Weighing in on everything from avocados to Zimbabwe

Weighing in on everything from avocados to Zimbabwe

Negotiating a Statistical Career, Part 2

posted by Leila Z. on ,

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Last week's session on negotiation in a statistical career covered a broad range of situations in which negotiations skills might come in handy. The four panelists -- Nandini Kannan (UT San Antonio), David Madigan (Columbia), Nancy Reid (UToronto), and Kelly Zou (Pfizer) -- brought a wealth of experience in both academia and industry to the discussion. I summarized the first part of the session, about negotiating an initial salary, here. The remainder of the session took the form of scenarios posed by the moderator, Paula Roberson (UArkansas for Medical Sciences), in which negotiation might be needed.

Scenario 1: Negotiating pausing the tenure clock. This scenario can apply either to having children or to taking care of an elderly parent. Some institutions have formal agreements already in place with respect to the tenure clock, but if not, you might need to negotiate. In general, the same advice as for salary negotiations applies: just ask, and don't worry about figuring out if you'll get it or not. NR commented that it's the university's job (and in their best interest) to make sure that you can do your job well. Plus, she says, everyone wants women on their statistics faculty -- and if they don't, come to Canada! :) (NB: one special situation to note is that in Canada, if you take your first job just before finishing your thesis, the first year does not count against the tenure clock.)

DM also shared the experience of having an incoming faculty member negotiating to come up for tenure early. Don't do this! You are only negotiating against yourself. If you are successful early, go up for tenure early, but don’t negotiate it into your contract at the outset.

Scenario 2: Negotiating for a reduction of workload for major professional/service organization duties. What is appropriate here seems to be a bit greyer than in some scenarios, and depends highly on what the scope of the work is. Called to become the editor of JASA? Absolutely ask for a reduction in workload (at least in the academic sphere), since it's a major responsibility that also brings honor to your institution and department. Organizing a conference? Perhaps less reasonable to ask for a reduced workload. If you have a clear sense of the value of the activity, you can make a case to the chair/dean. 

In industry, KZ noted that negotiating a reduction in workload might be reasonable if the activity is highly relevant to your assigned tasks at work. Many companies have yearly goal-setting or professional development plans; you can write these extra activities into your plan, and the achievements can show innovation and leadership. (But avoid the impression that you are overextending yourself). Extra care may be needed if you work in the financial sector, where regulation may limit your extracurricular activities.

Scenario 3: Negotiating sabbatical and/or extended leave. Sabbatical schedule is usually fairly straightforward with respect to university policy, but there may be negotiations about how much support is available while on sabbatical, or whether you are allowed to teach outside of your university. Extended leave (such as the program officer position at NSF held by NK for several years) can be harder -- while it can be a valuable experience that reflects well on you and the university, it may be hard to "replace" you (teaching-wise) while you are still on the rolls. Most importantly, make sure the review process (for promotion, merit raises, etc.) is clear before you leave. Will the extended leave be viewed as a positive? You likely won't have as much time for research while you are away.

Scenario 4: Negotiating workload (such as teaching release and for local service). When can you ask your dean or department chair for release time? Activities that will add value to your institution (and cannot be easily accomplished within the scope of your current duties) such as developing a new course or building a new program are most likely to be well-received. NK commented that minority and women faculty are often put on many committees (because it looks good) -- if this is the case you may be able to negotiate the 3 or 4 committees where you will have the greatest impact.

Scenario 5: Negotiating for support that will help in applying for grants (e.g., partial time for a programmer). DM reiterated here, once again, that if you don't ask for it, you won't get it! As long as you make a reasonable case, asking for this kind of support will not reflect badly on you. KZ mentioned the results of a Harvard study that found that women tended to receive smaller grants than men because they asked for less money. Make sure you ask for support if it's needed, and realize that you are setting the stage for future grants in asking for support for students, programmers, etc. (there may be internal grant funders at your institution that can provide this type of support). 

Scenario 6: Negotiating at the time of changing position within a company/institution. DM noted that there is diversity by institution here with respect to what is negotiable. Some roles (say, within the department) may be preset in terms of compensation and teaching relief; exterior roles within the larger university (e.g., faculty senate, committee on curriculum) may be invisible to the department and require more to make your work apparent in these areas. NK emphasized the importance of clarity on how accepting these leadership roles will affect your promotion. She recommended getting agreements in writing (deans change, and verbal agreements may not be honored), and trying to negotiate some time off to get research back on track after a heavy administrative duty such as department chair.

Scenario 7: Negotiating collaborative authorship and author position. The panelists agreed that, while potentially uncomfortable, it's best to discuss this up front (before a grant is submitted). Make sure to be listed as a co-PI or investigator, not just a consultant. Make sure you have publication rights, and make sure you are all on the same page as to the expectations for contributions for authorship.

Scenario 8: Negotiating with funding agencies about the terms of an award. Know that if you get funded, your proposed budget will be cut. But by calling the program officer, you may be able to mitigate the effects. Additional student support is the easiest to negotiate; salary is hardest, since NSF has set rules. The program officer may be able to offer suggestions (especially for women/minorities) on where else to seek funding. It can sometimes be a good idea to call the program officer (ask nicely!) at the end of the fiscal year, when they might have some extra money (e.g., for an extra student). [Ed: NK primarily has experience with NSF funding, but suggested that the same approach is possible with NIH awards.]

Scenario 9: Negotiating retirement. DM commented that in academia, there's a bias in favor of retirement because of the desire to renew and bring in new blood. That means there's often willingness to negotiate and make retirement attractive. Retirement plans in academia have become "ever more exotic" and may include financial incentives -- so be creative! In industry, a retirement plan might be possible, such as a gradual reduction of hours, or working with mentees for knowledge transfer before you leave. When layoffs are imminent, taking a retirement package may be an attractive option (make sure to negotiate having health care in retirement, if possible!).

And there's enough advice to take you from graduation to retirement! One final piece of advice, from my fabulous dissertation advisor Patrick Heagerty (who was recently named chair of UW Biostatistics): identify the things you NEED (versus the things you WANT), and make sure you negotiate so that you will have the tools/resources at your disposal to be successful in your job.

Disclaimer: All opinions expressed here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the American Statistical Association or the panelists. Some comments and questions have been summarized for content; I have tried to do this faithfully -- to the best of my ability -- but make no promises. 

Call for comments:

  • What have been your (successful or unsuccessful) strategies for negotiation?  
  • What are the areas of negotiation not covered by this panel, whether specific to a statistical career or not?

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