year later, after my sabbatical leave with the current school?

Thanks in advance!

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    Careful. At some (many?) places, taking a sabbatical comes with the requirement to stay for one additional year afterwards.
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 20, 2021 at 14:27
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    Do you have a reason for wanting to leave? Are you a superstar - leader of your field? Is your advancement to full an obvious outcome?
    – Buffy
    Commented Nov 20, 2021 at 14:46
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    Thanks for the comments. In our school, we would have to pay back half of the salary if we leave straight after a sabbatical. I will have some external funding, so in balance, I will come out even.
    – user119481
    Commented Nov 20, 2021 at 14:54
  • The resason why I want to leave is simply to go to a better school. My current school is OK, but I can fairly say that I am a big fish in a small pond. I am not at all a leader in my field, but given the school's policy, I think advance to full should not be an issue.
    – user119481
    Commented Nov 20, 2021 at 14:56
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    If there is a condition that absolutely must be satisfied in order for you to accept a job offer from a place, then as a matter of ethics, common sense and professionalism, you should mention it at the time you are applying. Otherwise you’re just wasting people’s time.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Nov 20, 2021 at 15:09

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I don't think this is a full answer, but let me raise some issues. Not knowing more, I'd think that, on balance, you'd be better off advancing to full where you are and then searching for a different place. And taking your sabbatical in normal order.

Note that I was (twice) hired at the rank of full already in hand. On to the issues:

Many places, especially in the US, are constrained from hiring without a wide (national, at least) search. This can be finessed to some extent, but you may not be able to avoid competition for any position. If you have skills that are a bit unique and that fulfill a specific need at a new institution (my case) then it can be made to work more or less. Some job adverts are very specific in the requirements, tailored for a specific individual.

If you move to a new place, expect there to be a period of probation, probably about two years (not seven). Expect there to be a vote of the faculty at the new place on your tenure. This is probably pro-forma if you are collegial and do the job, but not always the case. In one of my moves I wound up with a very hostile chair/head, resulting in the second move. So, a bit of caution. But, moving as an associate leaves you with both a future tenure decision and a future promotion decision perhaps. You might be able to get them combined in to one decision.

I'd guess that a quick sabbatical at a new place is out of the question. They need to know you are a good colleague and productive before they want to take a risk. Starting a year late might be reasonable if you have the funding for it as well as a solid (research oriented) reason for doing so. A year in the south of France or Spain won't do (nice as it might be).

The students are a bigger problem than you suggest. Even if the new place has room (and funding?) for them they may not all want to move, leaving them with problems and potential setbacks. If you move on to full where you are, while also reducing the number of students you are responsible for, you can reduce this problem, maybe to zero.

Anyway, I don't see a big difference between getting hired as associate and wanting to move quickly to full vs getting hired at full. I think decisions are more likely to be made on what specific role you can fill that no one else is able to at the moment. There would be a difference if there are any quotas at rank or if there is a feeling that the faculty is already top-heavy.

Alternatively, some places might feel it more appropriate to provide an upward path for an existing faculty member than hire an additional full professor. And the question, then, occurs, would you be that existing professor due for promotion. That is why I suggest you need to be able to fill some specific sort of need to make a smooth move.

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  • Thank you so much for the advice. It's great to hear about your experience. My worry of applying after becoming full is that it's very rare in our field for a full to move to another university unless you are one of the tops. Our research is rather individualistic and people tend to just do their own things. Usually a department would look for someone who publish, supervise who can get external funding and teach well. The specific topics of our research is not so important. So, if I am full, it would be expensive and they may prefer someone younger, who will cost less.
    – user119481
    Commented Nov 20, 2021 at 16:47

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