aamc.org does not support this web browser.

    Aim to Support a Career Cycle of Vitality

    Stages of Academic Careers

    Dr. Tom Viggiano, of Mayo Medical School, describes a model of academic career vitality as a sequence of stages and transitions throughout a potential 30-year professional contribution. This model of Academic Career Vitality draws upon organizational development theory and stages of adult identify development. as described by the psychologist Erik Erikson.

    The model may be used as a framework for individuals to:

    • Understand our common and often predictable professional experiences as faculty
    • Anticipate and better meet faculty needs
    • Foster well-being  and full potential of all faculty members
    • Sustain Vitality and professional fulfillment

    The model may also be used as a framework for institutions to:

    • Share best practices and policies
    • Develop effective administrative structures
    • Develop outcome metrics that support productivity and demonstrate return on investment of faculty development services
    • Use resources effectively and efficiently
    • Maximize mission-aligned contributions

    Erikson defines “stages” as sequences of predictable experiences over time, each a result of inner drives and outer social demands that result from challenges of new relationships and new situations. According to Erikson’s theories, unresolved dilemmas of one stage can carry forward conflicts that hinder further development. Viggiano’s application of the theory to academic career development provides a framework to understand the dynamic contract between an individual and an institution that enables both to meet shared needs and realize shared goals. This dynamic interaction describes Faculty Vitality, a concept discussed in the September 2005 issue of Faculty Vitae

    Consider how your own institutional resources, rewards, systems of training and professional development and policies either facilitate or inhibit healthy development of academic contribution for its faculty members.

    Recruitment: effective recruitment opens a contract of trust, expresses an institutional appreciation of diversity. When “fit” is good, institutional and individual are well aligned for mutual benefit

    Orientation: A transition phase of acculturation and socialization into academic medicine and particular institutional missions and values. Orientation should facilitate connections and assimilation of goals.

    Exploration: the systematic investigation of career options and opportunities in which one gains an understanding of what is expected and required to succeed. A successful exploration requires institutional support in terms of resources and clear policies.

    Engagement: Collaborative goal setting that can be facilitated by individual development plans. Note: Well-written goals are

    • Smarter
    • Measurable
    • Achievable
    • Relevant
    • Time-bound
    • Equitable
    • Reasonable

    Development: initiatives that facilitate the accomplishment of shared goals, such as effective performance reviews, and results in a “sense of community” of academics.

    Vitality/Generativity: the ultimate goal of optimum capability to contribute to shared individual and institutional goals. The challenge is to sustain this energy and contribution over a career that generally lasts over 30 years.

    Retirement: a transition phase in which the formal academic career concludes and the individual explores continuing meaningful contributions to academic life or new careers.

    Disengagement: results when individual and institutional values and goals are not aligned reducing or prohibiting effective mutual contributions.  Disengagement may be characterized by ethical misconduct, suboptimal productivity, and aggressiveness or withdrawal. Disengagement can be toxic to the entire academic community.

    A word about Transitions: transitions are evolutionary adjustments resulting in redirection or advancement. Advancement into each stage is characterized by transitions in which it is important to balance continuity and reinvention by revising SMARTER goals.