Tag Archives: grad school

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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Manuscript Meltdown: Submission Season

Manuscript Meltdown: New Faculty

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The sound of the clattering keyboard is my favorite. Compared to the sound that I hear when my forehead hits the desk, it’s like music to my ears. Submission season is here! I love working up a manuscript, but only if I get enough time to do it.

Working with graduate students has rewards and challenges. Submission season has caused a small manuscript meltdown from one student this year due to time management. As someone who writes and submits regularly (like all of my colleagues), I cannot help but beg and plead with graduate students to manage their time in order to get timely feedback.

As a young faculty member who happens to love writing and research, I enjoy seeing my students make positive progress. No, you won’t get accepted 100% of the time, but if you’re improving, then you’re moving forward. As a faculty, I always remember to thank my students for their continual hard work. I know it’s a pain. I know it’s not always fun. AT ALL. But, I know why we’re all here. I’m here to help. I’m here to guide. I’m here to comment my face off in your word document in the spirit of improving. I often preface my first round of edits with, “I comment because I care” and I really do. Be worried if you don’t see any comments. Unless we’ve been working on this for a while, I’ve probably lost interest or didn’t give it the time it deserved.

  • Delegate your time in advance.
  • Send notes to your collaborators.
  • Know that it’s going to take much longer than you expected anyway.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask for help (in a timely fashion).
  • Follow the submission outline.
  • Find a submission to the same conference or journal that was accepted and model it.
  • Edit, edit, and edit it again.
  • Be explicit in your language in the body. There’s usually not space for flowery innuendo. Be literal. Say what you mean.
  • Don’t expect help. I hate to be negative nancy on the whole thing, but sometimes, people don’t follow through. Sometimes, people are on your author list but don’t do work. Sometimes, you’re going to have to man/lady up and rock it out.
  • Understand in advance you can use the writing for something else. If this is ongoing research, you will likely be able to use it for other submissions or articles. Most conferences are moving towards abstracts for acceptance, but there’s still some laggards who want 10+ pages for a 20 minute presentation. I call this a “valuable lesson in patience.”

Understand that growth is what’s most important. You may not get accepted but did you manuscript improve from the previous submission? Becoming a better researcher is a process, it’s something I remind myself of daily. There will be days of frustration and there will be days of sheer triumph. Celebrate whenever you can. It’s always worth a little dance party in your office.

 

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Al Bundy Syndrome: Grad School Memories

Al Bundy Syndrome: Grad School Memories {New Faculty}

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I know a lot of people who went to grad school. Comes with the territory I suppose.  Some with me, many and most, not. I like working with, collaborating with, and checking in with my grad school cohort from time-to-time. We’re all doing quite well in life-happy, healthy, employed, and it’s really nice to be able to say hello, send a friendly text, email, or smoke signal in the form of a snapchat.

I’ve recently started noticing a few things. Some of the people in my life have what I’d like to call “Al Bundy Syndrome.” Remember Al from Married with Children? The show was a bit crude but our friend Al Bundy did nothing but relive high school for the duration of the show, it was one of the themes. He obsessed about his high school football career, fantasized about girls he wasn’t ever going to be near, and “won” the trophy at least 50 times.

On one hand, Al Bundy is my hero. He could constantly see himself in the best light, only to come around and realize that his kids were brats and his wife was lazy, albeit a hilarious ensemble of personalities. On the other, I felt bad for Al. His life had not gone the way he’d planned and instead of facing reality, he chose to head off to fairy tale land as often as he could. I’ve got quite a few people around me lately that have headed off to fairy tale land. While it’s fun to reminisce about times past, it can be great to catch up with old friends and fellow grad school survivors, I caution this because sometimes, it can become a detriment.

This might span more than just grad school. These folks think that it “WAS THE BEST TIME EVER” so much so, that at least one has returned with no job and no degree to just “hang out.” This might be indicative of a larger problem beyond what I’m discussing here. Others will constantly post on social media about how great it all was, how they hate their current jobs, and how they’d do anything to just come back here and ‘re-live those days.’ It’s fun to quote S*^t Academics Say and follow #whatshouldwecallgradschool on tumblr, but when reality sets in, coming back to grad school town and trying to relive those days would be an utter disappointment.

Why?
Grad school is a stage in life, not a perpetual lifestyle. It’s an experience like no other. Meaning, it’s the polar opposite of a jimmy buffett concert.

