Figuring out what is expected
Read the Faculty and Department Handbooks to know exactly what your school is looking for.
When getting different messages from different people, use the phrase “I’m puzzled…” Continues the conversation without offending anyone.
Make sure you’ve heard all the messages before the tenure review. Seek out feedback, especially negative.
Know your institution, and check in with chair and senior colleagues regularly. Some departments only care about outcomes (# of pubs) at the time of tenure. Others want to see consistent progress over time.
Playing the game
Create a written record of all feedback (e.g. after 3rd year review). If a letter isn’t provided, summarize what you heard in an email, send it to chair/dean with closing “If that is not your understanding, please let me know.” Protect yourself from people changing the narrative.
Approach review personal statements as a hypothesis: You want to tenure me. Then provide evidence.
In your personal statements, make your goals clear, then provide evidence that you are achieving those goals. Remember you are writing for senior colleagues outside your field. No jargon.
Don’t let the students choose your teaching goals by citing only teaching evals. You set the agenda.
External reviewers: Want someone who will review your work positively and credibly. Look to see who is citing you. Stay away from friends. Positive statements will be down weighted, while anything mildly negative can sink you. High profile people who have won teaching awards are good targets. R1 profs who went to a LAC, sent their kid to a LAC. Tell your chair if there are people you *don’t* want.
You can ask co-authors to contribute a colleague letter to address your contribution to co-authored work.
Address your contribution to co-authored work in your personal statement. In many fields, it’s assumed that the first author did all the work and the others are along for the ride. Make clear that economics is different.
Educate people (chair, dean, senior colleagues) about which field journals are good in your area.
Should you go on the market the year you’re up for tenure? Depends on what signals you are getting and how much you like where you are. Consider a limited search. Know that other schools understand you’re up for tenure and will be suspicious you’re just using them to get a bigger raise. Know also that at LACs it’s rare to be hired in with tenure. If you’re looking to move, 3rd or 4th year may be better than tenure year.