Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Time I Stopped Answering Email

quitting email | new faculty

i made this meme 🙂

Miraculous thing that email is eh?

This one time, when I realized that my smartphone and my email were using me, I quit.

I quit email.

I quit notifications.

I quit noises.

I quit chat icon thingys.

I quit it all.

And it never felt so good.

I didn’t smash my iphone, but I sure as hell stopped letting it control my life. It goes into ‘paperweight’ mode more and more and I kind of like it.

Circa 2007 I got my first smartphone–a blackberry Pearl. It was all down hill after that.

My love affair started out as most do: fast and furious. It was mutual infatuation with a hint of neuroses. We were soul mates.

I can clearly see now why my ex-husband would have been annoyed. Clearly.

Over the last year though, i’ve made a conscious effort to reel my technology use in. Not only was it out of necessity, but it was also out of choice. I’ve been a smartphone junkie since 2007 and was totally unprepared for the plethora of noises, pop-up’s, notifications, and other assorted ways it could intrude on your life. As the new updates roll out, I’m already googling how to get rid of the new annoyances that will come when I download and install.

On the flip side, I also appreciate it for its’ ability to stop everything and leave me alone with some modifications. The first thing I did:

  • stopped pushing email
  • set the privacy functions from 11 p.m.-7 a.m.-mandatory every day.
  • turn the ringer off-no vibrate-for hours at a time, especially when i’m (trying) to write
  • don’t answer texts/calls on purpose (self proclaimed call screener extraordinare right here)
  • stopped ALL notifications except calls and texts

WHY? so the device wasn’t using me, I was using it. I log on when I want. I check when I want. I engage when I’m ready.

Then, I went radical. I didn’t answer a single email all weekend. It was amazing. I did it again just to validate my results.

And for all of you who have already caught on….

I drank the kool-aid, how come no one told me about this sooner??

I’m going to repeat my experiment for many weeks to come to validate my scientific research. I’m pretty sure we all know the results.

Try it out with me!

All jokes aside, by setting my own boundaries and NOT answering email on the weekend, it helped me do a few things:

  • enjoy myself and whatever I was doing
  • set my own boundary
  • feel better for Monday when I could go through them and start answering
  • yes, i still make a list in Evernote sometime Sunday evening just to make sure I’m ready for Monday

How do you manage your email?

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Baby Gonna Cry?

Baby Gonna Cry? | New Faculty

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There seems to be something happening around me lately. It’s the fourth full week of classes around here and I think I may have to run to the store and buy a box of: DIAPERS.

This also goes along with my  “boundary talk” because quite frankly, if another grad student looks at me and goes, “wwwaaahhhhh, i’m working so hard…..wwaaahhhh,” I might reach out and touch their life. Or their head w/ a ‘thump’ like those ‘Should’ve Had a V8 commercials.’

I’m usually pretty good at brushing them off, smiling, and saying things like, “I’m sure you’re doing great” and “welcome to graduate school,” but last week was a test for me. Mind you, the grad students that know me well know that they better be pretty constructive if they’re going to complain and at least ask for help before they begin whining, but now that I think about it, none of the grad students (or undergrads) that I have have complained this week to me. Not once. I don’t think it’s because I’m any better or worse of a faculty member or human being, but when hand selecting these students, they knew what they signed up for. There was no ‘sugar coating’ with any of them.

I had the opportunity to chat at length with a grad student this summer who thought he was pretty slick. He’d been funded but had dodged his faculty employer most of the summer with a lot of travel and not much work. He thought he was funny, ingenious, and quite frankly, had ‘worked the system.’ I saw this grad student not too long ago.

WHO’S WORKIN’ WHO NOW SUCKAAAAAA????

His faculty employer figured him out, paid him, and then doubled (if not tripled) his work load this fall. And you know what: the grad student is doing it because he knew he was WRONG for skirting his summer responsibilities. His over-blown ego, breezy non-chalant attitude about how he thought he was soooo smart, and sense of entitlement had quickly washed away and had been replaced by a fresh layer of work, work, and KARMA. I know his faculty member–they’re no slouch, I knew who’d win that battle….faculty: 1, student: 0.

