Looking for the surefire guide that will guarantee a successful navigation between the Charybdis of tenure and the Scylla of promotion? Aren’t we all! No such guide exits now, and isn’t likely to in the future. But David Perlmutter, he of “P & T Confidential” column-fame in the Chronicle of Higher Education, has put together the next best thing. Promotion and Tenure Confidential (Harvard, 2010, Dacus: LB 2335.7 .P472010–but check the new books bookshelf first) is the newbie’s guide to all things tenure, and the seasoned veteran’s all things promotion. Actually, this is a book for all academics, unless of course you plan only for tenure and do not want promotions. Perlmutter argues that tenure and promotion consists, naturally, of three Ps: “people, politics, and personal conundrums.” Perlmutter adds that pedagogy could be the 4th P but that’s something the academic has been in school for. It’s the other three that no one ever tells you about that are equally important, if not vital to a successful career.
Contained herein is a plethora (sorry, couldn’t help it) of perspicacity (sorry–won’t do that again) regarding a process that often seems an enigma wrapped in a shroud and befogged in a mystery. But Perlmutter says it need not be. He offers advice on being ABD and how to complete the “D” part quickly and well. He provides sageful words on finding the right mentor. And he gives quite practical guidance on finding the perfect academic job (hint: there isn’t one, unless of course you work here). There’s also some very wise advice on blogging too much and not publishing enough. On pages 92-96, Perlmutter provides some of the best writing around about fitting in with your colleagues and becoming collegial. He tells the novice how to say no and succeed, and what to do about “problem people” (not that you’ll find any here, of course). He also outlines the pluses and minuses of social media and what to look out for. Bear in mind that much of the book is written from a research institution point-of-view and not a teaching university coign of vantage. Still, the advice is superb.
This isn’t a book just about tenure and promotion. This is a book about being an academic, and a real one, not one of those proverbial curmudgeonly ones we all hear about. Perlmutter even has some advice on going through P and T with your family and how to be sure you survive the process, as does your spouse, your marriage, and your children. In short, this is one of those must reads. Borrow the Dacus copy and you’ll likely want to buy your own.