Your dissertation is not an end. It is a beginning.
Getting a tenure track job (or equivalent academic appointment) is not an end. It is a beginning.
Even if your ultimate goal is “Be a full-professor, with an international reputation in my field.” (and it’s okay if that isn’t your goal), you aren’t going to get there in 3-5 years.
Your PhD prepared you to begin an academic career.
It did not provide everything you need to become a full professor. Nor should it have. You still have a lot of learning and growing to do throughout your career. Your research will get better, and have more impact. You will build bigger and better networks. You will be able to tackle different problems, perhaps more complex ones, or more difficult theoretical ones, or whatever.
My dad ran a small retail business. I remember him telling me that one reason businesses fail is because they try to grow too fast. Increasing the physical size of your store, and the size of your inventory, before you have the customer base to support it can be disastrous. The same can be said for your academic career.
Moving up in any organization requires knowledge, skills, and relationships with people across the organization & in client organizations. All three take time to develop. This is why people with higher levels of education rarely come into high level positions without relevant work experience. It’s not that your degree program was badly designed. You can’t learn all that in school.
You can’t force that growth. It takes time. You can push it but that probably means unsustainable work practices and a higher risk of burnout. You’ll make advances in some areas without building the necessary supports to sustain that kind of output and influence.
It’s still hard work.
I’m not suggesting that the requirements for tenure are unreasonable. Nor that current expectations about the amount you need to publish can be ignored. However, there is a reason the tenure clock is 5-7 years or the probationary period (in the UK) is 3 years. The requirements are to develop the foundation for sustained future activity at an appropriate level. You can be strategic.
You need to publish. You need to build and maintain networks. You need to develop the skills necessary to take your research to the next level. Promotion decisions will be based on evidence that you can operate at the next level.
You need to adapt to the institution in which you are working. You need to develop teaching skills and workload management strategies that enable you do perform all your tasks at an appropriate level. You need to build relationships within your institution.
Most of that relationship building and skill development doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. It is often frustrating. You are not magically going to become a productive researcher, or a brilliant teacher. But that’s okay. You have 20 – 30 years ahead of you.
You need to develop sustainable working practices that will get you there over time. The Academic Writing Studio can support you as you do that.
This post was last edited 2 July 2018.