Initial Publication Date: July 7, 2016

Workshop Participants' Wisdom

Prior to the 2016 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:

  • Work smarter, not harder. More hours (in the office/lab, behind a computer, at your desk, on campus, etc.) do not always equal better science. Take time for physical and mental health, for developing strong personal relationships, and for leisure activity. Fussing and being miserable is not going to make me produce better research ideas, results, or interpretations. Our brains are working on science even while we're doing other things. Set goals and use external motivators as needed (deadlines, meetings with colleagues or students to keep you on target), but learn how to meet these goals while allowing increased personal time. Do not get caught up in appearances of productivity that don't move you toward your legit goals. Don't compare yourself to other people – your unique set of family and personal life values are going to be different from theirs.

On the job search process:

Interview Process:

  • Make sure to research the department you are interviewing in, not being prepared and not knowing what people work on reflects badly on you and can cost you the offer. In this very competitive job market, most people invited to interview for a faculty position are impressive research wise, so the choice between candidates sometimes comes down to little things like who seemed more enthusiastic or who people liked best as a future colleagues.
  • This piece of advice is for a faculty job search. Check with the chair of the search committee, but make sure to include future research plans in your talk. This gives the job talk a sense of vision. Another piece of advice is to look for example questions that are frequently asked during an interview. These example questions were invaluable when I interviewed at different schools.
  • Here are two pieces of advice from my experience in the interview process:
    1. Never count yourself out of the running! Once you have an interview, you have made it to a very select group and anything can happen. I found it calming on focus on convincing the search committee that I was qualified for the job rather than worrying about whether they thought I was the MOST qualified candidate for the job. You cannot control who else is applying but you can control your own actions and through that, how you are perceived. Focus on doing the best you can do rather than competing against unknown peers!
    2. Being collegial goes a long way during the interview process. People want to hire someone who they want to work with so never underestimate the power of being friendly, enthusiastic, and inquisitive.

On Getting What you Need to Succeed in Light of a Disability:

  • Identify what you need and determine how to get it. When attending a conference, giving a visiting seminar, or going on a job interview, contact a pragmatic coordinator very early in the process. Once you've established your professional role, have a phone conversation or email stating what you need. Don't apologize or over-explain. Be matter-of-fact. Extra bathroom trips, taking medication, napping, breast-pumping, diet restrictions, all kinds of things. I've put myself through unnecessary difficulty by not knowing what steps would help me, or not knowing who to ask, or just being too stubborn to admit that I need to deal with a health issue. Often we don't want to publicize our situation. Find a pragmatic person with the power to help and keep issues confidential.