About a sixty of us who had been summoned showed up at the courthouse that morning. I was number four on the list. An hour later, we were seated in the courtroom, learning about what would lie ahead for some of us.
“It’s not so much that you’re picked for jury duty,” the clerk told us. “It’s more the case that you’re just not dismissed.”
The case involved a child, and I assume that because I’m not a mother, the attorneys skipped me in favor of someone else. While I would have gladly served, I was relieved to regain control of my time.
It occurred to me on the way home that jury selection is like getting past a first date . . . or a job application . . . or the midterm review in the tenure process. The tenure track usually lasts six years, with a midterm review in the spring semester of the third year.
The midterm review is not the be-all, end-all. It’s more of an argument. You are making the case that they made the right decision in hiring you and that in your time there you have built a foundation of research and scholarship that has an upward trajectory that will continue to benefit the university and the discipline if you are allowed to stay.
Your main job is to not give a reason to be let go.
To do this, you need to weave your teaching, research, and service into a cohesive narrative. Your CV lays out the “what” of your work, and your teaching, research, and service statement (or philosophy) lays out the “why.”
And while it's typically only a few pages, it’s one of the most important documents you’ll ever write.
As an associate professor going up for his midterm review next week told me, “It’s the only thing I can be sure they’ll read.” He had three binders with about six hundred pages of supporting documents, and the three pages of his TRS statement had to encapsulate his entire body of work and his rationale behind it.
His first draft was just the highlights of his CV in narrative form: “I did this; I did that.” By getting him to answer the “why” questions behind his accomplishments, we were able to craft a much better statement that told a unique and compelling story about him and his work.
And then we drilled down further to answer four questions that make the distillation process simple and straightforward. The first question is about profile: his unique background that led the university to hire him in the first place, and how he has leveraged it to contribute to his discipline.
We’ll go into detail about the profile question in the next post.
--Ann Kellett, Ph.D.