From a reader, on Facebook:
“Thank you for the post on The Five Year Plan.
“After reading it, I realized that during my years as a tenure-track assistant professor, I went about publishing and doing research, the way I do the grocery shopping: concentrating on the sale items (conferences, book reviews, on-line collaborations), ie, all things that seemed ‘affordable.’
“As a result I stock up on unnecessary items and find myself too tired to focus on the important things, those items that do not go on sale, but that are the building block of a good kitchen: articles and books.
“Luckily, it’s never too late to understand one’s mistakes and amend them. I wish I had realized the importance of planning about 4 years ago. Although I have managed to publish quite a bit, I have squandered a lot of time and energy, because I did not have a clearly elaborated research plan.
“I am getting there, thanks to your suggestions, for which I am deeply thankful.”
I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such a brilliant and elegant sketch of the seductive allure of the “easy.” Everybody has done it–accepted an offer to publish or present a paper because it was handed to you, possibly by a friend or ally, without any particular effort on your part. “It’ll be quick!” you say to yourself. “I’ll get an easy line on the CV out of it!”
Who knows, you might even congratulate yourself on your career savvy.
The quick and easy sale items of the academic career leave you with a CV that looks like the stockpile of an extreme couponer—a collection of stuff that you’ll never use and that doesn’t sustain you. Put in academic terms, the CV becomes a stockpile of low-rent quasi-achievements that don’t actually bring you visibility and job offers.
One high-risk, high-cost item—a book proposal successfully written and pitched to the leading press in your field, a journal mss. dragged through the excruciating, endless review process of the top journal in your area–is worth ten of the cheap alternatives like book reviews.
If you are an extreme couponer of the academic marketplace, don’t be misled by the rapidly growing length of your CV. If the content is not rich and meaty and meaningful, the quantity counts for little.