Monthly Archives: February 2016

Revisiting Plan B

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It’s been a while since I thought about plan b at all. Quite frankly, I haven’t had the time.

A conversation with a graduate student last week caused me to hit my own pause button.

The student had come in to see me about working up a manuscript. We chatted about the work and then I asked him how his job search was going. He had been very transparent with everyone about his job hunt; seeking advice, getting feedback, and asking good questions.

Upon asking, he slumped down a bit and said, “it’s not going so well.”

Like any good advisor(y) type person, I said, “what’s your plan b?”

“There is no plan b.”

Uhhh…..

The student had assumed too much because we had given him too much hope. I hate to say it, but it’s true. We assume that our students will all finish and there will be mountains of opportunity for them. While there should be, there’s not. At all. The numbers on tenure track positions decline and continue to do so and the number of other types of positions rise to save universities money. It’s happening where I work too. I’m not in a TT line either so I’m having the same struggle.

I have thought about all of my options though. Many, many times….and I’ve tested the waters too. Applying, interviewing, etc…

But this student had not done anything outside of academic job applications.

And I hope he does now.

As many of you get to take a pause for a deserved break, I hope that if you’re thinking about finishing anytime in the next six months, you’ve got your “unicorn” but you’ve also thought a little bit about plan b. I don’t want to rain on your parade, but someone has to let you know or remind you that there has to be a backup. There would be nothing worse than wrapping up and not having anything to move toward. Sometimes plan b pops up when we lease expect it, so don’t be afraid to go towards opportunities that you may not have considered.

Plan b’s often turn into plan a’s and that’s how the job market works at times. Don’t count out your plan b. Keep working toward plan a, but in the meantime, don’t forget there’s other letters in the alphabet too.

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Things I’m Working On: Long Meetings

 

'Almost finished.'

‘Almost finished.’

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My love/hate relationship with meetings persists, but I started doing something in the new semester that’s really helping me feel better. I stop at the time the meeting was SUPPOSED to last for and exit. I say I have to go and I do. Whether it’s physically leaving the room or hanging up the conference call, I have to go. Even if I didn’t necessarily have something else after, I still leave.

Why?

My time is valuable too and your inability to manage your time is not my problem.

Sound harsh?

Yes. It is. It’s honest. If a monthly check in meeting is scheduled for one hour, then I give it one hour. If I say class starts at 1 and ends at 3:50, we’re done at 3:50. I don’t expect people to stay late for me, so why would others expect me to stay late for them?

Meetings have always stirred an emotional response for me. I know we need them, but they get so long, drawn out, and are often useless after the first 30 minutes. People are verbose in academia and a meeting is a great way to highlight that. Unless someone schedules extra time, there’s a crisis, or it’s a topic that is deemed as “incredibly important,” I’ve started seeing myself to the door and leaving. My time is equally valuable as yours, so don’t get upset when you try to run your meeting late and I have to leave. Just like I wouldn’t be upset if you left my meeting if it was running late.

I know we all have big decisions and important things we’re doing. I know we all get excited and passionate about our work, but there’s a limit on how much time we can give to everything and take time for ourselves. I’m learning that lesson over again this semester. Planning for work, a big trip, and scheduling swim times has proven to be a pain this semester. I’m getting them in, but I’m learning to keep the swim and move the rest because if I’m not moving, then I’m not interested in sitting through anything else.

I don’t view this as selfish and I’m sure you might disagree. I view this as necessary to survival. If I’m not writing, I’m not publishing. If I’m not reading, I’m not writing. If I’m in your meeting that’s running late, I’m not getting to my data analysis for writing. As an untenured faculty member, I have no choice but to continue to be selfish with my time. If that means stealing away from your long meeting on time so I have time to do my work, then I’ll keep doing it. I’m working on stopping the guilty feelings I harbor myself with in the name of keeping everyone else happy because then I end up unhappy as a result.

See how this works?

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself: Thinking Before Speaking

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Facilitating a class this semester has been really fun for me. Yes, FUN. It’s a seminar style class with a lot of interaction, discussion, and boiler plate type idea exchange going on each week. I have really enjoyed it thus far and would hope to offer a full three credit class off of it someday. It was an idea I’d been kicking around for a while so this was prime pickings for me to try it out with a group of students.

Overall, the students are outstanding. They have great thoughts, they are able to think critically and reflect, synthesize readings and pair them with other content. Really a stand up group. I could not be more pleased. Grad school is also a place to grow, to expand, and to broaden our horizons. Making sweeping comments, being judgmental, intolerant, and downright racist are not things I’m a big fan of. In class or in life. Some of my students forget where they sit at the table with me and a few have needed a gentle reminder (ok, so not so gentle).

After making some vast generalizations that were largely false, making a racist comment that I squashed, and continuing to be inappropriate, I told the student to ‘stop talking, you’re making it worse’ and kept class moving. The student thought I was joking. After calling all farmers “hipsters” and then making several statements that really, REALLY highlighted their privilege, I couldn’t take it anymore. The student then had the audacity to say “good morning sunshine” to me in the hallway one morning. WHAT? A few days later this same student sent me an email with a smiley face emoji in it. What’s going on? I’m not your pet, don’t call me a pet name. I’m not your BFF, don’t send me an emoji. I’m your professor, treat me with the same kernel of respect you want to be treated with.

Anyone who says that everyone is equal or there’s no issues with women in the academy has never been called ‘sunshine’ instead of “my name,” “dr.” or any other salutation or had an email with an emoji sent to them. Would this student have called my male colleagues “sunshine?” Me thinks not. EVER.

I’d like to conclude this post with a gentle, “check yourself before you wreck yourself” to all the grad students out there. My undergrads behave more respectfully than this person has been and I’m pretty tired of it. Making it known helped but not enough apparently. Here’s to a new week and if I have to glare, sneer, or put my foot down–you’d better get out of the way…..