So You Finally Have An Offer

We are all well aware of the massive bottleneck leading to a tenure track faculty position. Even when I was looking for an Assistant Professor gig 10 years ago, a position at a medical school had 300 or more applicants.  So, when you finally get an offer, it is very tempting to say YES!!!! as quickly as possible. There are many, many factors that go into building a successful research program/academic career essentially from scratch. Finding the best fit for your particular situation is essential. So, with the clarity of 20/20 hindsight, I can offer some advice.

  1. If they really want you, they will bend over backwards to meet your startup request (within reason).
  2. The support of the chair is of the utmost importance. He/she should be calling you regularly during negotiations/recruitment. Once on campus, my chair not only visited my lab regularly, but also had lunch with me weekly. I ended up having lab meeting with his group, and we became close friends and colleagues. Because of this, I was put up for promotion and tenure very early. Not so little known secret: a strong chair and departmental APT committee promotion letter is almost always successful at the university APT committee.
  3. The support of your colleagues is critical for your continued success. It should be obvious during the interview process they are very interested in your work. You should be able to easily identify faculty that you can collaborate with. They will mentor you during the growing pains of starting your own lab. They will hopefully be a co-I on your grants. They will tell you what committees/classes/faculty/students to avoid.
  4. Once at the university, building relationships throughout campus is important and can open up doors to new opportunities. This can be done by serving on institutional committees such as a grad school admissions committee. I once met a surgeon at a cocktail party, and this led to a massive collaborative project which included filling my lab with fellows and some cash. We still have a collaborative grant. Another example is my interactions with senior administration in the grad school resulted in my participation as a mentor in the PREP program. My first university where I was employed for 9 years had >10,000 employees. To this day when I walk on campus I get stopped about every 10 feet by former colleagues.
  5. Put on your regalia and go to commencement. This will probably do little for your career, but is a very special event for a faculty member. I have never felt so academic. The students and senior administration also appreciate your attendance.

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