Many of my friends thought I was crazy when I left a tenured position at my old university to come to here on a 5-year contract. Early career academics in the U.S. are entirely focused on landing the tenure-track job and then actually obtaining tenure (as was I!), so it did seem rather foolish to throw it all away the moment I finally earned it. Luckily for me, however, someone in my department at UQ (and in my area) resigned in August, which meant a ‘continuing’ position suddenly opened up. In Australia, tenure doesn’t really exist. Instead, one has to pass a probationary period of 3-5 years in a continuing appointment before it becomes 'permanent.'
I applied for the open position. I was then chosen on the short list of five candidates, made up of people from Australia and the United States. Each of us gave a school seminar last Thursday and went through the interviews on Friday. Again, this is all different from what is done for academic appointments in America. In my old department, the short list usually had three candidates, and each would come separately to visit the campus for two days, with all the candidates spread across a two-week period. In Australia everyone comes to campus on the same two days, which meant that I kept bumping into the other applicants (we were the only men wearing ties!). We also gave our seminars one after another. There is only one official interview here--a panel of six sit around a table and take turns asking questions for 30-45 minutes. Back in the States, candidates for a job face several 30-min interviews with 1-2 faculty members at a time. Another major difference is that here the panel (the search committee) makes the final decision about whom to hire, usually right after the last interview. At my old department, the entire department faculty would make that decision at a meeting that could run a few hours, and which was based on information from several sources.
This was my third interview in 13 months for a particular position at UQ. My first was when they flew me over in October 2006 for a job that I didn’t get. The second attempt was in January of this year, when I applied for the 5-year position that I currently have. I didn’t have to come to Brisbane that time, but was interviewed by the panel via a satellite link. This third try was also successful. I found out about 90 minutes after my interview that I did get the continuing position. This means that V., Will, and I no longer have the 5-year countdown to deal with. I still have to make it through the probationary period (which is much easier than getting tenure in the States), and I will still be working like a maniac to move up the food chain, but we can now breathe a bit more easily. Staying here permanently has become a real option, if that’s what we choose.