Monthly Archives: March 2012

Want to hear a joke?

What do you get when you get 15 experts in a room?

A room not big enough?

hahahaha….academic humor. Pretty cheesy.  As a new faculty, you’ll be inundated with folks who are like and opposite minded with vast experiences that are simliar to yours or different.  This can make for some great interactions or some super awkward ones.

There’s always one guy….(or girl)…..who can be labeled as “the know it all” though.  Super knowledgeable, well read, a theory base that will baffle you, and just enough confidence to speak up. every. single. time. I found myself in a room with one of these people (who was incidentally male-hence calling him ‘that guy’)

What do you do with that person? Before I go any further, let me say this:  this guy is very smart.  He is very well read. His attention to detail was impressive and his ability to digest information and synthesize was amazing to me.  Meeting him in person was great, sitting on a committee with him was great, but being around him for 36 solid hours was overwhelming….exhausting…..and in the end: humbling.  There’s a reason he’s a young front runner in my field, he knows his stuff.

How to handle him was another situation.  He did get a bit ahead of himself from time to time.  He did demand the floor many times.  He also got shut down a few times and he was speechless at one point too.  The humbling and lesson learned part is this: we know our field, it’s the surprises that we can’t ever know exactly how to respond too.

At one point, another committee member was speaking and even shut the guy down stating, “let me finish first.”  Well done sir.  Point taken.

How do you know it all without acting like you know it all?

There is a fine line of balance. knowing when to speak and when to hold off. Is less more?  Not to some!  As a new faculty you’ll be put in those situations and deciding to find your voice or be a spectator can be a tough call.  I chose to pick my battles.  Not over talk, but also don’t be ignored.  Make sure you’re heard without becoming “that guy…”

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Giving up the ghost

Control. Ugh. Janet Jackson has a whole song about it (dating myself here). As a new faculty member or new member of anything, we didn’t get here by being passive about everything.

As I write this post, I’m coming off of one trip, heading to another in 48 hours, and haven’t had enough time to actually do my ‘job’ well this week trying to get ready for trip #2.  Needless to say: I’m feeling flustered.  You may ask, “why is she blogging then, get to work!?!?” and you’d be correct.:)  As I stand here at my desk, planning logistics for my students, my after school sites, the site leaders, community days, meetings, hotel reservations, and the host of 1000 other things we all have on our plate, it comes back to control.

Just like my email and other digital communications, that feeling that things are getting out of hand creeps in because I can’t monitor them. As I reflect, this is a humbling lesson for anyone, not just a new faculty member.  I have to remember: I have hired good people, recruited excellent students, coached grad students, and have surround myself with ‘good’ people to take care of these things to help ensure that I can leave for a few days for some professional development of my own and know that the fort will be guarded and executed well.

Giving up the ghost is important because it’s causing me undue stress. This article came across my FB feed and I have to admit, the points resonated.

1) Notice your relationship to time, your schedule, and your commitments.

There are days when there is simply not enough time. There are days when my relationship with time looks like a 5 year old not getting her way and other days, where I have hours of time to devote to something with minimal interruption.  Those great days, I have set aside enough time, communicated I needed the time to work or do other activities, and they feel stress free, even if I don’t get done what I had intended, it never feels like I ‘wasted time’ doing them.

2) Start saying “no” to things.

I said no last night.  After a full week of working well into 8 or 9 p.m. (not hunting for sympathy) I had told myself that once I got done at schools, I would be done for the day. I received a frantic email at 5 p.m. from another commitment and made the conscious decision to say “no.” There wasn’t enough time for me to meet the request and I had told myself, “no working until 8 or 9 tonight.”

3) Give yourself more time than you think you need.

Too true!  How many times have we told ourselves, “this will only take an hour” and three hours later you’re still doing that activity or waiting????? It’s like a Dr.’s office: you’re appointment is at 9 a.m. and at 10 a.m. you’re still in the waiting room.  The stress comes in when we are crunched for time and lose control.

Some of us may thrive on deadlines, some of us like to be done farther in advance, no matter our personality, it’s easy to want to take the reins of everything and be in control.

As I evaluate my issues with control, things unfolded and worked themselves out.  My students and other folks came through for me, my site leaders and volunteers were well coached to handle a few days of life. Maybe it’s fear that drives our issues with control, we don’t want to feel un-needed or disposable. Maybe the fear of stamping our name on something for career advancement or the fear of losing family time due to being too involved drives us.  No matter what it is, finding the time, saying ‘no,’ and coming to a peaceful agreement with your time and all those involved in your time can be important steps to avoid burn out in your new position.

