Leaving your current position can be fraught with sleepless nights, what if's, and self-doubt. However, moving on to your next job can give you a renewed sense of purpose and direction, which makes you a more vital member of academia.
Other than not gaining tenure, the reasons faculty members leave positions vary and can range from the new job being close to family, a better geographical location, or the new job is a better fit.
If you believe it's time to move on, exiting your job on time and gracefully is imperative. Burning bridges and acting out on your way out of the door – regardless of your motivation – will harm you professionally and maybe personally down the line. Remember, people know people, people do talk, and the academic world truly is tiny.
Over my 30 years in academia, I have been a faculty member in three Universities. However, with my desire to move into administration, I left two universities. One of my primary goals when moving to another University was to ensure my job exits were not acrimonious. In doing so, I am pleased (and honored) that I still have great friends and colleagues I talk with regularly at my previous Universities. So, being intentional with how you leave can make a difference in the future of your career.
If you are considering a career move, here are somethings to consider.
Is it the right time?
You must be honest about why you want to leave your current job. 'Is it the right time?' could apply to either personal or professional reasons you have for leaving. Perhaps you've just had a child and want to live close to your parents to strengthen the bond between your child and their grandparents. Maybe you feel that you've accomplished all you can at your current University, and it's time to seek other challenges, or your current position is filled with an untenable situation affecting your health. Again, there is no universal answer for everyone, but if you start to feel it is time to seek a new job, don't dismiss your feelings. Consider and weigh the pros and cons. My previous job transition started when I sensed that I had accomplished what I'd been hired to do, and it was time to seek new challenges. Whether your reason is personal or professional, you must ensure it is the right time to move before you leave.
Where do you go?
This is undoubtedly a critical question and depends somewhat on the available jobs. Indeed, you need to start looking at all sources of job ads (e.g., Chronicle.com), but it will help if you have a sense of where you want to go. For example, do you want to go to a specific area of the country, a particular type of University, or work with specific people? You can focus on the available jobs once you have decided on where you want your next position to be. For example, a colleague of mine dreamed of working at a particular University in the Southwest. He made sure that the faculty and Department Head at the University knew of his interest, and while it took a few years for a job to open at that University, he applied and got the job. So, knowing where you want to go will help you narrow your job search focus when you've realized it is the right time to move on.
How do you exit with grace?
Give this some thought. You've been a part of an academic community for several years and helped that community grow and achieve. In many ways, you've been part of a long-term relationship; like any long-term relationship, when you decide to leave, there can be hurt feelings and regret.
Showing discretion and professional grace despite the circumstances will allow you to exit your position and take on a new challenge while maintaining the relationships you've built over the years.
As a former Department Chair, I've seen faculty leave a University two ways. Some left by burning their bridges, and others departed with discretion and grace. So, how do you want to go? It truly is your call. Interestingly, the faculty that left with discretion and grace have always fared better and maintained long-standing relationships with their former colleagues.
Once you decide to leave, there's no need to announce that you want to move on. Looking and taking a new job is no one's business but your own until you have to officially resign. So, be discrete when looking. Also, as tempting as it may be, there is no need to tell your Dept. Chair to 'take this job and shove it.' Making a big scene is unnecessary once you've landed a new job. Instead, treat your colleagues as you would like and show them professional grace.
If the time is right for you to move to another university or a job outside of academia, give yourself the time to evaluate your reasons, options, and desires so that as you move forward, you do so with confidence in your decision.
And remember, if you want more details on this topic, check out Surviving Your First Five Years As A Faculty Member (Chapter 9).
Keep Moving Forward