Monthly Archives: October 2013

Giving Myself Permission to Be Sick

Sick Day | New Faculty

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I’m home today. It’s a work day. It’s a data collection day. I have edits due on an article that I haven’t even started. I’m calling ‘uncle.’

I’m taking a sick day.

I should have taken several this week. And sent myself to the doctor days ago.

But I didn’t.

Because I’m stubborn.

Because I ignored my body.

And boy: did she let me know what a jerk I’d been. 

I dragged my sorry carcass to the doctor and it was deduced: a sinus infection and the flu.

Glad I got that flu shot!! 😛

I like being an outlier as much as the next person but being a statistic in the CDC database was really the icing on my nerdy, academic cake! So was the massive dose of drugs I got from the pharmacy.

As I lay awake from 2-4 a.m. this morning with a hot pack on my face trying to ease my sinus pain, I had a good chunk of time to evaluate why I let myself get so ill without realizing that it was indeed OK to admit I was feeling like crap, taking a day or two before it got really bad, and using the nice insurance I have to go to see my doctor. After two hours I only had one conclusion:

Give yourself permission.

I had this post about how to manage your calendar and schedule, but this seemed much more appropriate for the young faculty and over ambitious, perfectionist ways that we possess thinking we need to do it all, save the world, and ignore our intuition in search of the holy grail in academia. 

Give yourself permission to take good care of yourself. Don’t end up on your couch in a pile of misery like me.  

**I always think of the poem by Shel Silverstein**

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Being Available: Consulting & Outside Work

Consulting in Academia | New Faculty

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I was asked by some grad students how to get into consulting work months ago and I had no good answer. So, I did what anyone with a question does: I asked google. Just kidding. I started asking my colleagues. I sent emails, I asked in person, and everyone had a handful of answers that I’ll share with you today. The long and short of it is this: there’s no ONE answer. Every discipline is different and what the opportunities look like are sometimes very different with shades of grey. As a young faculty or rising grad student, I would urge you not to get ahead of yourself, some faculty I spoke to had ZERO time for consulting work due to work, family, and 100 other obligations. Some also said (although very few) that they felt no need to do outside work.

Every faculty is different. If you take nothing else away from this post, know there is not ‘recipe’ for what this will look like in your future career. As a recent grad, young faculty, or seasoned veteran, faculty all seek out opportunities and in many cases, others seek out the expertise of them as they build their career. I won’t go into the ‘veteran’ category today–clearly I’m not there and I suspect that many of my readers have not reached that point in their careers yet.

Young academics find themselves in a few life rafts:

  • i need $$
  • i need work
  • will work for food
  • i need to get my name out there
  • i like using my brain for other things outside of my very specific research & this makes me happy

Consulting and other outside work can often help pad the income, diversify our research portfolio, and help us network with our colleagues. Consulting and other outside work can reap benefits but should also be done with caution. Many universities and other businesses are increasingly interested in what their employees are doing outside of ‘work time’ so my caution will be this:

check your place of work and their policy on outside work.

Seriously.

Don’t get fired or in trouble over a few hundred dollars. That would truly be a shame. During your negotiations, make sure this is on your list. While you may not build up your consulting network during your first year, you want the option to do so after you start to get into a good routine. Your future employer will also help you define what is ‘service’ to the university/business and what is true ‘consulting’ in their minds.

This conversation is 100% necessary so no one is in the dark later on. 

Just do it.

There is no set formula and every place defines outside work differently. Some things may include:

  • Grant panels
  • Contributing to book chapters or writing them
  • Writing books or editing one
  • Adjuncting for another dept or another university
  • An outside job that you enjoy (maybe you really love working PT for a landscaper in the summer or you nanny some kids for a friend regularly for money–insert whatever here)
  • True consulting: getting hired on an hourly/daily basis with or without travel to consult another professional group
  • Odd jobs: picking up extra grading/research on a team that is paid/collaborating because you know it will be beneficial for you and lead to other possible work

Now you may be thinking, “what i do with my time is my business” and I don’t disagree with you, but I will refer back to my earlier point:

have that conversation

Academia is extremely proprietary and is becoming increasingly sensitive to what their faculty are doing outside of school hours.