If you’re always saying how great it was, you’re missing out on the present. Al Bundy missed out on life, even if it wasn’t what he imagined because he was too busy trying to go back. There’s lots of value in reflection but at some point, we have to keep moving forward.

The rose colored glasses are nice, but they’re not permanent. If you’re stuck with those rose colored glasses on, is everything ok in your current ‘present?’ Sometimes, when we’re eager to stay in the past, it’s because something is quite wrong in our present. I have a colleague who does nothing but say how great every other place she lived was so great because she is very unhappy right now but while I knew her in grad school, she hated it but loved the prior places. See how this works? It’s a pattern. It’s ok to wear those rose colored glasses for a while and put them on, but taking them off is equally important. I’m not saying you should break those glasses into a million pieces, but sometimes, we avoid the present because it’s not going well.

If grad school was the best time of your life, then I’m jealous and envious of you. I liked many parts of grad school, but as a whole experience, it wasn’t my best time in life for various reasons. I can reflect now on the positive AND negative aspects of it and yes, I like catching up with friends as much as the next person, but I’m also eager to move forward with my professional and personal aspirations.

To make a long story short, don’t be like Al. Life might be super sucky right now, but was grad school really any better?

 

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Academic Self Care Isn’t Selfish

Self Care Isn't Selfish | New Faculty

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Summer slipped away in the blink of an eye and I’m currently battling the cognitive battle of “no, don’t you dare go into that office on sunday’s” and “but you have grading to do.”

As the academic year rears it’s glittery, sparkly, and slightly pretty head, all kinds of good and very bad things start to happen.

I begin to neglect. Everything. Including myself.

I stop cooking. Popcorn for dinner anyone?

I spend too much time at the desk.

I spend too little time doing all the things away from my desk that need to get done.

I know these things. I’m not proud. But, I started to employ a new system for myself that began in May. While we can’t go back in time, summer was a great transition time for me to get some things in life in order so when the academic year began, taking good care of myself would be easier, more normalized, and dare I say it, enjoyable?

1. I take care of a lot of appointments during August before classes begin. Dentist, annual physical, car inspection, etc….While it does take time, I still have some time in July/August. It was a few weeks of adult problems everywhere! It’s a rare gift to get your oil changed and have 30 minutes of unrequited time to read things online. I take care of these things so I don’t feel guilty for NOT doing them during the semester. I get any prescriptions filled and buy OTC things in bulk so I don’t run out in October and ask my doctor to do a 3-4 month prescription, if possible, so I don’t have to worry about the Target bot calling me 2048 times to let me know I’ve once again forgot to pick it up. I set up any auto pay accounts and revisit financial matters in the summer. The people usually have a little more time to talk to me and answer my questions. While it’s sometimes not the most optimal time to move my retirement accounts around, it’s necessary.

2. I make moving my body a priority. I stopped fooling myself a few years ago and embraced the fact that I have to move regularly. I have a standing desk, but there’s nothing like dropping 300 meters in the pool a few times a week. Going for a 2-3 mile walk or fitting in a good 75-90 min. yoga class are also excellent for me. Since I’m largely sedentary most of the day, I have to find a way. My old faculty appointment had me working very strange hours, but this new one is more normal and therefore, it’s been easier to get into a good routine. The pool is open for open swim from 5:30-7 p.m. each evening and I can often clear myself of responsibility easily for this, yoga, walks, or whatever else there is.

3. Working on the weekends. I’m on the struggle bus about this one. As deadlines loom for submissions and grad students send things at all hours of the day, I’ll keep plugging away. It’s a few weeks into the semester and I’m still happy to report I’ve not had to go in on the weekends. Home football games have also kept this “bad” habit at bay since the university sells every spot for tailgating and tows you away if you think you’re going to park your car anywhere near campus.

4. I prep food for the week on Sunday’s. Boiling eggs for quick breakfasts, making larger portions for leftovers, portioning out leftovers right away so I can grab one container and get out the door, and reviewing my calendar have all helped me eat better. I will usually spend 1-2 hours on the weekend prepping food. It’s not anything “extra” as I usually try to make a decent meal for myself on the weekends. Cutting up veggies so they’re ready to cook, boiling off a batch of rice and freezing it for quick meals, or defrosting meat to throw in the crock pot are all part of the routine for me now. During the days of weird faculty hours, food prep became essential when I was eating around 9 p.m. at night. The last thing I wanted to do was actually cook.

