Searching For Your First Job
Tenure, Promotions and the First Ten Years
It is essential for you to be very familiar with the milestones you need to reach as your career evolves and as you progress through the ranks at your institution or company. Many institutions have alternate career tracks, and not all of them lead to tenure. There can be research, teaching, and/or clinical tracks. You should have a very clear understanding of which promotion track you are on and how the tenure process and/or the promotion process operate at your academic institution. It is critical that you meet regularly with at least one mentor who has excelled within your same career promotion track to advise you on your career development. The current realities of the first five to seven years, depending on your institutional requirements, are to establish your biomedical program. Competing pressures may exist between your research interests and your teaching responsibilities. Ensuring that you have protected time devoted to your own research enterprise is critical. Seventy-five to eighty percent of your time is needed to become a successful independent well funded, productive biomedical investigator. Usually the highest priority must be given to your research activities; however the satisfaction of being an effective teacher should not be overlooked. Faculty who have a reputation as an excellent teacher do attract highly qualified trainees to their laboratories.
While each institution has its own requirements, there are several general principles to consider. As you approach tenure/promotion, you should have done some teaching and attracted high-quality graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Teaching dossiers require student evaluations, so make sure to collect these after each course you teach. You should have been awarded peer reviewed funding as a Principal Investigator from at least two funding sources and had renewals. Grantsmanship is very important. Local seminars and/or those put on by granting agencies and professional or scientific societies are very useful to improve grant writing skills. Make sure to have serious reviews of your proposal prior to preparing your final submission, both by content experts and by mentors. You should have a consistent publication record in well respected peer-reviewed journals. Quality is more important than quantity and papers first authored by your trainees are a plus. When you go up for tenure and/or promotion to Associate Professor, you should be known for your research contributions. Often this is reflected in a high profile paper or series of papers that are innovative and may transform your area of research. This is best achieved by staying focused in the early stages of your career. Even when participating in multi-investigator programs you should be identifiable for the expertise you bring to the project.
You may now be involved with research review as an external reviewer of manuscripts and/or grant proposals. You may, although this is much less likely, be asked to serve on a grant review panel. While such experience can be valuable to you in learning how to develop a successful grant, these review activities are time consuming, so you must budget your time very carefully. Not obtaining your own grant funding because you are too busy reviewing others is not a useful way to advance your career. Some amount of committee activity is useful since everyone must pitch in to help administer the system in which they work. But once again, budget your time very carefully. If you are doing your share of administrative work in your department as a junior faculty member, do not hesitate to decline a request to serve on yet another committee. Indicate that once your time commitments change, you would be more than willing to take on new responsibilities. In the early years, focus your administrative roles both at your institution and externally to activities close to your research activity, e.g. graduate committees, scientific meeting program committees.
You are not working in a vacuum, so know the investigators in your field. One way to do this is to become active in your disciplines - professional and scientific societies. Once again do not over commit yourself, especially in the early stages of your career. Attend scientific meetings, especially small meetings where it is much easier to meet your colleagues and discuss science. Social settings during a meeting are a very good venue to interact with colleagues. Promote your own trainee's ability to attend scientific meetings with you. It is a very good investment of your funds.
It is very useful to apply for and receive personnel awards. It is confirmation of the high regard your peers have for you and your work. Applications are usually a time consuming process, so focus applications on those awards for which you have a very good chance of receiving. Seek much information about the application process so you understand how best to fill out the forms and what the agency or foundation is looking for in its aswardees.