How do you get into it? My colleagues had the following tips to share:

  • Be available-balancing your real work and this kind of work is tricky, so know yourself enough to say that you can or can’t handle XYZ # of projects
  • Open those lines of communication. It’s ok to send a note to someone saying, “I would enjoy collaborating with you” or “If you see any areas where we can work together” without sounding too desperate or needy.
  • Accept that sometimes, there will be no money. I hate to be the buzzkill, but there might not always be a dollar sign attached to a project.
  • Turn out good work. This one is a no-brainer. Always be proud of the work you produce, even if it’s your least favorite subject to work on. You never know who will pick it up and say, “i want to work w/ that guy/girl.”
  • Network-hanging around at the office or being present where potential colleagues also gather can be helpful. Informal conversations can turn into serious conversations. I once sat in a workshop at a large conference and when the speaker finished, we chatted about the work. The chat turned into him asking if I’d review papers for the journal he was one of the editors for. Sure will! No money, but I got access to lots of manuscripts, saw trends, evaluated other research in my field, etc…the list is long. (don’t turn to stalking, that just gets weird).
  • Think critically as to how it will or won’t help your career. Sometimes, we want to say yes to everything because we’re dying to ‘get our foot in the door’ but we need to really evaluate how it will help us.

There is no recipe for success here, but trust your intuition, make sure your employer is happy, and everyone has clearly communicated. How do you handle consulting work? Any tips or suggestions?

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Just Like the Government: Shut Down

Shut Down Facebook | New Faculty

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The federal government and I shut down on almost the same day. My shutdown was far less publicized, noted on major news networks, and as far as I can tell, there’s only one person suffering as a result.

I deactivated my facebook.

I had been toying with the idea for some time. I have always had doubts about the nature of friendship and what social media does to it. Recently, I found myself having some facebook envy and putting myself into a bad place over it. That wasn’t anyone else doing it-it was all in my brain. I know the research, both positive and negative, and found myself falling prey to the negative and not the positive. Don’t get me wrong, getting 134+ birthday greetings sure was nice, but during my own summer on the struggle bus, facebook stopped serving me and became a source of tension and angst that I could feel brewing and was trying to figure out how to deal with. I do enjoy facebook because it does help me keep in touch with people who I enjoy, went to college/high school/work with or have done those things in the past.

So, I did the most logical thing possible. I shut my ‘large’ facebook account down.

  • I needed to breathe.
  • I needed to re-evaluate its’ function in my life.
  • I needed to jump on the wagon and continue my own self-reflection.
  • It was freaking ME out. This is not about ANYONE ELSE. This is my stuff.
  • I need to pair down my ‘friend’ list dramatically. I’ve done it before and I can do it again. MY feelings of guilt about ‘unfriending’ need to be put in their proper place.

I was too in my own head about it. “will people disagree? do i keep it light & funny? what’s ____ doing? maybe i’ll check on them.” Way too many emotions tied up into innocent posts about things I care about. On the other hand, people are ALL ABOUT politics and it makes me want to stab my eye out.

Facebook and I have always been friends, and I’ve discussed it before and once again making some rules–incidentally, it was just about a year ago in August, so it was a much needed reminder.

  1. Thou shalt use with caution
  2. Thou shalt be not afraid to block, unsubscribe, remove from social media life or ‘hide’ them forever
  3. Thou shalt not log on or keep the window open
  4. Thou shalt filter out or put people in lists
  5. Thou shalt remind myself: it’s JUST social media
  6. Thou shalt use it to my advantage. Promote my brand, my ideas–I’m sure I annoy other people so they can delete me as easily as I can delete them.
  7. Thou shalt lighten up. Take it with a grain of salt.
  8. Thou shalt have the clairvoyance to shut it down again closer to any election.  Everyone is getting pretty sensitive about every. little. thing.

I’d like to add a new ‘law’ about social media.

~Thou shalt not fall prey to ‘social media’ envy and think that my life is any less fulfilling and make me feel badly about it.

Two weeks in and I have to say: I don’t really miss it. Macklemore said something about ‘finding a different way to get out of bed instead of getting on the Internet” and he is right. I don’t wake, pick up my phone, and feel like I need to catch up. Thankfully, my iPhone is also experiencing a mid-life crisis of its’ own right now (AKA: piece o’ crapola) and ios 7 is not treating it well. It’s not updating anything and shutting down randomly, it only helped me see that I can survive without facebook, email, and pretty much everything.