5. I continue to guard my time like a hawk. Writing group each week moves me off campus. Closing the door without fear leads to quiet time to work, and being strict with others and myself about when I can meet is key. I’ve set all my meetings with students this semester on Tuesday’s. If I have to go to one meeting, I might as well have three. I may not get a lot of work done on that day, but it’s not peppered throughout the week, losing an hour here or there. I schedule my weeks top heavy on M-W and have left Thursday’s open to get MY WORK done. I’ve also accepted that by Friday afternoon, I’m exhausted.

Self care isn’t selfish. There’s nothing wrong with voicing to yourself or those around you that you have to take a little time for yourself. There’s nothing wrong with making your calendar to be done by 5 p.m. so you can manage your personal life. There’s nothing to feel guilty about if you’re not a night owl or a morning person, as long as you get to work once you get to work. Academia is such a self-motivated industry, that you have to figure out what works for you. I have friends who work most of the night due to their own circadian clocks and the fact that that’s the time when the kids are asleep. I have friends who work regular days so they can spend time with their kids once they’re home and get them to school in the mornings. Optimizing what you’ve got to work with is key. Taking good care of yourself is not selfish and even if you want to hole up in a dark room with your apple tv, you shouldn’t feel guilty about doing so.

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We Become Who We Surround Ourselves With

we become who we surround ourselves with | new faculty

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It’s strange and awesome all at the same time that our social and peer groups can contribute to what decisions you’ll make, how you’ll tackle each day, and what may or may not come out of your brain and mouth in actions.

I’m no stranger to the notion of who we surround ourselves with is who we become. I really struggled with this post grad school when I was still living with a grad student and trying to cross the bridge over to faculty mindset. It was a struggle. It’s still really fun to hang out with grad students, but man, those darn kids…. 😉

I ran across a quick article on HBR and it reminded me of myself and some of my ‘younger’ faculty type friends (I put myself into this category). My friend went to a baby shower (cue Seinfeld, ‘you gotta see the babbbyyyy!!!’) and noted that she met some really cool women who were all mostly faculty and how great it was. It reminded me once again that it can be unbelievably difficult to find a good core group of people. Bad decisions are sometimes a collective bargaining unit that starts as a fun night out but can quickly turn into a ‘what happened?’ moment for everyone. The same can be said for professional decisions. We can all think of someone (like ourselves) who made a poor decision on the job that was influenced negatively by our peer group. The voice in the back of our head is sometimes that of the people we perceive as our equals. Too many of these poorly based decisions begin to add up over time and nothing good comes of it.

I know we’re all marred away into the semester already and so the mere thought of leaving the house for a social activity can be daunting (pants made largely of elastic really ARE a gift) but I encourage you to take a moment to evaluate who you’ve surrounded yourself with. It can be extremely easy to cast those people off as “people i have to work with” and “i don’t really have much of a choice” but I’ll tell you that since switching faculty appointments, my life has gotten so much more pleasant. My hair (which falls out under major stress) has all grown back in (TMI? it’s true and it’s my truth. if you want to gauge my stress level, just look at my head). I didn’t realize how stressed out and cloaked in negative energy I was until some time in August. Seriously, my hair looks really full in front right now, my acne is just about gone, my blood pressure is NORMAL, and I find myself craving sugar and other crap much less.

To play my own devil’s advocate, I know I couldn’t have left my old post without a new one to go to. I understand that we have to ‘stick it out’ sometimes and that our circumstances are all different. I stayed in that job because I LOVED so many things about it. I didn’t realize how bad it was for me and my health until my health improved. I also didn’t realize how stressed out about the people in that old position I was until one of them began emailing me a few weeks ago DEMANDING I do work for him. Thankfully, my academic lady balls were in full force and I had no trouble shutting that down with my velvet hammer. It worked. I was relieved.

As academics, we get stuck. In grad school we get stuck in our research, in thinking out dissertation is going to be this ‘perfect’ thing, in labs and projects with weirdo’s who suck the life out of us. As faculty we often get stuck doing some service that we’re not thrilled with, working with some grad school weirdo’s that have no idea that coming to work is actually a mandatory thing, and so on. I encourage you: faculty and student alike, to evaluate who you’re surrounding yourself with and what you’re becoming as a result. It’s hard to see the forest for the sleaze sometimes. Sometimes we talk ourselves into the whole “it won’t last forever” bit (kind of like grad school) but what can we do in the interim to make it a more bearable experience? It might take detaching (with love of course) from negative forces to start that process and keep the majority of our hair in our heads and our acne at bay.

