I have few responses to Matt Reed’s request for ideas on recruiting faculty in high-demand fields.
What I have are three arguments I make to my colleagues in digital learning (my non-academic educators) who are considering moving into an edtech, OPM, publishing, consulting, service or otherwise. Maybe Matt can put those points to good use.
Let’s clarify a few things. There are many advantages to working at a for-profit educational enterprise rather than a non-profit university.
Working in a company can provide ambitious, mission-driven educators with the opportunity to increase their impact. You work with many universities, instead of working within one.
In an educational business, things can go fast. Decisions are not made by consensus but by business leaders. Business strategies are (unfortunately) more likely to be driven by data than by academia.
Companies are, on average and in my experience, much more meritocratic (for staff) than universities. If you are good and work for a company, you will be promoted much faster than in a university.
Oh….and you make more money.
But, but, but…..
Argument #1 – Volatility:
The downside to reach, speed, and relatively quick career advancement is volatility.
The good news is that things will change quickly in a for-profit business. The bad news is that things will change quickly. And often, unpredictably.
In five years, I expect to be in my establishment doing something very similar to what I’m doing now. In five years, I expect that none of the people I work with in companies will be there.
Scratch that. Give it a year, maybe two – and everyone I’ve connected with in companies will have moved on to different roles. This rapid turnover makes it very difficult for those in higher education who work with companies.
If you’re moving from a university to a company, be sure to enter the new gig with your eyes wide open. You probably won’t spend your career at this same company.
Also, what you do in the company – and even what the company does – is subject to change. Colleges and universities have time horizons measured in decades. Companies operate on time horizons measured in years (what the CEO will say) or months (the reality).
If you’re good with change and ready to increase your career reinvention metabolism, then you’re a good fit for a business.
Argument #2 – Collegiality:
The best thing about working in higher education is the people. The people at your school. And people from all the other schools.
Academia doesn’t have a monopoly on smart people. I know smart, smart people in educational enterprises.
Higher education has a culture that encourages (even requires) the sharing of information between organizations. People who work in colleges and universities talk to people who work in other colleges and universities. We share what we know.
Yes, schools compete with each other. We compete for students and status, research dollars and faculty, ranking spots and tuition, and tons more. But we compete by cooperating.
The big idea that drives academics is that we are here to create opportunity. We believe in making the pie bigger rather than fighting for a fixed pool of anything.
If you work for a school, you can be much more transparent about how you do your job than if you work for a company. Universities never (or almost never) have the people we work with sign NDAs. Often our closest colleagues are peers from other institutions.
It would be frowned upon in a company to share everything that happens with competitors.
Argument #3 – Autonomy:
The point I want to make is that you will have more autonomy as a higher education staff member than as an employee of a for-profit education company.
Is this argument correct?
The disturbing truth is that privilege and autonomy are closely linked.
The higher your institutional status, the more freedom you have as a non-tenured staff member to blaze your own trail.
Yet…I think most university cultures are more likely to lend themselves to employee empowerment than most corporate cultures.
What do I think of when I think of autonomy? Here I am thinking of the ability of employees to publicly express their opinions and thoughts.
It would be a good research project to compare tweets (nobody blogs anymore) between non-teaching educators in universities and non-teaching educators in companies. Which group is boldest in asserting critical viewpoints?
Universities, by their nature, are almost always less hierarchical than corporations. Getting things done at a university requires building a coalition.
The rewards and incentives of university life are internal and mission-driven (even for staff), as opposed to transactional. We don’t get stock options or bonuses.
The most successful people who work in educational enterprises fully embody the values and style of the organization in which they work.
The most brilliant academics I know are often critical of their institutions and even of the higher education sector as a whole.
No way of working is better than the other. You can accomplish a lot by working in a company. Remember, if you want to critique the role of for-profit actors in higher education, working for a for-profit educational company is probably not the best fit.
Or maybe I’m wrong. There are perhaps great examples of educational business reviews who have successful, impactful, and manageable careers within businesses. If you are one of these people, please contact us.
Are you one of those colleagues who have moved from a university to a company? What am I right and wrong? How is it going for you ?
Are any academic colleagues in digital learning considering joining a teaching company?
Matt, are these arguments helpful to you in your faculty recruitment efforts?