Writing promotion applications (6): What if you are rejected?
Last 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?
Now finally, after Spring Summer Autumn and Winter where I have recommended you to start early, focus on the why and how, focus on impact and your stakeholders, and write for the reader, all that remains is to wish you all the very best of luck with your own promotion application.
However, there's also my book Writing effective promotion applications. This book is available from local Amazon stores in paperback (£8.95), Kindle (£5.95), and even hardcover (£17.95). It elaborates on the key messages that I discussed here and provides you with an abundance of tips on how to write the most effective application.
Once your application has been submitted, try and forget about for at least 6 months. Most universities take 6-12 months before they provide you with the outcome. Let it go and just continue as normal. You might well be positively suprised with when you finally get the letter that you have been promoted.
There are always things that are beyond our control. This is where stoicism comes in. Focus on what you can control, submitting the best possible application, but don't fret about things you cannot control. We all know this in our publishing endeavours. We know that the success of a journal submission might be dependent on who the acting editor is. We also know that we are subject to "the role of the dice" in terms of the academics that accept the invitation to review your article.
The same is true for promotion applications and promotion panels. Those in positions of power and authority are not the same from one year to another, and the composition of the panel might differ dramatically from one year to another. You cannot control what other applications are submitted at the same time. Competition might be stronger in some years or for some positions than for others.
Just like with journals, the number of places might also be larger in some universities than in others. Some universities might simply promote everyone who meets the criteria. Other universities might only have a fixed number of places every year. In that case, competition will be strong and you may well need to apply multiple times.
If it is any solace, in many countries things were even worse in the past. Many academics never made it beyond Assistant Professor or Senior Lecturer. When I started my academic career in the Netherlands, every department had a grand total of one full professor and two associate professors. You just had to wait for them to retire. Tough luck if they were only a few years older than you were.
Although I very much hope that you will be successful in your promotion application, if you're not, realize that you're not the only one. Many academics have been rejected at least once before they were successful. I moved institutions to be promoted to Senior Lecturer and I was rejected in my first attempt for both Associate and Full Professor. So please treat an unsuccessful promotion application as a “revise & resubmit”, not a rejection. You are rejected this year, you're not rejected forever.
In dealing with a rejection, try to keep your emotions at bay. Of course you will have a few days cursing the panel's ignorance, accusing them of not reading your application properly, and soothing your emotions with wine or chocolate. But please try to not let it impact you too much. Most of all don't let it impact on your self-esteem. Rejections always hurt, but remember this isn't personal. They have rejected your application they haven't rejected you. Just address the feedback and try again the next year.
Please don't withdraw into anger or cynicism about supposed injustice. I certainly feel I suffered from bias and University politics at some stages of my career. I'll be honest, it has kept me awake at night more than once. Academic life can be very unfair. But if you focus on this too much it only makes the effects of it worse.
Again, spend a few a few weeks feeling sorry for yourself if you want. Take long walks, watch your favourite television series on repeat. Eat lots of chocolate and drink lots of wine, but after that… Pick yourself up and just try again. As with any aspect of academia, persistence and resilience is more important than anything else. Good luck and if you feel this presentation has helped you I would love to hear from you.
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 © 2024 Anne-Wil Harzing. All rights reserved. Page last modified on Wed 31 Jan 2024 18:00
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.