I’m ever so thankful to have a good group of peers right now. Ones who won’t be afraid to help me “check myself before I wreck myself” but also cheer me on to my own version of success. I hope you have that too.

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Grad Students: Über Confident Isn’t Winning

Grad Students: Über Confident Isn't Winning | New Faculty

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I’m always intrigued when I talk to grad students in general. I always like to hear about how their experience with grad school is going, what they like to do when they’re not doing grad school things, and then I like to run into the major advisors at meetings, workshops, and conferences.

Students in grad school tend to go one way or the other: uber confident to the point of arrogant OR the “zero” efficacy zone with so much humble pie, you would have thought they crawled out from one that very morning (also called bed).

I was out with a grad students who’s ABD and he gushed on and on about “how great things were going” and “i’m so far along” and “i’m killing it, i’m just killing it.”

Incidentally, I’d just seen his advisor about a week prior and they had something quite the opposite to say, “underproducer 100%,  a year or more behind.”

OUCH.

Where does this happen? Why does this happen? The Professor is In discussed grad student grandiosity and how it spills over into packets for jobs and it got me thinking about grad students I work with and pointed inward to the kind of grad student I was. This behavior begins long before a student begins putting together packets and the illusion that they’re somehow “doing great and killing it” is something that has always made me curious. I believe it’s a pretty fine line between doing great and doing terrible. It’s no secret that grad school is the destroyer of self-esteem in general so it never hurts to have a healthy ego, but at what point does that ego get the best of us and put us in the “a year behind” category without us even realizing it.

While it can be hard, open communication among the student/advisor is 100% necessary. Each party can only do so much to meet the other half way. What’s important to remember is this: your advisor already has his/her phd and you don’t. You can say that the advisor is awful or that they’re not helping you all you want, but they don’t need another degree and you do. If you think your advisor only has you to worry about, reframe your thinking: your advisor has more work that he/she will ever know what to do with and you’re about 1/48 of his/her plate of work on any given day.

Being self motivated is the only way you’re going to finish. You can have the best support group, most outstanding advisor, and amazing research, but the only thing that will get you to completion is YOU. Compensating with ego will only get you so far, the jig won’t last long when no words come out on the paper. I watched this happen several times during grad school and several more on faculty. You can only go so long without doing the readings, you can only last so long by not buckling down.

As you begin a new academic year, I implore the faculty and the students to communicate. Managing expectations will help everyone and being clear on those in advance can only turn this into a positive outcome. I’m not going to pretend that grad school is full of magic and unicorns, but you can get out with some slice of dignity left by pacing yourself through the marathon, being humble, and working through the process.

I bid you a productive and steadfast academic year.

 

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Time Management 101 From Dr. Tough Love

Time Management in Grad School | New Faculty

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“I love the sound of a deadline, I love the sound it makes as it goes whooshing by….” Whoever said this and coined it should be shot.

A  student missed a deadline. And they knew it. An email arrived while I was sleeping informing me that they were going to miss it. Life is a moving target friend. You just got shot.

It’s not fatal, they extended it by a few days. Upon request to meet because they’d just been confused the last few weeks, I handed over some resources, we discussed a few things, and onward ho. Take a stab at it friend. It’s writing, not your last love note before you die. But again, they failed to produce. Time management friends. Time management.

I forget that grad students (students in general) think we’re only working on ‘their thing’ & was reminded of that when a student said, “oh, is this for our stuff?” after telling him that it wasn’t he said, “oh, you have more work than this?” yes sir…..gads of other work besides your (now late) work…..

Is it ok to miss a deadline? Absolutely, but don’t do it because you’re confused and then wait until the last moment. That’s not cool, in fact, it’s really un-classy. And we’re going for super classy folks. In all seriousness, don’t be that guy. Ever. Or at least try not to be. It’s better to take a stab at the writing and get it all back with a million comments in Word or bleeding than to turn nothing in at all. That’s even worse. Slow productivity is at least still productivity. Shutting down the machine is just a pain in the neck for everyone involved.

The fatal error for this student: Time management or lack thereof. A second year grad student should have a better handle on this. I misjudged them. My mistake. Excuse after excuse flooded my inbox, came to see me in my office, and generally interrupted my workflow for days. In fact, I’m still waiting. Instead of reading their work, I have had 15 minutest to blog today-score! Or, in the spirit of the world cup- GOALLLLL!!!!!!

