How do you choose your pre-tenure service?

Oct 24 2013 Published by under [Education&Careers]

Service. The third and most rickety leg of the tenure stool. No one ever got tenure for service, but it's counted all the same. Are you a good citizen of the department/college/university/community? In some cases pre-tenure service amounts to the equivalent of hazing, but if you can manage some say in what you take on you might actually find some worthwhile pursuits.

My advice to new faculty is to always get a feel for your options. You are going to be asked to do some service, so you will be best served if you can choose from among a few possibilities. Don't automatically say yes to the first thing that some senior faculty member "really thinks you would be good at" or "thinks you might benefit from". Spoiler: They are likely trying to off load something they don't want to do.

In your first few years, sticking to service roles in the department or college is a good idea. Chances are you won't be asked to do university-level service early on, anyway. But keep it to roles where you can see a tangible outcome in the somewhat near future.

Where do you think you could make a contribution without sinking dozens of hours that you don't want to spend? Do you want to help craft the undergraduate experience? Every department has a curriculum committee. Maybe you would prefer being on the grad committee? There could be an opportunity to serve on a college diversity committee and help promote that agenda. Are there hires being made in your general area? The opportunity to have a major say in the people who may be your colleagues for years to come is always time well spent. You get the idea.

There is nothing worse than getting stuck in a service role you dread. Yes, we all take one for the collective team once in a while, but no one deserves to have to attend monthly meetings of the University Manual committee, Chaired by Dr. Robert's Rules of Order. There's service and there's sacrfice. Choose the former and avoid the latter like the plague.

4 responses so far

  • Alex says:

    Definitely serve on the seminar/colloquium committee. It's a great networking opportunity.

    At some point do something for your department where you are productive but not a hero. Show that if somebody gives you a reasonable task you will do it efficiently and without complaint. Don't try to be a hero, just be a good worker.

    At some point serve on a university committee. Don't try to be a hero, just do something where you get to know people outside of your area. You never know when it will be useful to have the respect and sympathy of a senior person on the other side of campus. Maybe that person will have some good advice or insight that people in your department/college wouldn't have, because they have an outside perspective. Don't try to be a hero here, just try to be productive enough that somebody on the other side of campus will respect you. If all you do is show up to meetings, participate productively, and make useful edits on the occasional report, you're probably doing enough.

  • sop scientist says:

    I volunteered for graduate student recruitment in the first few years. This was a lot of work, but quickly allowed me to get to know a lot of my faculty colleagues and their research interests and they got to know me too. It also gave me a presence with the incoming students. This really helped getting great students into my lab quickly as I started. Also - many of my established faculty colleagues were happy to NOT have to deal with student recruitment. Ultimately, this service work paid off on many levels.

  • How to tell a GOOD department chair: "What would you like to do for service?" it is also okay to ask on a job interview "what is the dept policy on service?"

  • EcoNerd says:

    The best advice i have gotten is to choose service that also achieves some other good. As noted above, the seminar series and grad recruiting are good examples. Serving on panels is a lot of work, but pays a lot of dividends. Does anyone have other suggestions for service that raises the profile of young faculty without being a huge work burden?

Leave a Reply