Cutting Edge > Early Career > Previous Workshops > Workshop 2010 > Participants' Wisdom

Workshop Participants' Wisdom

Prior to the 2010 workshop, we invited participants to share their wisdom with their colleagues, based on their experience. Here's their advice for other early career faculty members about time management or work-life balance and for graduate students and post-docs about the academic job search process.

On work-life balance:

  • I believe it is fundamental to actually "have a personal life." You might not be fully successful in your professional life, but you will be happier as a human being.
  • Improve efficiency at work.

On time management:

  • Block off times for research, writing, lecture prep, lab prep, just as you would for classes and office hours; even blocking off time for personal things works well
  • Although I don't always practice these well, here is what I know:
    1. Learn to say "no" (or postpone your "yes" until after you have thought it through)
    2. Turn off your email (limit how many times it is checked)
    3. Post your writing/research times on your door and follow a schedule
    4. Set goals for blocks of time. Get done what can be done in that time
    5. Only sign up for half of what you think you can do
  • Utilize campus areas other than your office to get writing done
  • I give myself limited time to think about and prepare for class, the 3 hours right before the class meeting. It keeps me efficient.
  • Turning off your email alert prevents frequent distractions from the work in front of you. Set aside some time each day to process email, and have a catalog of prepared replies for student questions that tend to repeat (e.g, "What do I do if I forgot to turn in homework 4?").
  • Block off time for at least several hours a couple of days every week in your calendar just for you. Communicate that you will be unavailable at these times with the people who need to know. Use this precious time to think, reflect, write, plan, and to organize your upcoming days and weeks. Do not feel bad for doing this! Do not feel guilty. Your graduate (and undergraduate) students will be just fine. Your lab will be just fine. Be very stingy when it comes to giving up this time for something else. You will get very little guidance from anyone on how to use your time well. You will have more to do than you can accomplish in any given day. Get accustomed to this. As a new faculty member you might feel (as I often did- and sometimes still do) as if you always have to say yes to anyone's request about attending a meeting, or chatting about this or that. It is appropriate to say NO. In fact, learning to occasionally say no (in a nice way of course) is very empowering. Be strategic about your time, and most of all take care of yourself.
  • Schedule office hours early in the morning as a way to ensure student loitering does not interfere with students having class related questions.

On the job search process:

Choosing a focus for your job search

  • This was a difficult one for me! My mind is most 'well-fed' by research, but I also love to teach. Reading job descriptions, I found things in each of them that I liked and didn't like, but none that seemed "perfect." I decided to simply apply for all of those for which I technically qualified, being as honest about my research ambitions and pedagogical beliefs as possible. The three interviews I got were all for positions for which I never would have thought I really 'fit' the description. However, during the interviews it became clear that I would be very happy with any of the three, and that perhaps I would have been much less happy with those I thought were a better fit at the outset. I don't know how well this strategy would work for others, but the experience led me to conclude that there is quite a lot not conveyed in a notice or posting.
  • Just try! There's no harm in applying - it's good experience and you might be surprised that something unexpected is a good fit for you.

Navigating the job search process as part of a dual career couple

  • Discuss your career goals/wants early and often - don't wait until there are job offers to consider. Think about what aspects of your career each of you are willing to compromise for your partner (e.g. are you flexible about where you live, whether you are tenure-track, whether your position has a teaching or a research emphasis)? This might help you focus your job search and eventually choose the job offer that will be the best for both of you.

Interviewing

  • It helps to learn to sell yourself, even when it does not come naturally. Attitude also matters. Be honest, and show how happy you are to have the opportunity to interview. It helps to care enough to try hard, and not to care so much that you are paralyzed by fear of failing. Compared to my multiple interviews outside of academia, however, the three-day academic interview, though exhausting, was much more fun. I approached the interview for my current position as a learning opportunity: prepared to fail, but ready to learn from it, and just excited to meet new, interesting people. In terms of practicalities:
    • Know something about the people you will talk to; it makes for better conversation. It's also simply more polite not to just talk about yourself.
    • Be well-rested before and during the process. Go to bed as early as possible. Talking to dozens of people takes a lot out of you.
    • Have a great well-prepared talk. This counts for a lot and is the one stage of the interview that is completely under control. Talk to a general, rather than specialist audience. Consider bringing your own wireless mouse and pointer. Ask to use your own laptop.
    • Dressing professionally can be key to feeling together and confident. Comfortable shoes are important since there can be lots of walking.


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