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On mat leave and need some pointers going for promotion

(6 Posts)
ProfGeek Sun 29-Oct-17 08:35:47

Hello wise ones

Long time lurker here and NC'd in case any information is identifying.

I'm currently on my second maternity leave and am due to submit my application for promotion to Senior Lecturer (RG group) in the next couple of weeks. So far my HoD, Dean and other colleagues have been very encouraging, but I'm having a bit of a crisis of confidence having been out of the game for while. I think my issue is knowing how to pitch things as the initial feedback from my HoD is that I am underselling myself. I find talking about myself in superlatives toe-curlingly cringy, but I clearly need to brush up on my sales pitch as I need to convince the promotions panel that I am worth promoting.

My career path has been quite unconventional as I came from the industry I now research. A lot of the activities and outputs I did in my early years, whilst not rigourous from an academic point of view, now count towards knowledge exchange and impact etc. I have a solid, if nothing spectacular, publication profile with a clear trajectory there of getting better/more prestigious papers and outputs over time.

I've only been a lecturer since Jan 2016 as this was when I completed my PhD (did the 'interesting' way, part-time and self-funded), but have convened three modules in that time (two of which were developed from scratch) and helped to launch a new UG programme by taking on several leadership and pastoral roles. I strive to use innovative teaching methods and modern approaches to engage the students wherever possible and really enjoy teaching. I was working towards getting my HE fellowship but the application was due in in the heat wave weeks when I was 9 months pregnant and my blood pressure went screwy. So my teaching philosophy isn't as clear in my head as I'd like.

Institutional citizenship/Service is where I feel my CV is the weakest as I have been part-time for several years and was pregnant for most of my Lecturer post (one MC, one DD) so didn't feel I could be reliable enough to volunteer to sit on Faculty committees. So my profile in the Faculty is probably quite weak. Other than that I am a good egg in my department, and will help anyone out with anything, so I am seen as contributing, but haven't got the official titles to go with that.

Overall I have been research active and taught ad hoc for over a decade and should be in a good place to put my case forward. However, I'm struggling with wording. I have paraphrased the promotions criteria in my draft (e.g. "I have led an institutionally noteworthy project") but it just sounds tepid and unimaginative. I feel like this application has to be perfectly written because the powers that be won't be impressed by something average from someone who is supposed to write for a living! But having not exercised my writing muscles for a few months now I am struggling with wording. Any pointers or questions that might help me to see the bigger picture gratefully received!

Closetlibrarian Sun 29-Oct-17 14:09:44

Does your institution have clear criteria for promotion? Mine does and an application to go up a level is about speaking to those criteria. For us, we need to hit the criteria in 2 out of 3 areas of research, teaching excellence and admin/leadership. Research must be one of the two.

When I got bumped up to SL (also on mat leave with dc2!) I had a book (monograph) several journal articles and book chapters plus some keynotes at international conferences and I’d just got a (very small) amount of external funding. I went for promotion the year before and didn’t get it - the only thing that changed in the intervening year was getting the grant. I’m in the humanities.

I guess my point is it’s hard to give specific advice as it’s all very institution and discipline specific. So looking at what your uni’s criteria are for SL is the best place to start.

And yes - you need to get over the British modesty thing! Blow your own trumpet, cos ain’t anyone else who’s going to do it. So, for eg, why was that project ‘institutionally significant’? Eg was it because it is contributing towards the instution’s stated strategic plan/ goals? Will it lead to REF outputs? Further collaboration? Research income? REF and income are, in my experience, the stuff that they really care about.

ProfGeek Sun 29-Oct-17 20:08:38

Thanks for responding ClosetLibrarian. Sound advice that should be somewhat obvious! One of the things I'm grappling with is that my institution has introduced a new framework against which promotions will be judged. It is significantly more complex than the previous system - to allow for more varied types of career history and progression - and the guidance document was only released last month so I've not had as much time to digest it as I would have liked (it's a full time job getting my dd to nap!). With my non-traditional background the new system should work in my favour, but I'm still getting my head around the language of it all.

Your post was a timely reminder that ultimately I should be focusing on how I contribute to furthering the institution's reputation or coffers!

Closetlibrarian Mon 30-Oct-17 09:43:24

Is there someone who can help you figure out the new framework? Either a mentor or someone in HR? There's someone who works in our staff development/ HR dept in our faculty who's job is, essentially, that. Worth looking into. This stuff should be transparent. And if it's not you need to kick up a fuss!

ScottishProf Mon 30-Oct-17 09:52:39

You don't need to use superlatives about yourself, in fact you shouldn't. What you want to do induce superlatives in the reader. So e.g. not

I led an institutionally noteworthy project

but

I led the XYZ project. This was [briefly why it was institutionally noteworthy].

Sympathies, it's hard. One tip I've heard is to start off by writing it in the third person, as far as possible thinking of your career as though it were someone else's, and then just turn it first person as a grammatical exercise at the end.

Bartdudette Mon 30-Oct-17 19:38:44

Thanks. I'd forgotten that I met with a mentor last year in another department and she might be able to offer some insight into how she sees the new framework. I suspect as it is so new, pretty much everyone, including all the other people going for promotion and the promotions panel are feeling their way in the dark this first year. The advice about writing in the third person sounds like a useful exercise. I have no problem bigging up my colleagues or research findings, I just hate talking about myself!

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