February 27, 2005

Careers Outside of Academia

I've been checking out websites that have information for people considering job hunting outside of academia. There's a site called Sellout (doesn't the name speak volumes about the attitude of those staying in academia?) that has resources for academics thinking of leaving the fold.

As an outsider myself, I find it a little amusing. I've seen this kind of attitude with some of the patients in my clinical practice who have worked for years in a large government agency (I could tell you which one, but then I'd have to shoot you.) When they contemplate leaving, you would think they were moving to Outer Mongolia. The peer pressure is enormous to stay.

Although psychology graduate students are taught that they are part of the scientist-practioner model, meaning they are being taught to do both, in reality there are not enough jobs for all graduates to stay in academe and have a private practice. What bothers me is the hypocrisy -- "We want you to do this, but it is impossible for a large percentage of you to do it."

Clearly the same thing goes on in the humanities, although there are fewer opportunities outside of academe. Every year, thousands of Ph.D.'s graduate into a world that does not have enough of the coveted tenure-track positions for many of them.

And yet when they decide to look for jobs outside of the university environment they are called "sellouts". What a two-faced system!

I recently read The 2000 National Doctoral Program Survey of graduate students. Only 52% felt that they got adequate preparation in searching for careers or jobs outside of academia. Although 95% felt comfortable talking to their advisor about careers in academia, only 75% felt comfortable doing the same regarding careers outside of academia.

I'm glad that I didn't stay in academia, because it didn't suit my personality. It's clearly a wonderful career for those who enjoy all that it entails. I just wish that the system helped and encouraged people who want to take either fork in the road, and not just one.

February 19, 2005

Dissertation Advisor Horror Stories, Part 2

My next newsletter will be about terrible dissertation advisor behavior. I'm thinking about titling it "When Good People Become Bad Advisors." I like that title because I don't believe that these are bad people. There must be something about the dissertation advising process that brings out strange behaviors in some people.

If you would like to send me any horror stories, I will happily post them here or write about them in my newsletter (see sign-up on upper left of this page). Please change unimportant details so that all people involved remain anonymous. I'd love to hear from you!

February 16, 2005

Tenure Coaching: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

It is widely known that executives have coaches. Although they are successful, high-functioning people, they still hire coaches to help them become clear on their priorities, stick to their long-term goals, deal with difficult people and all the other problems of such a complex career.

Assistant professors have at least as difficult a career as high-level executives. They are really doing several jobs at the same time. As many of you who are reading this have experienced, the first year or two can be totally overwhelming. The time has come

for professors to take care of their needs in the same way that executives do: by getting the support and help of a coach. A coach can help them track the myriad of tasks that they need, keep a steady pace of publishing, networking, speaking and developing their teaching skills. A coach can offer support and advice with the complexities of departmental politics.
If your institution doesn't offer this kind of help, take good care of yourself and hire a tenure coach.

February 15, 2005

The Passionate Professor

My newsletter is coming out on Thursday with an article on how NOT to get tenure. I thought I'd mention a couple of thoughts on the professoriate.

In order to be a successful professor, you should have a passion for your subject and a gift for giving selflessly to others. The professoriate is a way of life; you are contributing to the greater good of society with your research, teaching and outreach to the community.

The first couple of years of being an assistant professor are so harried that it's hard to remember this viewpoint.

February 13, 2005

A Family-friendly Tenure System?

I just read an article in the Chronicle on a report about changing the tenure system to a more user-friendly state.   What I particularly like about it are the recommendations that will help female faculty who are mothers, such as: allowing more than seven years to earn tenure and allowing a certain amount of part-time work.  This not only supports women, it supports families.  If they finally take action on this, it will show that our institutions can support "family values" even though it might hurt them in the pocketbook.

February 8, 2005

Dissertation Advisor Horror Stories

In my role as a dissertation coach (I also coach faculty) I hear some amazing stories about how graduate students are treated.  Granted, I only hear one side of the story, but in most of the stories the advisors have no excuse.  For example, the advisor of one student went to Europe for a semester and did not return emails or phone calls from his student for over a month.  Did these people ever write a dissertation?  Were they mistreated and now want to get revenge?  I just don't understand this.

February 7, 2005

Another Time Management Hint

I wrote about using frequently done activities as a reward for writing (see Feb. 4.)  The problem is:  If you are giving yourself a reward for having written (e.g. you get to check your email for 10 minutes if you write for 20)  -- how do you get yourself back to work?  That seems to be the biggest problem for those who procrastinate and avoid.

One simple solution is to have a watch that you can set for 10 minutes and it beeps.  They can be bought cheaply at Target, for example.  Or just set your cell phone to ring, or vibrate if you're in the library, in 10 minutes.  The external cue works better than just counting on yourself to keep track of the time.

February 6, 2005

Tenure Decisions: Are They Ever Unbiased?

I've been reading about a case where a member of a tenure committee  had a conflict of interest with the candidate being considered for tenure.  It brings up the idea that when you are first hired as an assistant professor, you never know who will be on your tenure committee.  So brush up on your interpersonal skills, use diplomacy whenver possible, and keep asking yourself this question:  "Would I be ok if this person were on my tenure committee?

February 4, 2005

Time Management for Professors and Grad Students: Make E-Mail Your Reward

There is an often-overlooked principle in psychology: Something that you choose to do with high frequency is a reinforcer. Many of my graduate student or assistant professor clients admit that they spend a lot of time checking e-mail. The conclusion? Make checking your email your reward for doing a less-preferred activity.

How to put this in action? Well, you know what you don't want to be doing. Decide that you will do it for, say, 15 minutes (see my last newsletter article.) If you do manage to spend the allotted time on your dissertation or article, then you get to check your email.

How to get back to the work after you check your e-mail? Aye, there's the rub. I'll leave that to a later blog...

February 3, 2005

Time Management

I just got off the phone with a client, and we went over several aspects of time management. These issues pop up repeatedly with faculty and graduate students alike.
She had been filling her to-do list with tasks to finish this week. As a result, she was working far too many hours and never feeling caught up. I suggested that she:
  1. Set generous deadlines for self-generated (as opposed to assigned) activities.
  2. Make a schedule for the week, where she assigned herself specific times for working on items, e.g. Tuesday and Thursday from 1:00 to 2:00 work on committee agenda.
  3. See the deadlines as something that will change as she learns more about her tasks.
As with many academics, she was caught in the spiral of "I'm really good at this, so I should volunteer to do it and do the best job possible." What I say is, "just because you CAN do it, doesn't mean you SHOULD do it."

February 2, 2005

Another thing I love about coaching

Strangely enough, I enjoy learning about academic areas that I had no interest in when I was in college. It's like I get to put my feet in the water and enjoy it without getting my hair wet. Maybe only women will understand that one.

Blog at last

Well, it's taken me a while to set up my own blog. Since I always seem to have extra words, I might as well put them here. Since becoming a coach for graduate students and professors, I have been shocked to find out how much I love working with English/Comp Lit/Religion/Humanities types. I was used to hanging around with science types -- my father having been a physics professor, my husband a doctor/doctor (Ph.D./M.D.) and psychology being a science, according to some. But the humanities people are so eloquent and deep. Whenever I get off the phone from my humanities dissertation group, I feel like I've been reading poetry. I know one of them is reading this now and snickering.