Writing promotion applications (1): Why is promotion so important for academics?
First of six posts on writing effective promotion applications
In 2022 Middlesex University revamped its promotion guidelines, moving to a narrative CV approach which centres around five key contributions: generation of knowledge, societal impact, success of learners, life of the university, and development of individuals. That year I worked with more than a dozen academics on their applications, many of whom were successful.
In June 2023, I organised an information session for academics planning to apply in the 2023 round. Three successful applicants presented their reflections, with another three providing their recorded presentations on our Professional Development Gateway (for MDX academics only). I had a packed house, evidencing the strong interest in the topic.
At this session I provided an introductory presentation that captured several key lessons drawn from my own experiences in applying for promotion, my recently published book Writing effective promotion applications and my support of Middlesex academics in the process. This series of blogposts draws on this presentation.
My presentation was quite generic and might therefore be useful for academics at other universities preparing for promotion too. Remember though: always consult your own university’s guidelines. The process, criteria and expectations for promotion differ not just by country, but also by university.
All posts in this series
- Writing promotion applications (1): Why is promotion so important for academics?
- Writing promotion applications (2): Start early
- Writing promotion applications (3): Focus on the why & how, not the what
- Writing promotion applications (4): Focus on impact
- Writing promotion applications (5): Write for the reader
- Writing promotion applications (6): What if you are rejected?
In academia, promotion through the ranks can be a very slow, frustrating, and opaque process. There are also very few things in academic life that generate such strong emotions as promotion applications. This is not entirely surprising. Academic salaries are relatively low when compared to other professions that require the same length of training and working hours. Moreover, rejection is a constant feature of academic lives.
Hence, promotion is one of the few big positive reinforcements we get in our careers. So if promotion applications are unsuccessful, academics often feel very deeply about this. For some, it can be like getting a dozen rejections for journal submissions and grant applications in one go. Moreover, as our work is typically such an important part of our personal identity, rejection of an internal promotion application can feel like a rejection from someone close to you, hurting both your feelings and your pride.
I can fully understand these sentiments. In the early part of my career I felt I had to move institutions to get my (external) promotion to Senior Lecturer; my (internal) promotion applications to Associate Professor and Full Professor were both rejected the first time around. I have been part of dozens of recruitment and internal promotion panels and have seen opinions clashing, games being played, and emotions running high.
So in this presentation I would like to share some of the lessons I have learned and hopefully leave you better prepared to apply for promotion yourself. Everyone is unique, so every application is unique. The new promotion guidelines at Middlesex recognise this and provide applicants with considerable flexibility to craft an application based on their academic identity, their norms and values, their career story, and their strengths and weaknesses.
When choosing a design for this presentation it struck me that the title slide [the lead image for this post] was very appropriate. There are as many different routes to promotion as there are staff and this is clearly reflected in the flowers on that slide. I can guarantee you one thing though: none of them will be as straight as the left hand one.Getting promoted is a process of cumulative achievements.
Despite the variety in applications, I have four general lessons that might be applicable to all. So that's what the rest of the presentation and blogpost series will be about, and I will structure them by seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter.
Other academic promotion series
- Part 1: Internal vs. external promotion
- Part 2: Seven reasons why external promotion is easier
- Part 3: Seven advantages of internal promotion
- Part 4: Tips for promotion applications
- Academic promotion tips (1) - Understand the process
- Academic promotion tips (2) - Treat your application as a journal submission
- Academic promotion tips (3) - Evidence your impact in Research & Engagement
- Academic promotion tips (4) - Evidence your impact in Teaching & Learning
- Academic promotion tips (5) - Evidence your impact in Leadership & Service
- Academic promotion tips (6) - Craft your career narrative
- Research Impact 101
- Improve your Research Profile (1): Why is it so important?
- How to get promoted in academia?
- Open Syllabus Explorer: evidencing research-based teaching?
- Presenting your case for tenure or promotion?
- Be proactive, resilient & realistic!
- Finding a Unicorn? Research funding in Business & Management research
- CYGNA: climbing up the academic career ladder
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Copyright © 2023 Anne-Wil Harzing. All rights reserved. Page last modified on Mon 4 Sep 2023 08:50
Anne-Wil Harzing is Professor of International Management at Middlesex University, London and visiting professor of International Management at Tilburg University. She is a Fellow of the Academy of International Business, a select group of distinguished AIB members who are recognized for their outstanding contributions to the scholarly development of the field of international business. In addition to her academic duties, she also maintains the Journal Quality List and is the driving force behind the popular Publish or Perish software program.