I also love the grad students who take to social media to air their laundry. HELLO! If you’ve got time to complain on facebook, you need more work. Some of these students don’t even try to take a light hearted approach, they just complain. What did you think was going to happen? Who do you think is watching you on social media? Get it together, be professional for a moment and once again: get to work!

Dear grad students, grad school is tough. It’s going to test you mentally, physically, and emotionally. If you’d wanted an ‘easier gig,’ I’d suggest the Qwickie Mart selling slurpees. Stop complaining and get to work! The end.

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Beefing Up the Boundary Talk

Beefing up Boundaries | new faculty

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We’ve discussed boundaries with grad students before and kicking grad school mentality. It can be really difficult. Sometimes, no matter what we do, we always end up with a grad student (or two) that is really good at over sharing, over doing it, or just sort of being obnoxious. We’re also to blame as we sometimes let it go too far. If we want respect from our grad students and vice versa, we need to:

  • respect ourselves
  • set some healthy boundaries
  • live and learn

I got a note last week from a friend who is also a newer phd and is in a faculty position at a university. She is doing great.  She finished her note to me with, “when you have a chance, can we talk? i need to talk something out, nothing scary, but it’s been bugging me.”

**ring, ring**

We set up a time to chat on the phone as she’s hundreds of miles away and had a big old catch up over the weekend. It was truly great to talk to her. There’s some things that email cannot convey emotionally and honestly, it was just a lot of fun. After ‘catching up,’ the conversation turned a bit more serious and I probed about what was bugging her.

“I don’t feel like my grad students respect me.”

When I asked why, she had the following (shortened) things to say:

“I see them in class but then I will sometimes go out with them. I also play on a kickball league with them and do some other things. It’s hard being here, my partner works a lot and we’re always running opposite schedules. The students are great so it’s easy. I might have taken it too far once or twice when I was out with them (drinking) but I just don’t understand why they see me as equal and not their professor.” 

**big sigh**

I love my friend. She is a truly talented and gifted woman, and I truly empathize with her loneliness. As human beings we want to BELONG, we want people around us who make us feel good and no one likes being lonely, but she’s in a situation that she CAN get out of.

I asked her some probing questions:

  • what other activities do you find yourself engaged with them regularly?
  • what activities are work related vs. pleasure/outside of work related?
  • why don’t you think they respect you?

Our gut usually tells us what the problems/answers are, but sometimes, we need to talk it out with a trusted friend and that’s what she was doing. I was not going to tell her any golden nuggets of wisdom because she already knew the answers. What she wanted was someone to work through some plausible and reasonable solutions and to affirm her decision making, serving as the ‘voice of reason.’

Upon asking her those questions and going back and forth with some dialogue, conclusions were made.

If you want your grad students to respect you, you need to earn it. I do not blame grad students on this one. My friend was clearly engaging in some poor choices and was making herself wide open to such criticism and LACK of respect.

