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05/18/2017

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I was in a very similar situation to the the person in the OP. Loved my job, but needed to do some applying out for family reasons. Luckily, the situation changed so I was able to stay in my position. But when I was applying, I did get a letter from a senior colleague at my current institution. Obviously, you'll need to use your judgment and specific info to determine whether this is the best move for you. You certainly do want to avoid the negative sentiments Marcus raises concerns about. However, in my experience, reasonable colleagues will understand if you need to look for another job for family reasons and will be happy to support you (it's very different from just trying to "trade up" for a better job or something like that). I wouldn't say having a letter from someone at your current institution is essential, but it can be really helpful. On search committees, I've read such letters (that say things like "we'd really hate to lose this wonderful colleague" etc.) and found them pretty meaningful, and I say that as someone who's generally skeptical about the value of letters. So anyway, there's another perspective for you to consider.

Amanda

I know a friend who 'moved up' to a research institution after one year at a teaching institution. It is an uncomfortable situation, because obviously when a teaching place is hiring the person hired tries to give the impression that they will stay. And my friend was in a rough spot, because he would have gladly stayed at the teaching institution for life if research schools did not want him. On the other hand, he saw no reason why he shouldn't try for research jobs and when the offer came in he couldn't refuse it. And no, he did not use any letters from his current institution. (after staying only one year that would not have gone well!). I think that other schools will understand why one has no letters from one's current institution.

This is a tough situation where competing interests leave no easy answer. Personally I find it hard to blame someone for taking a better position - this is how jobs work. And there are so many good people out there that the institution always has the upper-hand. Even if the department loses a line all other members of the department have already won - they have a tt job. It seems unfair to blame an individual trying to do what is best for them, given that the job one takes has a huge impact on one's entire life.

Martin Shuster

I think you *need* letters from your current institution to demonstrate you're not a toxic colleague and to show that you're progressing towards tenure. It would be a red flag if you didn't have any. (The only exception here might be some high powered R1s).

It's not a big deal for you to ask at least one colleague at your place. People understand that people apply for a variety of reasons, and they also realize how brutal the job market is and that just because you're applying, it doesn't even mean that you will get an interview, let alone move.

As long as you keep doing your present job well and being a good colleague, most people will be quite understanding (and if they're not, that should be a red flag about your current place).

Amanda

Hmmm I disagree with Martin. I think it would be kind of obvious why someone in a first year at their institution are not getting internal letters. First of all, because one just started there! But even if was someone's second year, it seems a risk to ask for a letter; if you don't get a job it could turn really awkward. I guess all depends on the search committee members and what inferences they draw about not have internal letters. Most likely each committee member would be different. As for being a toxic colleague - if all the other letter writers portray the persons as a nice and amicable individual, that would seem to alleviate concerns.

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