I have a few answers to Matt Reid’s request for ideas on faculty recruitment in high-demand fields.
All I have are three arguments I have for my digital learning colleagues (my non-faculty academics peeking out) who are thinking of moving to an edtech, OPM, publishing, consulting, service or other company. Maybe Matt can use this point.
Let’s determine some issues. There are many advantages to working in a non-profit educational institution compared to a non-profit university
Working in a company can provide an opportunity for mission-driven and ambitious educators to scale their influence. You work with many universities, as opposed to working inside one.
In an educational institution, things can go fast. Decisions are not made by consent but by company leaders. Company strategies are (sadly) more likely to be controlled by data than academia.
Companies, on average and in my experience, are much more talented (for employees) than universities. If you are good and work for a company, you will be promoted much faster than a university.
Oh… .and you make more money.
But but but ..
Argument # 1 – Instability:
Instability is a negative aspect of reach, speed and relatively fast career progression.
The good news is that things will change quickly for a profitable company. The bad news is that things will change quickly. And often, unexpectedly.
In five years, I hope to be able to do what I am doing now in my organization. In five years, I hope none of the companies I work with will be around.
That scratch. Give it a year, maybe two – and everyone I’ve built relationships with in the company will go into different roles. This rapid turnover makes it very difficult for those who work in higher companies.
If you move from a university to a company, be sure to enter the new gig with your eyes open. Most likely, you will not spend your career in the same company.
Moreover, whatever you do in the company – even what the company does – can be transferred. College and university time horizons are measured in decades. Companies are measured on the horizon of the year (what the CEO will say) or in the months (reality).
If you are good with change and want to increase the metabolism of new career innovations, then you are suitable for a company.
Argument # 2 – Collegiateity:
The best thing about working in higher AD is people. People at your school. And people in every other school.
The academy does not have exclusive rights over smart people. I know some naughty smart people in educational institutions.
There is a culture of higher education that encourages (even demands) the exchange of information across institutions. 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 student and status, research dollars and faculty, ranking spots and tuition dollars, and more. But we compete by collaborating.
The big idea that educators live by is that we are here to create opportunities. We believe in making the pike bigger than fighting for a certain pool of anything.
If you work for a school, you can be much more transparent about how you go about your job than if you work for a company. Universities never (or almost never) produce the people we work with in the sign NDA. Often, our closest colleagues are colleagues in other organizations.
A company will be frowned upon to share what’s going on with competitors.
Argument # 3 – Autonomy:
The argument I want to make is that you will have more autonomy as a higher ad staff member than an employee of a for-profit educational institution.
Is that argument correct?
The worrying truth is that privilege and autonomy are firmly connected.
The higher your organizational status, the more free you will be as a non-term staff member to make your way.
Still … I think most university cultures are more likely to lend themselves to employee autonomy than most corporate cultures.
What am I thinking when I think of autonomy? Here, I am thinking about the ability of employees to express their opinions and thoughts publicly.
It would be a good research project to compare tweets (don’t blog anymore) between the university’s non-faculty teachers and the company’s non-faculty educators. Which party is more daring to take a critical view?
Universities, by their nature, are almost always less classified than companies. A university needs to form alliances to get things done.
The rewards and incentives for academic life are internal and mission-driven (even for employees) as opposed to transactions. We don’t get stock options or bonuses.
The most successful people who work in an educational company fully embody the values and style of the organization that they are hired for.
The most successful university people I know often criticize their institutions and even the entire higher education sector.
No way of working is better than the other. You can get a great deal working in a company. Just keep in mind that if you want to criticize the role of profitable players in higher education, it is probably not the most appropriate to work for a profitable educational institution.
Or maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps there are great examples of educational company critics who have successful, influential and manageable careers from within the company. If you are one of those people, please get in touch.
Are you one of those co-workers who moved from university to a company? Am I getting it wrong and right? How are things working for you?
Are any academic digital learning colleagues thinking of going to an educational institution?
Matt, are these arguments helpful to you in your faculty recruitment efforts?