Ask the Mentor

Take a look at this quarter’s early career question and our mentors’ responses! If you have a question you would like to submit for the Ask the Mentor column, or if you would like to serve as a mentor for the column, please email Brooks Wingo.

QUESTION:

I am applying for my first academic faculty position. What information should I find out to help in deciding if a position is a good fit for me? Also, do you have any advice on the best way to approach negotiating the job offer?
—Submitted by an ACRM early career member

 

MENTOR RESPONSE:

Monique Pappadisfrom Monique R. Pappadis, MEd, PhD
Assistant Professor, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB)
School of Health Professions, Division of Rehabilitation Sciences

First, congratulations on completing your training! This is a great question that I also asked my mentors and myself just a little over a year ago. I would suggest that you make a list of things that are very important to you (deal breakers), somewhat important (willing to compromise), and not that important (if I get them, great; if I do not, no biggie).

Then, think about your career goals and your needs to achieve those goals. Also, do not forget to consider your family needs, if applicable.

When negotiating a new faculty position, there are several things you should consider that would help you make the best decision for you. Most individuals focus so much on the salary that they fail to consider other benefits worth negotiating during your job search. Although, it is great to be paid what you are worth based on your expertise.

Here are some things you should consider:

  • Location: Is it in a city that you could truly call home?
  • Success/ Reputation of the University/Center: Are they recognized in your field of study?
  • Mentorship: Who will be your mentor(s)? Are they among the best of the best in the field? Do they have time to mentor you?
  • Resources: What resources will you have access to (e.g. biostatisticians, graduate students/fellows, computers and software, equipment)?
  • Lab/Space: Will I share offices and/or lab space? Will I be able to start my own lab?
  • Environment: Is it productive yet relaxed? Are they micromanagers? Does this department collaborate with other departments? How does the Provost view research and your department?
  • Teaching: What is the average teaching load? What resources are available to support your teaching? Can you buy out teaching time with grants?
  • Employee Benefits: What are the available benefits and premium costs? Does the institution have a “domestic partner” policy (if applicable)?
  • Family: Are they accommodating to/supportive of your family needs? What are the family-leave policies? Child care costs? Spousal Appointments?
  • Relocation: Will I be reimbursed for my moving/relocation costs? Up to how much?
  • Salary: What is the average starting salary for others in similar positions? Are there compensation/ incentive plans or bonuses? Bi-weekly, Monthly pay? 9-month or 12 month?
  • Performance Reviews: How often do they occur? Are salary increases connected with performance reviews?
  • Tenure-Promotion: What is the current tenure-promotion process? What is the average time for promotion and tenure?
  • Travel/Pilot funds: Are there funds to support travel to conferences and meetings? Does the University/Center have pilot award programs?
  • Research funding: When are you expected to be supported by your own grant? Will there be support provided during the seeking (i.e. pre-award) and managing (i.e. post-award) process?
  • Tenure-Track: Is the position a tenure-track or non-tenure-track?

I considered everything that I’ve listed. Although I do not have my own lab yet, I received all of the things on my “very important” list. I am in an institution that is supportive of faculty with children. I have access to all the resources that I need to become a successful early career researcher. I receive travel funds so that I can attend national and international conferences, such as ACRM.

My University has several programs that provide me with additional mentoring for everything from productive writing to grantsmanship. There are several pilot programs. I have an awesome multi-disciplinary team of mentors that I can bug whenever I want. One of them is Dr. Kenneth Ottenbacher – need I say more?

I have an office overlooking the port and can see the cruise ships coming and going. My salary was comparable to others at my level of expertise. I was grateful for my offer. Remember, you can always ask for more. If they say no, will they at least offer most if not all the things listed on your “very important” list. Lastly, maintain professionalism and be honest at all times.

I am hoping that you make the best decision for you and I wish you much success as you enter this crazy, yet fun, world of academia!

MENTOR RESPONSE:

Asha Vasfrom Asha Vas, OT, PhD
Assistant Professor, Texas Woman’s University- Dallas
Department of Occupational Therapy

Unless you are your own boss and have all the power and resources at your disposal, an early career faculty dream job is often what you create, that you DREAMED of, after landing a fairly well negotiated BALANCED job.

A faculty applicant has a fairly clear idea of his/her career desires, geographical preferences, family commitments, skill/ knowledge, limitations and dislikes. Therefore, there is no magic or unknown formula that guides the candidate to DESTINATION FACULTY. That said, it’s helpful to take into account all factors that constitute a traditional rehabilitation faculty position. Discussion and consideration of these factors provides clarity to both the candidate and the employer. Furthermore, I believe that these factors could guide career trajectory and help create the dream job.

Let’s assume that you have narrowed down the list of universities and/or institutions that you are likely to apply. These following steps (not necessarily in the same order) may ease some anxiety and help you prepare for the journey.

  1. Do your homework: Find out everything you can about the important characteristics of the institution. Things you may want to know include faculty funding sources, number of faculty, and average time to tenure. See a list here for a table to work from.
  2. Ask yourself- what do I have to offer to the university/ institution: List each of your skills and experiences that you have to offer. Click here for a worksheet to get you started.
  3. Some job sites are clear of their expectations of the candidate, others are not. It is helpful to talk to at least 2 people – one faculty and one administrative faculty/ staff to gain knowledge of the expectations of the position. Rehabilitation faculty jobs often have a mix of academic and clinical responsibilities. It is critical to know each responsibilities and potential for growth in each of these areas. See potential factors to consider here.
  4. At the interview/ at the negotiating table: Ask for the most you think you deserve in all areas including salary, position, and support. You may not get all you want during your first conversation. Take time to reflect on your strengths and leverage it to your career growth- both short and long term. This reflection and negotiation usually takes days or weeks. Employers may not be deterred by these small delays and may in fact value this flexible thought process that you demonstrate. See a larger list of areas to consider in the negotiation process here.