Teach the Earth > Early Career > Previous Workshops > Workshop 2013 > Participants' Wisdom

Workshop Participants' Wisdom

Prior to the 2013 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:

  • Personal life is nebulous, but in your professional life as a tenure-track faculty, you should be methodically focused on one thing: tenure.
  • Remember that setting personal goals is just as important as setting professional goals. Setting short term goals makes achieving long term goals more manageable.
  • As an early career scientist, it is easy to focus on your academic goals and forget to set time aside for your personal goals. Focusing on small academic goals and not trying to do too much is important. Schedule personal time (with your family, friends, or just for you) and resist the urge to let the professional activities encroach on this time.

On time management:

  • Four things:
    • Do not assign multiple writing assignments in courses your first semester, particularly in larger class sizes. Even short papers (~3 pages) require 15 minutes of grading... multiply that by how many students you have in your course and the hours add up quickly!
    • Arrive early or stay late... and keep the door closed during that time. Quiet office hours allow for a more efficient use of your day... free of distractions from colleagues, students, etc.
    • Don't start from scratch. Utilize resources shared from colleagues, textbooks, etc. You have plenty of years ahead to perfect your courses. The more prep you can do in advance... the less sleep you'll lose later in the semester.
    • Get "almost done" publications out the door before the semester starts! Identify strong collaborators for proposals early on. Create a deadlines sheet so you are well aware of approaching goals.
  • Making to-do lists and keeping them handy is helpful. Even in this age of computers and smartphones, lists on paper help a lot with time management.
  • Make a prioritized list of what needs to be done. Start at what's most important and work your way down. At the end of the day, don't stress out if you didn't complete the list. Congratulate yourself on making time for what was important and making the rest wait.
  • Do not strive to develop a perfect course lecture in one sitting–this is a highly difficult and time consuming task. Instead tweak lectures slightly each time the course is taught.

On the job search process:


  • Advice for a phone interview: be prepared. Do your homework as if you were preparing for an in-person interview. Have all of the potential information you might need at your fingertips. I laid print-outs all around my desk and sat right in front of my computer for my phone interviews. This was very helpful when I was asked specifically which of the department's course offerings I would be able to teach. I didn't remember the courses off the top of my head, but I was quickly able to pull up a course listing online and provide an answer.
  • Start your job search early when you are approaching the end of graduate school. I started a full year before I finished my Ph.D. If you can get a couple of interviews early on, it is good practice for the interviews you'll go on closer to graduation when it really counts!
  • There is so much to share but my top four pieces of advise on Campus Interviews:
    • Do your homework! Not surprising but it really matters. Research everyone you're meeting with. It can help to have read some of their papers and have relevant questions if the meeting stalls. And it really is a good idea to prepare answers to common questions and rehearse them, and get them concise. You will repeat them probably 30 times in one two day job interview and they need to be good. The chances of them sounding stale is much less than the chances of your answer not being well thought out and long winded if you don't!
    • Prepare a list of questions to ask the people you meet with. You always want to have another question, because you always want to appear engaged, prepared and interested. You can ask them the same question you asked some one else, another perspective is very valuable.
    • Don't be afraid to hire a consultant - it works. There are people you can pay a reasonable fee to help you with any and all steps of the job application/interview/negotiation process and they know what they are doing.
    • Dress (at least) one step nicer than everyone you will be meeting with. This means different things for different disciplines and schools so pay attention to what is appropriate.

Negotiating your contract

  • I am very grateful that I showed a couple of mentors my offer letter. They helped advise my requests for revisions and I am so glad they did. The letter has been referenced at least three times in my first year and I'm glad that I'm comfortable with what it says.