  • Getting drunk with them is not going to earn it. EVER. Drinking too much with them on a regular basis is setting you up for failure every time. While super fun, it’s not going to get you real far. I’m avoiding a huge beer festival because I know it will be chalk full of grad students and of age undergrads. I realize I’m 21 and a mostly formed adult, but I don’t need to subject myself to their criticism later or comments that are unprofessional at a meeting. Drinking is part of our culture and I’m not afraid to be seen out having a good time, I just choose who I have a good time with VERY WISELY these days.
  • Socializing with them exclusively is not going to earn it. EVER. There is a fine line of ‘getting to know each other’ and ‘whoops, there it goes’ in terms of respect.
  • Social media-facebook, twitter, fantasy leagues, vine, snapchat, instagram, etc…. (the list is ridiculously long) are fine, but you need to censor that. Taking my own advice, I put all of my ‘grad student type friends’ on a restricted list. It is a case-by-case basis as some of my students CAN handle the professional relationship and separate the personal vs. the professional aspects.
  • Force yourself to find one or two colleagues to interact with OUTSIDE OF YOUR DEPT OR SOCIAL CIRCLE. I know it’s hard, everyone is married, everyone has a life, but I bet if you look, you’ll find at least one person who is also a newer faculty. Maybe a writing group, maybe someone who goes to your gym, maybe someone who’s always at the same coffee shop. I’ve written about finding friends in the faculty sandbox. It takes time, but it’s worth it.
  • Ask yourself: would i be friends w/ this person (these people) if we weren’t in this bubble? do we ever do anything that doesn’t involve_____ (drinking, kickball, etc… if we’re following my conversation)? could i sit down with this person without any distraction and have a quality conversation? if the answer is ‘no’ at any time–re-evaluate. kickball and beer is only going to take your friendship so far. if that’s as far as you want it to go, then go forth, get wasted, and kick a rubber ball.
  • Understand the FUNDAMENTAL difference between friends and professional friends. If you only feel comfortable in the confines of drinking and kickball, you might want to check yourself before you wreck yourself.
  • “But New Faculty, I love these friends, they’re great for having a fun time.” Yes, I hear you. Loud and clear. I have friends that are amazing fun-havers, but maybe it’s the introvert in me or the Virgo–I like to be able to have friends that are multi-purpose, just like my spray cleaners….judge me later.

Find people outside of your department/area. The best thing I ever did was make friends with people I didn’t have to see at department meetings. I have no problem talking to smart, intelligent people–grad student or not and you can tell by the flow of a conversation if it’s going to be a positive relationship, even if it’s strictly professional. You can also tell if a grad student can handle a little bit more exposure. I have a friend who’s a grad student and he’s completely dumbstruck when I talk to him. Good guy, a great human being, not ready to be my ‘friend’ in a lot of ways. Yes, he went on that restricted list. I have another friend who’s a recent post-doc. Great human being, very smart and friendly, but you will always find him drinking/socializing with grad students still. Not ready. And that’s fine. Also on the list.

On the flip side of the coin, I have a few close friends who are grad students because they worked for years before returning to academia for their degree and they understand the boundaries.  Our rapport has been positive without going overboard or ‘too far’ in any situation. The mutual respect we share is understood and not taken advantage of.

Staying in grad student bubble is easy. It really is. But, as young(er) professionals, we NEED TO STOP if we want to be taken seriously. This does not mean I’ll be riding my broom around campus or anything extreme, but it was great pause for me to think about beefing up my own boundaries with my students. I stopped living with grad students this year. It’s been great. My housemate is also on faculty/staff at the university and is a real, living, breathing adult who has to be up and out the door at 8 a.m. every day. No “big time” on Thursday nights so he’s too hung over to function on Friday kind of stuff anymore (i’d really like friday’s off FYI 😉 ). I don’t begrudge the grad student lifestyle. Honestly, I’m a bit jealous of it most days, but at this point in my life, I’m ready for whatever is out there and so is my friend on the phone.

She didn’t need me to lecture her, which is a good thing because frankly, I’m no good at it. She just needed an empathetic ear who understood. We set some healthy boundaries (I mostly listened) and it gave me the opportunity to also think about my own boundaries with grad students. I’m thankful that I truly have wonderful grad and undergrad researchers with me this year, but I also hand picked them myself, which was something I had not had the luxury of doing in prior years.

Beefing up my boundaries has helped me frame my own context for who I am as a professional and where I’d like to head (or at least a general direction). Now that we’re in the semester, it might be worth a quick ‘check in’ with ourselves (not all warm & fuzzy like a self help book either) to evaluate where we are as well. It took my friend months to get entrenched in her not-so-awesome situation and she will easily rebound. When we set realistic and attainable expectations for ourselves, we are usually rewarded ten fold. And yes, we even learn along the way. If you’re being mentored, talk to your mentor to help you kick that grad school mentality! It can’t hurt to have another pair of ears on your team helping you along the way!

How do you set boundaries with your grad students? Tips you’d like to share?

