As August accelerates and academics panic as their summer dreams/plans meet the harsh reality that one usually does not get done all that they want to do, it is time to give unsolicited advice to the new folks. For great advice on how to manage one’s mental and emotional well-being, see this thread. I have some more tactical advice about expectations and getting through the first year, as I remember making the same mistake three times on the first day of teaching.
While it is hard to do and particularly hard to do while starting out, the general conventional wisdom (and wise it is) is that one should try to have three pieces under review at most/all times. Why? Because academic review is a capricious enterprise that often takes much time.
It’s getting to be that time of year again – the time when a fresh not-so-fresh crop of ABDs/PhDs gear-up for the academic job market. I’ve been there – it can make even the most self-assured academic have an existential crisis.
As much as I hated being on the job market myself, I absolutely love looking up and providing job market advice for students at Mizzou. I think I received especially good advice when I was a grad student and I think the advice I received has been causally related to my present situation (which I love). I’d like to “pay it forward.” On my first day as DGS, I wrote a 5,000 word memo on the job market process to all our grad students. A lot of the advice I give is similar to what I received when I was a grad student. As the season approaches, I thought I’d share some of it with you.
For this post, I thought I’d bring attention to what most of the job market consists of for most people:
As a grad student, I used to the think longingly about the day when I would finally hold a tenure-track job. I could almost taste the thrill of the teaching and the joy of faculty resources. You mean, someone will pay for my copy of [insert software you’d like to use legally]? And, textbooks will be free? I also fantasized about how wonderful it would be to not be under the thumb of my advisors. Of course, I thought I could live like a queen on a faculty salary, too. The tenure-track position was my white whale.
Three months into the job, however, I wanted to give my white whale back. Everything in my life seemed like a mess – my relationship with my SO was rocky, I hated teaching, I just knew I would never get anything published, and I felt like I had no time for anything fun, ever. I’ve talked to other first year professors over the years and I think this is a common position to be in during the first year on the tenure-track. And, like all the other loads of unsolicited advice I’ve doled out on the Duck, I thought that I’d spread the word about the “first-year” blues. Although everyone – EVERYONE! – I’ve ever met is so thankful for the tenure-track position, a lot of us feel the learning curve is pretty steep. Perhaps if I had had realistic expectations about what to expect that first year, I would have been better able to deal with all of the changes that come that first year.
There are some strategies I’ve heard for improving your transition from grad student to professor. Here are a few of them. Michael Flynn, a current first-year professor at Kansas State University was extremely helpful in providing me comments on this post. His suggestions are also included below. Hopefully, others can leave their advice in the comments section.
Greetings, PhD Class of 2019. Welcome. We are excited for your arrival on campus later this summer. As you enjoy your summer, I thought I’d take this opportunity to write you with some advice for your next adventure. My comments are just based on my personal experiences but I thought maybe they would be of use to you as you start your PhD.
My first set of comments all revolve around one basic point: this isn’t an extension of undergrad. The early course work you do in preparation for your PhD should be thought of as something completely different from your past experiences. Even though the campus might look like your undergrad institution, even though there might be a football team and drink specials on Thursday nights – your days as a high-achieving undergrad are over. For some of you, you might be 10 or 20 years post-undergrad. You might have multiple master’s degrees and real-world experience. For others, you might have graduated just this summer. For everyone, however, graduate school – at this program – is just beginning. There are going to be lots of differences from your past experiences. Let me highlight a few: