Wonder why my blogging has faded during recent weeks and months?
Throughout this school year, I’ve been an accounting professor by day and a job seeker by night. Why? Don’t I have it great at Concordia?
Well, yes. Concordia College in Moorhead, MN, is an exceedingly fine school. It recently upgraded its business school to a named school–Offutt School of Business. The students are very smart, study long hours, and love their professors. I love the students (but only in an appropriate manner), and I like the other professors at Offutt despite the occasional eccentricity.
Although some think the only reason needed for moving is the cold and snow of a northern plains winter, the weather isn’t my reason for moving. This winter is mild. It has been a balmy +20 F this week and has snowed twice, yet I’ve seen two male students at the college wear shorts outside. I’m sure there are others. I’ve been walking around campus without coat or jacket, comfortable in a sweater.
I’m looking to get back to an AACSB school, hope to find support for my transformational experiment in social media, and want to find a school that will be happy with my educational and practitioner-oriented publications. In other words, I desire a better fit.
The process of accounting faculty recruiting is long, starting in August and continuing for some schools until March. It is a high stakes game for both school and professor. At the top research schools, the salary and resource investment in a five year probationary period could easily hit $1,150,000 (not including fringe benefits). For a regional public university, it could run $400,000-650,000. For a liberal arts school, it could be a third less. If a hire doesn’t work out (philosophical differences, incompatible styles, low productivity, personality conflicts), there is major non-quantifiable disruption. I’ve seen grumpy professors, and trust me when I say that you don’t.
It is a larger investment on the part of the faculty member, because we’re talking about a major portion of his/her life. Pick the wrong school, and it can break a career or lead to divorce.
I feel like an expert, having gone through the recruiting process three years ago, and again this year.
Throughout the process described below, I’ve met many wonderful people. I’ve identified many schools at which I would love to teach and work. But in the end, I can marry only one.
The recruiting process starts in July when the first position announcements get listed at the American Accounting Association web site. Early on, there were 150+ open jobs. Because the past few years have been economically difficult, there was a backlog of professors wanting to move. Many recruiters told me it was a buyer’s market (and I’m a seller). I responded to about 50 announcements, ruling out the west coast and heavy research-oriented schools. At the national conference in August, I talked with representatives of 15 schools. I was disappointed when most never called me back.
Throughout the fall and winter, at least 100+ more positions came online. I applied to about 30. Some schools moved quickly, interviewing candidates on campus in November. I interviewed at two schools that at first seemed promising. I later figured out the lack of fit, and was relieved when neither offered me the position. Yet I was frightened at the same time, fearing that perhaps no school would hire me.
Into the spring semester, several schools contacted me for preliminary phone interviews. I found these difficult. The schools were looking for clues as to whether I would fit in, but each school was looking for a different clue. The brevity (30 minutes) and lack of visual communication really limits effectiveness.
Eventually, I went on three campus interviews during the spring, accepting the first three invitations. Eight other schools followed with invitations, but the timing just didn’t work out. I was able to make up classes, so students at Concordia College didn’t suffer.
A campus interview for a professor is pretty standardized. There is usually, but not always, a research presentation. At different schools I presented on either using social media in higher education or how economic consequences impact accounting standard setting. These presentations are a real crap shoot. Three years ago, I made a presentation and two faculty members started arguing with me during my literature review, before I even got into my work. I was torpedoed. Sometime I am stimulated and thrilled by the experience. I try to make my presentation interesting, but who knows? In general, I like these things. The attending faculty members get an opportunity to show their manners, or lack thereof. And I like to talk (and write) about new ideas.
Then there is teaching a class, which also is difficult. Effective teaching depends on a close relationship between professor and students. Engagement is the key to learning. Yet, it seems as if recruiting schools want to see a flashy lecture. I struggle with teaching presentations because I’ve learned about death by PowerPoint. Also, do schools realize that their students are on trial? In one of my presentations, not one of the 30 students had studied for the day. They were lethargic, and I simply couldn’t get them to loosen up. At another school, students got into it. One student (not a member of the class), said that it was the first teaching presentation in which she had ever learned anything.
Then there are faculty discussions, large group (i.e., recruiting committee) or a series of one-on-ones. I always like these, and both sides can learn whether or not it is possible to form a working relationship. I think some schools err by not having both types of discussions. Sometimes I’m looking for revealing answers, and these never come out during group discussions.
Then there is food. Professors understand there is no such thing as a free lunch, unless it is associated with faculty recruiting. Faculty candidates get scheduled for breakfast, lunch and dinner (say hello to my ten new pounds). The meals are scheduled at the favorite (fancy) restaurants of the local faculty (If you’re going to get a free meal, better make sure it is one you’ll enjoy!). The meal I most appreciated was at a budget diner where I ordered four hot and competently prepared vegetables.
So, where am I? In close negotiations with a school. I am hopeful of making an announcement in a week.
I love getting to visit other campuses. Everywhere I go, I add to my LinkedIn network. Thanks, everyone.
Debit and credit – - David Albrecht