But I cannot survive without human relationships. Facebook gives us an unauthentic feeling that we know what someone is doing or even more importantly:

HOW THEY’RE ACTUALLY DOING

and it’s wrong.

If you want to truly know how someone is, ask them. But not on facebook. Most (ok, all) people censor very heavily what they put up on social media since they only want to make their most positive attributes shine, but we miss the stuff of ‘real life’ in there too. We miss life in general.

Life isn’t always so glamorous. I struggle with this message to our young people because they cannot yet rationalize the stack of dishes that goes with that photo worthy meal per say. I needed to remind myself of that too and had even been putting up some mundane photos of my own ‘real life’ because that is the stuff that life is made of. Laundry and cooking are NOT necessarily glamorous tasks but it’s important for us to keep those in mind because they are part of life. Even hearing a friend say, “just doing laundry so I thought I’d call you” can help put the important things in life into perspective.

As we get in deep with the semester and many of you are probably feeling how I’m feeling (drowning but with a straw for life support), this is ONE THING we can cut down on to increase our sanity. Now, some of you may say, “social media is my vacation from reality” and I would say, “go forth” but if you find it a cause of stress in your life like I did, do just like the government and:
SHUT IT DOWN!!!
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One of Those 9-5 Jobs: Being Grateful

One of Those 9 to 5 Jobs | New Faculty

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I had some social media envy. I saw my friends in town out and having a big time (it also made me see i needed to deactivate my fb account, which i did shortly thereafter–more on that later). And I wasn’t even home from data collection yet….. I know, I know, woe is me. I have a job with benefits….that I really enjoy most of the time and that will hopefully pay off in the future scratch that, it’s already paying off. It usually doesn’t feel like “work” which is how I know it’s going well, but then when I finally look at the clock, it’s pushing 8 p.m. and I’m usually falling into bed like a tree in the forest before 10. Farmers hours. Where’s the hay or other crop?

It’s the kids.

It’s always the kids.

It’s always been about the kids.

And it always will be.

I found my passion early and I’m thankful. While I may have muddled and struggled along the way, my career has been dedicated to education for as long as I can remember and the years I spent working in public education drove me to madness and sheer joy all at the same time. I attribute my parents to this calling, as they taught me early to be selfless, care for others, and use the knowledge and influence that I did have to help others. Terrible parenting…just terrible 😉

The decision to return to a graduate program was personal.

I was not one of those career students, although we could argue that I’ve had more first days of school than many at this point. I also don’t begrudge career students because depending on the discipline, you have to go through education to get to the other side.

I took my solid set of life experiences: the good, the bad, and the ugly and returned to school.

I’ve never been so humbled and grateful in my life to have worked for many years before returning to school. I took my set of experiences and used them each and every day. My prior work history set me apart in interviews, helped me be a more effective teacher and TA, and made my coursework more relevant. I was certainly a very ‘green’ researcher in every sense of the word, but learning has never been a difficult task for me, so I took to it slowly, and warmed up to it over the span of my education.

I fantasize about one of those 9-5 jobs where you can leave work at work.

And then I realize I’d be so bored, I’d probably get myself into A LOT of trouble.

Until those days arrive when I can ‘clock out’ and leave work ‘at work’ I’ll dream of them from time-to-time, and then worry about my next pub, how the kids are doing, if they’re learning, how effective our work is with them, and how much more I can do to train my students to facilitate someone else’s learning.

Until then…..

~at this point in the semester, it’s always nice to be grateful and sometimes, we need the reminder why we love our work. i hope you can take a moment to do the same this week!

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Grad Students-Dressing the Part

Dressing the Part | New Faculty

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One of the many delights of being a grad student is being able to dress in jeans and hoodies if you’re working your data, in the lab (coat and goggles perhaps and closed toed shoes), or just bumming. In fact, dressing ‘down’ is standard practice in grad school.

Dressing the part can be tricky though. If you’re teaching (depending on what it is) it can be helpful to up your “A” game in the wardrobe department, how you present yourself, and taking a few small hints can set you apart from an undergrad mentality to a grad student and onto a young professional.