Summer is a great and wonderous (albeit short) time to create some good habits, set manageable expectations, and get your act together. I can only assume 50% of the responsibility for the student missing their deadline (yet again) and if I asked for $1 every time I got a crap ass excuse, I would be able to go out for dinner. I cannot do the writing for the student, they were hired specifically for this task, they’ve had weeks and I can no longer stand for the excuses. Welcome to grad school.

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Isolation in the Academy

Isolation in Academia | New Faculty

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As my colleagues and I surge to the end of another semester, the only thing I’ve been really good at lately is falling asleep on the couch. The days are full, the data is never ending (in a good way), but at several points over the last few weeks, I felt isolated in my own little corner of the campus. While there’s 20,000+ students milling around me, I consider academia to be an isolating and solitary job. While I usually don’t mind it, the introvert in me and all, every once in a while, I find myself a bit lonely. Eager for some conversation that swells beyond work and deadlines, I’ve made a point over the last few years to cultivate my network and cast a wide net to help my social life and my professional life.

My “friends” are both personal and professional, some are both, some are one or the other. I was having breakfast with a friend who falls into the “both” category and she was lamenting that she’d fallen off the face of the earth while writing her dissertation. She was starting as I was finishing and we got along very well. I respect the fact that she got busy with her own ‘life’ and we’d still see each other every couple months, write together, or have a meal. No big deal, no hard feelings. She has defended and resurfaced for air (as I like to put it) to rejoin society and sought out a breakfast date a few weeks ago.

It was really nice to see her again. Smiling, relaxed, a little less crazed looking. I’d been to her dissertation defense and was happy to support her through the process the best I could. She reminded me of how isolating academia can be. She even mentioned that she had disappeared without a trace for the last year and finally felt like she could do some things–reading books, back to working out, etc…and finding time to reconnect with friends who had gone to the wayside while she wrote.

As a young faculty and a reformed grad student, it can be very isolating. You sit with your research and your work day after day and while you’re often surrounded by colleagues, fellow grad students, or other researchers doing similar work, sometimes you need to head out of your usual peer group to find some interaction that DOESN’T relate to your work day. I’m proud to say I know very little of what my friend researches. I’m familiar with it in broad strokes, but it’s not anything I have interest in. I like my friend because she’s a cool lady, she’s intelligent, and very easy to chat with. While we share some similarities, we’re vastly different and that’s perfect for us.

It does take time and effort to have friends in academia because it is so isolating. Conferences are usually a few days long and cultivating professional relationships take a lot of time and usually a lot of technologically enhanced devices to foster the communication. I urge you as young faculty or grad students to:

go out and have some real interactions

Put the phone down. Turn off the device and leave the house or office for a few hours. I’ve found great people through my yoga studio, through face-to-face interactions with colleagues that have become friends, and through friends of friends who have all gotten together to form a super awesome ‘ladies group’ that gets together about once per month. We use GroupMe as our communication medium and coordinate real time, face to face, usually fun meet ups filled with good eats, good drinks, and lots of laughter. Rarely do we discuss work, research, or anything related as not all of us are on faculty, have phd’s, or work for the university.

Of course, on the flip side of the coin, it’s ok to let go of those people who just don’t jive with you. I have a colleague who was a good friend to me when I needed it but each time I’d suggest some ‘face time,’ there was always an excuse. I gave up. I wasn’t going to keep offering to foster a real friendship if nothing was being reciprocated. We cannot function on texting friendships all of the time.

Start small and within your means. Do it once a week. Even if it’s with people you work around, set the context by leaving work. Throw a potluck, hit a restaurant, open the invite at a coffee shop. By changing the environment, we often change our attitude and our mood, and it can lead to other conversations that don’t start and end with work.

Understand that this is not selfish. If you’re happy and fulfilled in one part of your life, you’re likely to feel the same with others. Practicing self-care isn’t selfish, it’s necessary. Being miserable is not the way your early faculty years have to be. Yes, it’s hard. I know, I’m in the middle of it, but it’s become more enjoyable by building a network and releasing myself from my own isolation.

 

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Just Beeeee Yourself

Beeee Yourself | New Faculty

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Some days I think I have this faculty thing down–work like a dog, survive on little sleep, slug coffee like a champ. Other days, I go…..derrrrrr……

My job is currently going great. It’s going so great that it’s ending–you know how it goes. Funding is finishing up and there’s going to be some major personnel changes in the near future, me being one of the personnel changes. While I cannot share much yet about my next steps, I have one learned one valuable lesson this spring on the job market:

Just be yourself.

