Academic culture makes us believe that the “traditional” path through academia is the “normal” path, and a “non-traditional” path is often code for “less-than”. Don’t believe it! Your path is valuable.
Today I want to talk about disrupting this idea of the “traditional” path in academia.
So many of the women I talk to during the application process for Amplify and Elevate (our programs for pre-and post-tenure women on the tenure track) lead by saying that they haven’t taken the “traditional path” through academia. Here are some reasons:
- They had a baby during their PhD
- They worked a career between their undergrad and grad school
- They became the associate director of a research center instead of getting a “traditional” tenure-track job
- They worked as an adjunct between their PhD and their tenure-track job
- They took longer than their cohort to graduate their PhD
- They worked at a teaching institution or an aspiring institution and so they didn’t build a line of research early in their careers, but they need to do so now because they want to get promoted under new rules or change jobs
These experiences don’t fit the mold of what the racist patriarchal culture of academia wants us to believe is “normal” for a career path. But your path is a legitimate path. YOU get to shape it, to decide what steps are important, to decide when and how you accomplish each milestone you choose for yourself.
To keep making strides in shifting the culture of academia, we need to disrupt this idea of the traditional path. Here are 3 ways we can do it.
1. Change the Words We Use
When we use the term “non-traditional” we are legitimizing the idea of a “traditional” path. Let’s come up with new ways to describe the paths we’re on: disruptive, intersectional, successful, whole!
2. Set Our Own Milestones
In both Amplify and Elevate, we work on creating a milestone map that reflects the milestones that YOU want for your career. If you are working towards your milestones, you will satisfy your university’s requirements for tenure and promotion. And if this isn’t the case, then you are at the wrong institution. Make your path yours. Own it. You will be more successful for it.
3. Embrace Your Path and Know Your Assets
When you create your tenure and promotion documents, embrace your path formerly known as non-traditional. Play it up. Because your particular set of experiences is an asset to your university. Help them understand in your dossier how and why that’s true.
The content in this episode was inspired by the 35 women I spoke with in depth through a workshop I did for post-tenure women. Conversations with these academic women also became the beginnings of my Elevate program, a program designed to help post-tenure women get clear on what the next steps in their career should be, and supporting them to get there.
Elevate is a 6-month long intensive program limited to 10 women. Through one-on-one coaching, group coaching and support, this program helps you figure out YOUR next career milestone and how to get there. The next session of Elevate starts in February 2020, so click here to begin the application process and see if you are a good fit for this program.
If you are a pre-tenure woman on the tenure track who is ready to invest in going up for tenure with confidence, my Amplify program may be right for you. In this year-long program we dig in to what’s holding you back and how putting writing at the center will lead to a calmer, more focused, pre-tenure experience. Admission is rolling, so click here to apply now.
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