When do you feel most at peace?  On the couch, out for a run, in a place of worship, or surrounded by family and friends?  How can you get back some time in your life?  What can you start saying no too?

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Introvert in an extrovert world

We are living in an extrovert world. (I can’t help but Madonna singing ‘material girl’).  It’s how we get attention.  We’ve taught our kids to speak up, not to be shy, and be bold.  Media tells us that the person willing to be the loudest will win the reality show, get the recording contract, get hits on YouTube, etc…In grad school, we were encouraged to find our voice, choose a research area, and set the framework for a lifetime (**gulp**) of work.

All through my high school years and early college days, I was an extrovert.  Meyers-Briggs confirmed it time and time again….But something happened.  I became an introvert.  I didn’t become one overnight.  I had always been shy as a child.  So shy, I wouldn’t even say hello to the bus driver who drove me to and from school for a decade.  Incidentally, he was also my neighbor, living up the road from me. Now, if you’re reading this and you’ve only known me during college (undergrad/grad school) you may be thinking “no way! she says whatever she wants.”  You’re right–because I’m comfortable with you.  If you judge me at this point, that’s officially your problem, not mine.  I do say what I think, I do have strong opinions, and I usually have no problem sharing them with folks.

Where did the introvert come back?  Awkward situations? No. New people? No. It came back everywhere.  Was it age?  Perhaps.  But after I realized that my introverted nature was returning, I visited the Meyers-Briggs again to confirm, my “E” had shifted to an “I” somewhere along the way.

Sure, everyone is a little awkward, and new people are always more conservative until they feel someone out for a good/bad vibe, but maybe it was grad school.  My job was to observe people for non-verbal behaviors.  It was NOT to speak to them, but merely observe them in their ‘natural habitat’ (picture an episode of Nature and the narrator saying, “when you look at the lion perched and looking for prey….”).

Forbes shared a piece on introverts that I really liked reading.  Maybe we have been ‘over media-ed’ to death and are used to seeing the bubbly, shining, outgoing people on the tv and the computer, giving no recognition to the folks that help get them there.  It might be time in our society and culture to start celebrating the quiet, the respectful, the character of introverts.  Society is doing something wrong, so is it that we’re forcing everyone to be an extrovert and seek all of the attention?

Academia can be the same way.  The squeaky wheel often gets the grease.  There is something to be said for academia and the introvert though.  The best ideas don’t come at work, they come at the gym, getting groceries, observing others interacting, or a host of other situations.  Academia, in some ways, was made for introverts.  We go home to our families, pets, and life each day and it gives us time to do something else.  We lock ourselves away to write, meet submission deadlines, and put ourselves up for judgment when we teach, face colleagues, or tenure.  Academia helps the introvert by letting us ‘go away’ and technology exasperates the issue because we don’t have to see people unless we need too.

Do we all have to put on our extrovert face from time-to-time?  Of course.  But, if you’re like me, you’re counting down the hours until you can go back to being an introvert again.  Some people have coined us as ‘loners’ or ‘stand off’ or ‘rude’ or ‘unfriendly’ but you know what–we like being quiet.  We like being alone.  We’re not going to chase you down for some admiration and attention.  We’re going to keep on going.

Perhaps that’s why we love the weekends so much, not just introverts, but everyone–we get to be ourselves.  There’s a country song that sings, “I don’t have to be me until Monday” and maybe that’s the secret.  From M-F, we have to be more extroverted, be more assertive, and pretty much everything else.  Job interviews are the ultimate in NOT channeling yourself (for another post), but on Saturday and Sunday (and part of Friday if you’re lucky), you get to be who you really are….that’s why “everybody’s workin’ for the weekend….” even the academics!

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Academia as bracketology (a metaphor)

You’re obsessed with March Madness.  Who isn’t?  I love some college ball and as I’ve tuned in to check out the games over the past few days, I couldn’t help but think that academia was much like the NCAA tournament.

We’re all trying to get the big trophy, the accolades, the Nike/Gatorade contract for sponsorship. In our world, it’s more like a top tier journal, a consulting gig that blossoms into a full fledged side job, grants and contracts, and building a pension/retirement plan that will actually allow you to retire before you need an oxygen mask just to get to lecture.

