12 questions to help you thrive in your mid-career years

The “mid-career slump” is a well-documented dip in job satisfaction and direction that is common among recently tenured faculty members. You can read about the phenomenon in this collection of articles we’ve gathered for FAUW workshop participants over the last few years.

With some reflection and planning—and by using your new job security to take some risks and try new things—you can avoid, or at least mitigate, the mid-career slump. The articles in the folder linked above provide some practical suggestions, and the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity, which UW just joined, has a one-hour webinar on “Getting to Mid-career and Beyond” coming up on March 23. (To activate your NCFDD membership, visit www.facultydiversity.org/join and follow the prompts.)

FAUW also offers a workshop on this topic. At the most recent session in December 2020, five mid-career faculty members shared advice for avoiding the mid-career slump and mapping out the years following tenure (or the lecturer equivalent at UW: a continuing appointment).

Based on the experiences and advice of these panelists, here are 12 questions to help you design and make the most of the next few (or many) years of your career by looking at where you are now, identifying new opportunities, and planning with the end in mind.

Assess where you’re at

  1. What do you like best about your career?
  2. What are the major stressors you face at this stage of your career?
  3. How has your job changed since receiving tenure/continuing status?
  4. How have expectations of you—and your interests—changed in terms of leadership and service?

Identify opportunities to grow in your teaching and research

  1. What have you always wanted to try in your teaching—and what held you back?
  2. In terms of teaching, can you think of: 1 new technique, 2 people you can mentor, and 3 things you want to learn?
  3. How can you exhibit your personal values through your research? Whom do you want your research to serve?
  4. With whom do you want to collaborate in your research? (Think about students and organizations, not just other faculty.)

Fine-tune your service contributions

  1. Where are there connections between your values and the things that need improving in your department/faculty/Faculty Association/university?
  2. Where are there connections between your research and the things that need improving in your department/faculty/Faculty Association/university?
  3. How can you make things better for other faculty members or students coming after you?

Plan for the end result

  1. What do you want your retirement party to look like? Who will be there, and what will they say? What can you do today to move toward that?

Thank you to the presenters at our December 2020 “Making the Most of Your Mid-career Years” workshop for sharing and inspiring these questions: Bryan Grimwood, Mario Ioannidis, Kirsten Müller, Diana Skrzydlo, and Su-Yin Tan.

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