Case in point #1:

My research team and I get asked to present our research at various events, we handle requests and accept them as we have time to do so.

The grad students:

were the worst dressed.

The undergrads had even taken the time to:

wear a dress, do their hair, wear a blazer (albeit w/ nice jeans) and generally presented well. (applause….I complimented them later).

The grad students:

showed in jean capri’s, gym shorts, wore flip flops, and stood in front of the lecture hall of 70+ students holding starbucks cups the whole time.

And I think they were ok with that initially.

I think they caught on. As I observed them, I could tell they were looking at the rest of the team. The undergrads had gotten dressed appropriately and the other faculty and I had on appropriate business attire to present to the students. As the grad students presented, they continued to stand w/ starbucks,  ‘standing with legs crossed’ and  looked like they had to use the bathroom. As a researcher who studies non-verbal behaviors, this wasn’t looking too put together. Proper coaching and perhaps a gentle nudge were in order from our end and that is our responsibility.

You could argue that it shouldn’t matter or it was only an hour but here’s the thing:

it does matter

The guest talk was on a Friday afternoon, certainly not the ‘best’ time of the week for anyone, but guess what?

Nobody got time for that!

Whether we like it or not, we live in a society that what we look like sometimes does matter. I know the students have nicer clothes, maybe they were tired, rushed, or had been in the midst of a busy day.

Cae in point #2:

I had a meeting with a grad student (also a friend in real life). I had not seen him in some time (several months). Upon entering my office and exchanging pleasantries, he sat down so we could chat. He’d gained a bit of weight over the past few months, which is a common thing in grad school for many people. Hours of sitting takes its toll.

His button down was bursting. He was aware of this problem and kept trying to pull it back over.

His jeans: so tight I could see he was uncomfortable. Between him tugging on his shirt and readjusting in his seat: this guy was having a bad time.

He owned it though. About 10 minutes in, he finally stood up and said, “I’m just doing it” and untucked his shirt and unbuttoned it (he did have on an undershirt). Thankfully, we have a good enough rapport where it wasn’t a problem. We made light of it with a laugh and our conversation about what grad school does to your body followed. It only would have been a problem if he’d unbuttoned his pants. Which he did not.

I didn’t need to say anything. He knew he’d gained some pounds and his clothes were no longer accommodating his growth. He was embarrassed and knew he needed to get to a store for the next size up. Thankfully, it’s probably not permanent as many of us know.

Grad students, you’ve gotta walk the walk if you want to talk the talk. I’m not saying you have to go out and drop $500 on new suits but you can obtain a fresh set of khaki’s or dress pants and a nice shirt for less than $100. If you’re feeling even more frugal, hit up goodwill, ask some other colleagues to help you out, or put these things on your wish list for an upcoming holiday. It’s not difficult or expensive to look neat and put together for things like teaching, presenting, or networking.

Check yourself. Take note of how you present yourself physically. I realize you probably don’t have time to take a public speaking class, but the Internet is chock full of tutorials and other helpers to give you a leg up. If you have an ‘annoying tick’ like saying “like” a million times or rocking when you stand, take note. Have someone record you and play it back (or record yourself on your handy smart phone). When I taught public speaking, I recorded my students during each of their speeches and then they provided me with a 200 word critique of positives and negatives. It does help. It’s painful to watch ourselves. We do a lot of weird things, but it can help you in the long run.

The bottom line is this: you probably won’t have a fatal accident as a result of your pants being far too tight (unless the button bursts & you hit someone in the eye). You won’t lose funding over presenting in flip flops holding your starbucks, but it doesn’t do much for your presentation and it tells your audience you don’t have a lot of pride in what you’re doing.

As much as academia flaunts your identity and independence, it doesn’t hurt to look appropriate and professional when the situation calls for it. If you’re a bit overdressed, it’s still better than being under dressed in most situations. Dressing the part will also help you come across as a professional if you’re feeling less than confident at times. Sometimes, the right clothes can psychologically help you get your game face on.

Go ahead, take stock of the closet this week and get ready to knock the socks off your audience and give yourself a nice boost the next time the spotlight turns to you.

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