  • making it into the tournament (grad school)
  • making it to the 32 (graduating)
  • making it to the sweet 16 (getting hired)
  • getting to the elite 8 (pubs and packets)
  • making it to the final four (going up for tenure)

Your selection into it was a bit like grad school.  It may or may not have happened on a Sunday.  No, there was no ESPN going over your selections for four hours either before your name was announced at XYZ university.

Making it past the first round of the show is sort of like graduating.  The attrition rate or rate of ABD’s who never complete is still pretty high.  Getting over the hump and sticking with grad school can be really tough.

Getting hired–that’s like making it to the sweet 16.  In this economy, it’s rough!  Forget landing your ‘dream job’ right away, these days, folks are happy to have work.  I know I am.

The elite 8–working towards tenure, or whatever other goal(s) you have set.  Maybe this is the time when you set up that side gig, consulting firm, or work on book chapter that may someday lead to your first book.

The final four….the coveted place to be. I think that might be the day you start putting that packet together, re-evaluating your pubs and scholarly work.

The finals: going up for tenure.

The trophy: tenure.  With a drink and a nap immediately after.  And after that….keep on trucking!

As you track your teams and watch your bracket bust, think of it as what happens in life.  Sometimes, we lose our way, sometimes we have to stop the clock and take a time out to reflect.  On occasion, we face some injuries that need time to mend. With Lehigh and Norfolk St. winning in the first round, it can really bust your bracket and friendly office pool, but like life–being the underdog can sometimes work in your favor.

Whatever your sights are set on, I hope you take some time to enjoy the madness and equal amounts of time to relax from it.  Like the NCAA, it will often consume you and while March Madness only lasts a few short weeks, staying the course in academia can last a lifetime (if you want it too).

Enjoy the madness of it all and enjoy the tournament!

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‘we’re all a little crazy’

A friend, who is also a faculty at another university, visited recently.  She was down from my version of the ‘motherland’ for a few days.  While visiting with her and showing her how to use an iPad, we were having a laugh about getting a PhD.  PIC joined in on the conversation since he will soon finish his (soon as in 2012, not in the next 30 seconds) and the three of us were going back and forth about people who get PhD’s.

As we left the house to head to dinner, my friend said, “we’re all a little nuts for getting this degree.” We all laughed. Because it’s true….

I saw this article and it got me thinking…{we’re all nuts.} You’d have to be. As I’ve had some time to reflect and look back *cringing slightly* grad school was a hot mess. The marathon that felt like it would never end, the hamster in the never ending wheel.  I’m not alone, it has nothing to do with the program, it was the process of earning the degree. A PhD is not for the faint of heart, and if you’re reading this and you have a PhD, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t: be damn sure you want to get on this merry go round! What movie is that from??? Anyway…

Next time someone asks me how my new job is, I’m going to take the advice of this article and answer with, “leisurely” or “a bit slow, I’m bored.”  Depending on who it is, I can only imagine their reaction.

My dad did bring up a good point.  He asked, “do you feel less stress now that your degree is done?”  Apparently, everyone else knew I was a hot mess too.  I told him that yes, it was less stress and that while I always felt like I was going 100 mph, I could now step back and do other things for an hour here and there, like blog.

Academics relate and ‘hang out’ with each other. My hypothesis is that it’s not because we think we’re smarter, it’s because we’re the same brand of nutty.

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Breathe and reboot

Good bye motivation….hello spring break! I’ve been looking for you and alas, you have been found!  Wait, what?  A full work week?  Shucks.  Just like growing up and having to milk those cows, it seems like this new faculty has also given up spring break for her hypothetical ‘cow’ — work.

Please, don’t cry for me Argentina….I love working–campus is quieter, no one is emailing me incessantly, stalking me, wanting to know when i can meet them, answer them, or just be at their beckon call–oh wait, that’s my supervisor 🙂 just kidding.  But seriously, spring break for any new faculty can be a good time to breathe and reboot.  Even if you can’t steal away for the week or long weekend, it’s a great time to stand back and reflect.

