How much is it worth?

Feb 02 2011 Published by under Careers

This week Prof-likeSubstance posted a description of how his current load of grant writing, manuscript preparation, teaching, advising and service work is turning him into a workaholic. This is something many people on the tenure track in the sciences go through. Particularly prior to obtaining significant extramural funding. The TT is hard work.

But tenure isn't everything. I recently asked "how much do you need to want it?":

When I was a postdoc and while on the tenure-track (TT) I met several senior faculty who wore the divorces they went through while on TT as badges of honor. Their answer to the above question was clearly “more than anything else”. To which I had (and have) one response:


Thankfully such senior faculty are going the way of the dinosaurs (although some do still exist).

I have never believed this. And neither should anyone. One shouldn’t sacrifice family, relationships and/or having a life on the altar of tenure. It’s simply not worth that much.

You can find this in the original LabSpaces post here (or the comment-less Scientopia transplant here).

It's all a balance of course. One doesn't start on the TT unless one really, really wants to succeed. It's too damn hard to get the opportunity in the first place. On the other hand, burning yourself out trying to make tenure doesn't make much sense either. My only advice to PlS and others on the TT is to ask themselves what's really important.

It is absolutely vital to occasionally step away from the madness and get some perspective. It won't change what you need to do, but it will help you better deal with it.

And as CPP noted:

Once your lab reaches a certain size, if you recruit trainees properly, it requires a lot *less* time and effort than when you are first getting started. Now, I *never* need to work nights, weekends, or holidays.

It will get better.

6 responses so far

  • drugmonkey says:

    More importantly you must allow yourself to let it get better. By not continually moving the goalposts for yourself. By being clear with yourself about where the point of diminishing returns lies. Ultimately by being willing to risk career "failure" so that you have a memory or two of what your children looked like at age 5, 10 and 15.

  • Odyssey says:

    All while staying hungry for career success.

    And importantly, defining what success means for you.

    Of course it's easy for us tenured old farts to say all this...

  • proflikesubstance says:

    I'm not trying to over blow it here. One of the benefits of only having one car is that I am there for the morning routine and I am there for the bedtime routine. I do get good family time and I try to burn my candles at the ends that least affect my family, but it is what it is.

  • JollyRoger says:

    That applies in all careers/jobs/ matter what anyone says!!

    Well said bro...:-)

  • brooksphd says:

    Good post mate.

    My ex-wife's is a NASA enngineer/phycisist. Her postdoc project cost 5 marriages (includng ours) and is blamed for a slew of heart attacks and a coupe of deaths! The pressure was too great, the management too poor.

  • As I think I commented on one of the earlier posts, I burned myself out during my PhD so decided that the rest of my career would just have to survive with me not working on weekends and trying to limit the number of nights I work during the week. This worked fine during my postdoc but my TT workload has been increasing exponentially and I've been resisting the urge to give up my down time for work. The stress has been screwing with my immune system which I have taken as a clear sign that I am physically incapable of working crazy hours. I'm willing to take a potential hit on my career in order to enjoy my non-work life.