*i refer to most people w/ a ‘he’ or ‘masculine reference’ – it just makes life easier…

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She Couldn’t Play Dead in a Western: Communicating 101

he couldn't play dead in a western | new faculty

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This weeks post is brought to you by one word:

RANT

Seriously, don’t do any of this story. To anyone. And if it happens to you. RUN. As fast as you can.

Please use this story on your own students and add it to the list of “what not to do” repertoire you’ve already started.

I got an email about a phone interview for a position outside of academia. The email said, “While you’re resume and experience in the field is impressive, I worry you may be overqualified for the position.” (why in gods name did you pull me then????) AND…shouldn’t you want to recruit talent that is “too qualified” or would be a good challenge for you and your organization? It would be like trying to “marry up” in a good way or recruit the BEST of the best to your program. Opening with a line like that is weak sauce and it’s showing that the person sending the email is highly INSECURE. It then went on to say that the salary range was probably not high enough for me.

My thinking, “Can I make the decision if I want to speak with you? I have a brain, I’m perfectly aware of my CV, my work experience, and I’m happy to let you know if I’d like to speak with you. You have already pretty much cornered yourself here.”

D- kids…solid.

Also, I have a phd–it’s a CV or Curriculum Vitae, not a resume anymore because I’m an academic. You are clearly not and that’s ok, but if you’re courting me for an interview, get it together. Seriously. But, hey, not everyone is in academia. I’ll let it slide….
B+
The woman in ‘charge’ emailed an office admin by mistake (no big deal). The person did NOT bother to look at the contact information CLEARLY marked on my CV. In bold, centered, AND highlighted as a hyperlink. The admin forwarded it with no issue. The school letterhead has her listed as the office admin w/ her email because she is the ‘boss’ of me in many ways. Again, this was NOT an issue for the office admin or myself. She forwarded it within minutes and I sent the initial email from my own account within an hour. This is usually protocol for many things because as we all know: our office staff and support staff make the world go ’round. The office staff can cripple me without saying a word and I respect them like my own parents. They are amazing people.
Office admins: A+
I emailed the woman at the museum to pick a time (that she had outlined in her message) and recommended she use my real email in the future and that it was no big deal, “nonetheless, i welcome speaking with you about this position.” <—that’s the line I used in the email.
The woman came back w/ a snarky ass note about how the letterhead shouldn’t have the office admin’s info on it (fine–no big deal again). She lost points for class and professionalism because her two sentence email was a mini-lecture, filled with contempt, and extremely rude in tone.
F….big F
I replied, “Are we confirmed for_______?” I did NOT bring up the email again, I felt the issue was finished and she was clearly trying to have a “who can be ‘right’ contest” which I have NO interest. I also got my spidey sense tingling that this was PROBABLY going to be a personality clash from square one. Maybe square 3/4 before it even started.
She replied and withdrew her request.
I replied to her extremely rude note with one word:
“CONFIRMED.”
Fresh faculty, grad students, anyone who has found this blog in the Internet universe:
DO NOT DO THIS EVER…..
Don’t open an email saying that you already feel bad because I’m educated, have a good work history, published, and not sitting around waiting for my academic career to start. Don’t tell me your finances are not enough for me. Let ME be the judge of that. I didn’t apply for your job thinking I’d get rich, retire early, and eat bon bon’s on the beach. You can see from my packet that I LIKE working. I LIKE working really HARD. I’m not lazy. Did you read my CV at all?
If you’re intimidated or feeling insecure because of your own career shortcomings, don’t put them on a potential candidate.
DON’T BE THIS PERSON. EVER. Have some class. Have some self-respect. Represent yourself and your organization with more professionalism than a sack of ants.  I’m sure this person is very nice in real life, but in this moment, I could only think of one saying I heard a few weekends ago:
“she couldn’t play dead in a western movie.” 
It was truly an interaction for the books. In fact, I plan on telling every undergrad and grad student when I use this as an example of how NOT to behave. Thanks lady….fresh teaching material!
**steps off soapbox**
**goes to find stiff drink or more likely some melted cheese**
omgeeee
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