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External Professional Recognition

Advancing your field and growing your reputation are important for advancement in all career tracks. Institutional service is necessary but not sufficient for career advancement. Achieving academic promotion/tenure requires demonstrating that your work has an impact beyond Northwestern (and the institutions where you have trained or been employed). Given this, treat external professional recognition as a theme to be woven throughout the elements of the promotion/tenure packet, especially for promotion to the ranks of Associate Professor and Professor.

Level of Recognition

As your career progresses, reviewers look for an expanding level of recognition. You might also hear phrases like "breadth of reputation," "scope of impact," or "activity scope" used when considering how widely you and your work are known.

  • There should be evidence of widening recognition and impact with each advance in academic rank.
  • Remember that reviewers focus on your accomplishments since your last promotion (or since your initial appointment, if you now hold your first academic rank). External recognition received prior to your last promotion will not guarantee your next promotion. Reviewers expect to see sustained, and preferably accelerated, career activity/impact since your last promotion.  

 What are examples of external professional recognition?

Some examples of external professional recognition are:

  • Prizes and awards
  • Election to scientific or professional societies and organizations
  • Invitation to serve as a visiting or endowed professor
  • Being selected to plan or lead symposia, conferences, or professional society programs or workshops
  • Invitation to develop clinical guidelines
  • Appointment to scientific or medical peer-review bodies (e.g., study sections)
  • Appointment to scientific, medical or government advisory or regulatory bodies
  • Appointment or election to membership on governing councils or as an officer of scientific, government or professional organizations
  • Appointment to editorial boards or as editor
  • Invitation to deliver talks at national meetings or other institutions

 What level of recognition is required for my promotion?

The level of recognition required for promotion varies by rank and career track. The table below shows the level of recognition you should demonstrate in order to obtain promotion.


Promo to Assistant Professor

Promo to Associate Professor Promo to Professor
Clinician-Educator Institutional/Local Regional National
Health System Clinician N/A Local / Regional Regional / National
Investigator Local/Regional National National/International
Team Scientist* N/A Regional National
Research Track** N/A See note** See note**

 *Because they are heavily involved in team science, faculty on the team scientist track may also highlight external recognition accrued by the research teams or labs they support, explaining how their individual work contributes to the level of recognition of the unit. Include any forms of individual recognition received as well.

**Because faculty on the research track typically focus on supporting a research lab or core at Northwestern, they are not required to demonstrate individual external recognition. However, an effective way by which Research Faculty demonstrate their impact is to show how they contribute to the success and reputation of the research program/lab/core or research enterprise at Northwestern. This might include highlighting the impact and recognition of the unit/program at local, regional, national, or international levels (e.g., this could be discussed in the personal statement). Though individual external recognition is not required, research faculty are encouraged to include evidence of any such recognition in their CV or elsewhere in the promotion packet because it warrants consideration for promotion.

 How are levels of recognition defined?
Understand local, regional, national, and international recognition

The table below offers definitions and examples of different recognition levels. Regional, national, and international recognition that comes from institutions where you trained or were once employed generally carries less weight (due to being less independent/objective) than recognition from institutions that know you because of your professional work and impact. Such recognition is still meaningful, but work to expand your impact and recognition beyond your training institutions and former employers. 

Also keep in mind that level of recognition is relative to the location where you were based at the time of receiving it. Receiving an award from a California institution will be recognized as local if you were based at that institution at the time. The definitions and examples below assume you receive the recognition while based at Northwestern.

Level Description Example
Local Contributions to or recognition from the local city/metro area (e.g., Chicago metro area) Giving a grand rounds or other invited talk at a suburban Chicago hospital or school
Regional Contributions to or recognition from the state and surrounding states (e.g., the Midwest) Election to serve as officer of a Midwestern professional society for physicians
National Contributions to or recognition from the national level Invitation to serve on an NIH study section, to serve as an officer of a national professional society, or to organize a national conference
International Contributions to or recognition from international institutions or institutions based in other countries Receiving a service award from an international aid organization or giving an invited talk at an institution based outside the United States


 How do I demonstrate external professional recognition in my packet?

  • List evidence of external recognition on your CV, using the Feinberg standard CV template. Many sections of the CV serve to highlight external recognition, including: honors and awards, community service, external professional leadership and service, scientific and medical advisory boards, editorships and editorial board service, manuscript review responsibilities, grant review responsibilities, invited talks, and medical coverage and appearances.
  • Use the personal statement to highlight accolades received and provide description that helps evaluators better understand their significance.
  • Letters of reference offer insight into the impact of your work and the breadth of your reputation, so choose referees carefully. View guidance on preparing your referee list.