How am I doing-mentally, physically, emotionally?  Not bad, no gray hairs have sprouted yet.  I’ve shed the few lbs. I packed on eating like a champion last week and haven’t broke down in tears lately…..How is my work/home life balance going? Uhhhhhh…….I was home in time for the evening news last night?  I actually made dinner and talked to my dad on the phone for a while.  I even managed to stay up long enough to watch some bad tv w/ PIC.  Three days a week, I accept that I won’t roll into the house much before the news, but the two days a week that I don’t have to be off campus during the afternoons, I try to be done and home by a normal time.  I have also found time for yoga during the week, something I never did in grad school.  How is work going?  Work = a mile a minute.  I have needed to slow it down a bit and am thankful this week is here.  I was always a firm believer that the vacations in public school and university were built in for faculty/staff just as much as the students. I stand by my opinion. Work is going well: I feel happy and productive, I think folks are happy with my performance, research is moving along, the students I work with are all happily vacationing, and I am knee deep in grants to review.

As a new faculty, it’s important to not only stand back and take stock, but also take those mental breaks when you need them.  After a full morning of meetings yesterday, I went back to my office and did….nothing. I went to the gym, ate lunch, and headed out to my school site.  Later this week, I need to go have the oil changed in my car before the ‘beep, beep, beep’ explodes right out of the dash trying to warn me that my corolla is in fact, hurting for some new fluids. I will even go out to lunch at a local hot spot since the students are all gone.

Breathe and reboot. We all need the time.  Even my boss said to me during our weekly meeting at Starbucks, “I need spring break, I’m totally unmotivated today.” And you know what?  That’s ok. As we rush around teaching, collecting, analyzing, and writing our faces off, we need to accept the fact that we need to shut it down for a while.  Huff post had a travel article and American’s are the worst vacationers, taking about 17 days off per year. While my dairy farmer parents take less than that, there is something to be said for taking some time off. I will admit: my parents take several vacations a year now, they are lucky to have excellent help and we are all meeting in a few weeks for a fun week/long weekend at Lake Norman.

What’s my plan for a little down time this week?  After reviewing and entering this pile o’fun grants, I plan on taking care of some ‘life things’, spending a few dollars at the local craft store for some more fun projects, reading the book I downloaded to my iPad, going for drinks with PIC, and hanging out with my dvr on saturday morning to catch up. I don’t feel guilty. I don’t feel like I should be doing something else. I feel like I’ve earned a few hours of slow time.

How do you breathe and reboot?  What else can you do to help fight burnout and fatigue?  As a new faculty member, it might be one of the more important things you do in order to remain happy, productive, and sane. Take a step back and reflect on how things are going.  Seek feedback from those that are important since they may have a complimentary or different perspective.  Take some time, even if it is for an oil change and lunch out, to do some of those normal ‘life things’ that often get neglected.  Enjoy your mental spring break!

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Owning it

As a new faculty, I’m thankful for the countless opportunities I’ve been afforded since starting. I love traveling….for a while.  The place: our nation’s capital.

As I got ready to travel, I realized one thing: I was no longer a graduate student.  I know you’re probably thinking, ‘get it together’ but really.  There has been little or no time to transition cognitively.  Sure, I graduated and walked and was hooded and my family was there and PIC and a nice dinner…..BUT–I started this position before I even graduated. (did you like my giant run-on sentence?)

How did the shift happen?  It started with some clothes.  Before I bare my soul, I will also add that grad school helped me get fatter and I had some work to do.  I have shed about 20 lbs. over the past few months and was needing some things that fit a bit more properly.  You know the saying, “the clothes make the (wo)man.”

So, I took myself shopping and invested a few hundred dollars in some pants that fit (my undergrad friends would call this “diaper a**,”) a few new shirts, and a new blazer. Funny what dressing the part can do for our pride, make us stand a bit taller, and carry ourselves with a straighter back.  The weight loss didn’t hurt my self esteem either.

Second step: the hair.  Again–so vane….so superficial….I had donated my hair over the summer and had neglected a good haircut since then.

Third step: unpacking my office.  I had started in December and on Feb. 1st there was still a mountain of boxes packed full of my books, pictures in storage, and general chaos.On several occasions, even my boss had said, “you ever going to move in?”

Fourth step (maybe should be #1): owning it. No more saying, “i’m a grad student, i’m not done yet, i just passed my prelims.” No one asks anymore and I don’t introduce myself as such.  Owning it has helped me make the transition.

When was your cognitive shift?  Did it happen with the piece of paper?  I know I was ready to be done with grad school, but a bit fearful of what was next.  There are days when I’d like tto go back to the less stressful world of grad school, but as I type in an airport, I can’t help but think that I’ve finally made the transition in my head.  Now, if my student loans would pay themselves 🙂

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