Everyone is already taken. Being someone or something else to fit a standard or ideal is physically and mentally exhausting. Not to mention that in the world of getting hired, saying what you think people want to hear vs. what you actually believe is pretty transparent to most people.

I struggled with this out of grad school. I was full of theory and wisdom and methods and….crap! I had no clue what I wanted to research, where I wanted to go, or what I thought about ________. A recent slew of interviews taught me a few things though.

I can verbalize what I know vs. what I don’t know now.

I have some clear thoughts on research, evaluation, program management, and other fun things.

I know a whole lot more now that I did when I was bright eyed and bushy tailed grad student. Is there always  more to learn–of course, but it’s taken me a couple years to wrap my head around it.

I’m not afraid. I don’t fear these interactions. I don’t get the nerves. I approach them differently than I did a few years ago.

I’m also finding myself more confident about negotiating what I would want in a position vs. what I actually need. Sure, I’d love 100 billion dollars for research, but how would I even manage that? What’s more realistic? What are my professional goals and how do they align with the positions that I’m interviewing for?

As a grad student or a young faculty who might not be in the exact place they want, it can be difficult to navigate  the job market. Higher education isn’t going to stop changing and as long as you’ve got a horse in the race, the smartest thing you can do is just be yourself.

 

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Be the CEO of Your Calendar

Managing Your Calendar | New Faculty

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On no particular Friday, I had run out of mental gas. However, I had set up myself with several meetings, had edits to do on an article that had been accepted, had a laundry list of recommendations to write for students, and above all: I really wanted to crawl back in bed or just relax for a few hours.

As I tried to pysche myself up for the meetings, I opened up my calendar, only to close it almost immediately. It was far too scary. I noticed several things though:

  • my afternoons are largely blocked off already
  • i work best in the mornings
  • i have done a GOOD job of blocking off time for ‘life stuff’ like working out and social activities (which generally happen ‘after hours’)
  • there are some things in my calendar that are ‘non-negotiable’ and i have been diligent about keeping them as ‘sacred time’ because of the value they have in my life: personally and professionally
  • i will often work until about 8 p.m. most work days and have worked hard to modify my schedule to fit my needs and try to find some balance. i may be up at 7 a.m. working on those days but i try to take a break in the middle of the day to get re-energized.

Thinking reflectively about it, I should not have scheduled meetings for a Friday. Thankfully, there were in the morning, my “prime time” for my brain, my attention, and my time. By Friday afternoon, you’re better off going shoe shopping with me because that’s all the mental capacity I can handle after 3 p.m.

I covet Friday’s in academia because it’s my ‘catch up’ day. It’s the day I do this neat thing called “administrivia” and move a lot of paper, virtual or real, answer emails I’ve put off all week, and even schedule appts. off campus (life tasks) because I know it won’t be my most productive day.

I saw this post way back in the spring, saved it, and here we are….late fall…. Elmore discusses what he recommends as ways to be the BOSS of your calendar and I would agree and argue several of his points.

1. Identify one objective that energizes you each day and do it.

  • what’s the ‘big task’ of the day you need to tackle?
  • if there’s more than one, can you chunk it out?
  • respect your circadian clock. do you handle tasks better in the morning? are you a night owl?

2. Place similar activities in time blocks.

  • i put all of my ‘school site’ work in one chunk, sometimes that’s the whole afternoon since i’m often out at schools until 6 p.m. and then come back to do several more hours of work. i build my schedule so working until 8 p.m. is the norm for me on those days.

3. Schedule in advance your biggest “rocks.”

  • i would easily say that ‘writing’ is my biggest rock personally. i really need to go to my happy place to get the writing done. even after several years, i still have not found the perfect place to find my happy place. sometimes, i don’t have the luxury of finding my super happy place and i just need to get it done.

4. Invite a colleague to help you say no and stay on track.

  • we’ve talked about having friends in and outside of your faculty work. this is a perfect time to connect. whether it’s a mentor or some other type of colleague, it’s ok to find an accountability buddy.

5. Create systems to help you accomplish ongoing tasks.

  • need a reward, a motivator, or find satisfaction in crossing things off of your ‘to do’ list? whatever works, employ it!

6. Plan for margins in the calendar for priorities you must pursue.

  • forgive yourself. there might be days when you just sink more than swim. go home, lick your wounds, recover, and get back on that horse the next day. odds are you’re already doing great, we just need to reflect and revisit our calendar from time-to-time in order to breathe and reboot.
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