Wednesday, September 1, 2010

From student/postdoc to professor

Many of us are in our first year as "the professor" - it can be a rude awakening. The career advice gurus of the Chronicle of Higher Education have spoken with several professors to get their take on how to navigate that first year. Here is the piece of advice that resonates most strongly for me:
"Joining a department means getting to know a lot of new people and how they get along (or not). The junior faculty member who chose to remain anonymous received some good advice on that: "The chair of my grad program told me that the best idea was to conduct an ethnography the moment you get into a department. You have to know who the players are and what the issues are. ... At the end of the day, oftentimes the decisions in committee meetings are not personal—they are historically based, and so you have to learn not to take them personally." That advice helped him keep a sense of perspective during faculty meetings."

Learning the local culture, history, politics isn't always easy because the system you're entering may be pretty closed, but keeping in mind that historical, non-personal perspective will really help preserve your sanity and override the paranoia that comes with the territory.

I would add that you need to remind yourself that YOU BELONG THERE. Remember how grueling the job search was - you're there because the department thought you were the best fit and they are excited to have you. You will absolutely feel that you're in over your head, and there will be times when you're not quite sure what you should be doing throughout the day, but you do belong there. And in time, you'll actually believe it!
Best of luck to all our first-year BANDIT profs!

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