Promoted to full-- what's left?

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[posting from a throwaway]

I was promoted to full professor this year and am wondering what's left for me to work toward. I'm still in my early 40s and all my life I had some sort of clear goal to pursue. Now that there is no place to go higher on the professional track (I'm at an SLAC and have already been a department chair) I'm wondering about motivation and dealing with a nagging "is this all there is" sense of ennui.

College was fun. Grad school was socially enjoyable, if not intellectually so. I like my job...I'm a good teacher, an excellent colleague (based on my service record at least), and a productive scholar. I have a book coming out in the fall and other stuff on the burners, as well as a large (for an SLAC at least) grant currently under review. But unless I decide to apply for a deanship or start looking for jobs elsewhere, I'm at the end of my career ladder. Nothing to look forward too, no more promotions, no more raises other than steps for service, no more false "prestige" of ever-inflating titles. Basically I have 30+ years of this routine left before I can retire (I spent my 20s in school and will still be paying off loans until I'm 50).

What's left to look forward to professionally once most of the obvious hurdles have been cleared? Is the answer "nothing," and does that explain why so many of my senior colleagues seem to have checked out by age 55 or so?

If research and teaching aren't enough to look forward to, I think early retirement would be a service to the profession. Short of that, if research and teaching bore you nowadays, then what most people actually do is become Deans.

Now you get to be you. Step 1: Figure out who that is.

I hope to be in your position in a couple of months, though I am a decade older. And I was full once before. Last time around I bought a kayak, started a side business, and picked a whole new direction for my scholarship. As Thomas the Tank Engine says, A change is as good as a rest.

So long as you are doing your job in the classroom, you can keep your job and explore new things at the same time. Maybe you could fill your garage with woodworking tools or a pottery wheel? Take up triathlons? Join the community theater? Renovate old houses?

It is a big transition from being directed from the outside to directing yourself. Have fun with it.

Until quite recently I was seeing things from a similar perspective: gah, 25 more years of this?! Now I'm like, holy cr@p, I don't have time to do half of what I want to accomplish. I think it's a matter of finally realizing that although there are no external pre-defined goals ahead of me in nice 4-7 year increments, I have enough life experience to see what's important and meaningful to me and establish my own goals.

I've definitely expanded on personal interests and that is a great joy. But I'm suddenly also facing some big professional goals. I want to radically change the way I teach (which will almost be like starting from scratch again, in a good way), become an adviser for student clubs (any ones will do for now, but I also have an agenda for a couple I'd like to create eventually), build up the new degree program that is emerging in my area, and create better support for the adjuncts in my area. Oh, and then somewhere along the way I need to admit that my PhD is getting dusty and I should do some serious professional development to keep up on what's new in the field. And I did promise that I'd be on the faculty negotiating team at some point in the near future....

Here's the great joy: these are all things that I want to do. Nothing on this list is there just to keep me busy or because someone else has imposed them on me. I figure I'm good for another 5-10 years, and then I'll be moving on to a new set of goals. Maybe I'll teach overseas for a year, or write the textbook that I've been looking for, or who knows what?

I've never cared about getting titles or tenure or any of that. That's not driven me at all. It's nice to get paid decent money and have a bit of job security. I now have more than I need of both since I was promoted in 2011. I was a tenured associate prof before and quit. So, I've always just wanted to do research and find things out and have fun and it's nice that people have paid me for doing that. It's not that I don't care about prestige at all -  I do like watching my citations climb and getting articles in good journals and being a full professor at a good university. But the latter is like a bonus, it was never the goal. Was getting to full professor really your goal?


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