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A Balancing Act

Not long ago, a friend of mine contacted me for advice. He is an administrator who leads a very active academic unit, but he has decided that the time is right to look for a job at the next level. He’s happy and productive in his current job, but it is clear that he’s ready to move up.

He asked me how he should balance working 60 hours a week and trying to be on the market at the same time. It’s hard, after all, to prepare letters of application, manage requests for references, and, if the search moves to that level, make time for phone interviews and on-campus interviews while trying to perform effectively in his important job.

I am not sure that I had much of an answer. The surest way to lose one’s job is to be thought of as lacking in long-term commitment, and trying to execute a search while juggling significant duties is a recipe for disaster.

Despite the risk, people do it day in and day out in academe. The best approach is to make sure that the current job remains a priority and that the search fills the spaces that are left over, rather than the reverse.

The more of the search that can be completed at home, the better. I cannot tell you how frequently I hear tales of letters, e-mails, and résumés left in office printer bins that lead to rumors or even rebukes.

Calls can be taken via cellphone during lunch breaks, letters can be mailed from home, and e-mails can be sent from private e-mail accounts in the evening. Hirers typically understand that they need to be flexible when candidates have jobs.

What advice might you offer to someone who is trying to balance holding an existing job with pursuing a new one?

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