An untenured philosopher writes:
Common wisdom has it that chances of moving up in the profession after tenure reduce dramatically: first, there are far fewer senior positions advertised each year than visiting or tenure-track positions; second, few are willing to give up tenure only to move to a more prestigious school and start the tenure clock again; and third, an awful lot of good research by faculty at unranked schools often receives less attention than it deserves. So, one is generally advised to keep applying for jobs at the top ranked schools while still untenured (that is, while on post-docs, visiting positions, or tenure-track positions at unranked schools). It is not uncommon, then, that one could end up spending a substantive amount of time (sometimes up to ten years) moving from one institution to the next (but always presumably a better one), only to come short in the end. I've heard senior colleagues at some top schools say that one is better off getting tenure at a school one is sure of getting it, build an impressive CV, and then move with tenure. Is that a widely shared view? Although most senior appointments at ranked schools are made to those already at similar or slightly lower ranked schools, quite a few come from without (from unranked programs or liberal arts colleges). I guess all I'm asking is, given that tenure is the ultimate hurdle into the profession, should one opt for a fast track to tenure? That is, should one seek tenure first (even at a less prestigious/unranked school) and a prestigious tenured appointment second, or keep chasing that prestigious (but often elusive) tenure-track job at top ranked school X?
Thoughts from readers? Obviously one has to decide whether one really wants to be at a "higher ranked" or research department, rather than at an institution with primarily a teaching mission. But certainly this individual's question is shared by others.