5 Things Everyone Forgets To Ask For When Negotiating The Ideal Faculty / Postdoc Position

Landing a tenure track job or postdoc is a long process and by then end of it, we’re ready to accept any offer that comes our way, even if it requires our first born child in the fine print. But, with an offer in hand (or over the phone or by email), you are in the greatest position to negotiate your potential future with your institution of choice. Here are five common items that most of us forget to negotiate.

  1. Parental Leave – Many colleges and universities still don’t have adequate parental leave policies, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask for a leave policy specific to your needs. In doing so, you may be able to change the policy for those coming behind you. Some possibilities include:
  • An entire semester off at 75% salary
  • A one course reduction at 100% salary
  • The first 6 weeks off at 100% salary (this is especially beneficial when your child is due near the summer or winter break.)

You may want to include each of these as potential options to choose from, given the circumstances. Even if your institution is not able to accommodate the request, this will give you an opportunity to have a conversation with your Dean or Department Chair about the climate at the institution and ways to improve it.

  1. Sufficient Startup funds – Most of us neglect to ask for sufficient start-up funds since we don’t have labs to maintain. But hindsight is 20/20. Here are some things I wish I had considered getting funding for.
    • Professional fees / Lifetime memberships – Join the AMS, MAA, SACNAS, NAM, AWM, SIAM, ASA, and any other professional organization you are interested in. Ask for funding to cover multiple years (or a lifetime membership).
    • Summer research salary – Ask for 2/9ths of your salary (for each summer) for you to do summer research during the first three years. This will give you time to apply for grants to support your work in subsequent summers.
    • Conference travel – I would estimate $3000 per year for the first three or four years. This allows you to stay connected to your research by attending and presenting at national meetings.
    • Funding to support student summer research – Ask for funds to support up to three students for summer research for the first three years.
    • Full time post-bac researcher – For those of you with tenure track offers, ask for funding to support a post-bac researcher for up to three years. You can usually find a math major (either at your institution or somewhere else) who wants to take a year off in between undergraduate and graduate school / full time employment. This student could easily spend 20 – 30 hours per week focused on your research area and they are much cheaper than a postdoc.
  2. Initial Reduced course load – Ask for a lighter teaching load for the first two years. Perhaps a one course reduction each year. This will give you the time needed to prep for new courses and adjust to the learning needs of students at your new institution.
  3. Delay or Accelerate the tenure clock – If you are coming from a postdoc into a tenure track position, ask for the OPTION to go up for tenure early. It’s better to have this option up front in case you want to use it than to realize in year four that you could successfully go up for tenure but need to wait another two years. At some institutions, you can elect to go up for promotion separately from tenure. If you are starting the job around the time of a significant family event (birth, adoption, death), ask for a tenure clock delay.
  4. Temporary position for your significant other – Many institutions are not able to accommodate a tenure track offer for your spouse or partner (although you should be sure to push for it!). If that’s the case, consider asking for a three year Visiting Assistant Professor position. (Note that this looks better on one’s resume than Adjunct Professor). Three years will give you both enough time to settle down and seek out other nearby options while having steady salaries. If after two years nothing comes up, consider seriously going on the job market TOGETHER in year three. Your department may be able to leverage the possibility of your leaving with the Dean to make your spouse a more permanent offer.

In addition to the five areas listed above, you should also negotiate your salary, your computing needs (a new computer every 4 years), software needs (Matlab, Minitab, etc.), and teaching resources (clickers, create videos for flipped classrooms, etc.) Be sure to get everything in writing and keep a copy handy in case your institution transitions to a new Department chair or Dean. Lastly, once you have successfully negotiated your position, make sure you share what you did with those coming behind you!

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1 Response to 5 Things Everyone Forgets To Ask For When Negotiating The Ideal Faculty / Postdoc Position

  1. Avatar C. A. Roberts says:

    $$ so library can expand its holdings in your research area.

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