Pearls of Wisdom–The Blog

~~ You tell the truth, you tell it well. In the crowded and fetid swamp that is the job market, that is oxygen.” – a reader

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MORE ABOUT THE BOOK

The definitive career guide for grad students, adjuncts, post-docs and anyone else eager to get tenure or turn their Ph.D.  into their ideal job.

Karen Kelsky has made it her mission to help readers join the select few who get the most out of their Ph.D. As a former tenured professor and department head who oversaw numerous academic job searches, she knows from experience exactly what gets an academic applicant a job. And as the creator of the popular and widely respected advice site The Professor is In, she has helped countless Ph.D.’s turn themselves into stronger applicants and land their dream careers.

Now, for the first time ever, Karen has poured all her best advice into a single handy guide that addresses the most important issues facing any Ph.D., including:

-When, where, and what to publish
-Writing a foolproof grant application
-Cultivating references and crafting the perfect CV
-Acing the job talk and campus interview
-Avoiding the adjunct trap
-Making the leap to nonacademic work, when the time is right

The Professor Is In addresses all of these issues, and many more.

If you would like your academic career to begin in delusion and end in disillusionment, then by all means, ignore Karen Kelsky. If, however, you want unvarnished straight talk about the academic job market—and how to navigate it—then heed her, and heed her now.” —Rebecca Schuman, education columnist for Slate.

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ABOUT THE BLOG

I post once a week, usually on Friday, on topics related to the academic job market, academic life and politics, general professionalization skills related to writing, publishing, conferencing, networking, and scholarly comportment, and the tenure process.

I also put up posts on the Post-Ac/Non-Ac job search by my Panel of Post-Ac Experts, on Monday or Tuesday.

Let me know if there’s a topic you want to see me post on!  I am always happy to put Special Requests into the queue. Comment here, or email me at: gettenure@gmail.com.

You can  always get to a particular Category by clicking it in the Categories column to the right.———>

Please note that as of January 2013  the rate of comments to this blog has exceeded my ability to respond individually to each one. I’m sorry that not all comments will get a personal response by Dr. Karen.  If you have a really pressing question, do consider getting in touch to get on my calendar to work together.  I strive to make services affordable to all.

Here’s a short glossary to help you follow the discussions in the blog:

 

TT– tenure track

 

VAP–visiting assistant professor (position)

 

ABD–all but dissertation (status)

 

SLAC–small liberal arts college

 

R1–top ranked research-intensive institution with Ph.D.-granting departments, such as University of California at Berkeley, University of Michigan, etc.

 

R2–research institution with primarily MA-granting departments




How To Negotiate Your Tenure Track Offer

Negotiating season is in full swing!  I’m working with a whole crew of clients on negotiating their offers, and I’ve got plenty of room in my schedule for more. Please consider getting in touch; clients routinely increase their offers by $10,000-$50,000 (and more if you’re in the sciences). This was originally posted in 2011, with a few updates added since then.  If you have an offer and are interested in getting this help, please email me at gettenure@gmail.com.

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Today’s post is a Special Request post for Ally and Katy and several other clients and readers who wrote asking for help on negotiating their contract after receiving an offer. I’m happy to oblige, but keep in mind that this particular matter, more than any other, is U.S.-specific. I’ve been told that in the U.K., negotiating is not done and the attempt alone might cost you the job. Other countries, I can’t say. But in the U.S., negotiating is de rigeur [2016 update: except on the rare but increasing occasions where it leads to an offer being rescinded, about which more below, and also please check the chapters in my book on Negotiating]. And women, in particular, are terrible at it, as this recent Chronicle piece points out.

So what follows are my recommendations for how to proceed when (gasp!) you are the recipient of the coveted offer of a job.

Do not, under any circumstances, accept the offer the same day they make it. When they call or email, answer pleasantly and politely, “Oh thank you. That is good news. I’m so pleased.” And then say, “I’d like to know more about the offer. When can we discuss the details, and when can I expect a written contract?” If the Department Head tries to push you for a commitment, simply repeat, “I am very happy for the offer, but I will need to discuss the terms and see the contract before I can make a final commitment. I very much look forward to discussing this further. I hope we can begin soon.”

Now, there are several things you need to know. Once an offer has been made to you, the institution cannot legally offer the job to anyone else for a certain amount of time. While that amount of time may vary by institution, be assured that you have at least one week to contemplate your response, and possibly as much as two or three. During that time you are in the driver’s seat. While unscrupulous or panicky or pushy Department Heads may try to hustle you, do not allow yourself to be hustled. You are now the one in charge. Bask in that.

[2012 Addendum:  As noted in comments below, more and more frequently candidates are finding offers being rescinded, either for budgetary reasons, or administrative foul-ups, or most appallingly, sheer institutional malfeasance.  Check out the Job Wiki page “Universities to Fear” for more stories of this nature.  I am unable to say with any certainty how common this is, and how much it should influence your actions vis-a-vis the offer. My sense is that it is still uncommon enough that you should treat all offers as open to negotiation.  The most important thing is to be guided by a trusted senior mentor from the moment the offer is made.   In the meantime, I am soliciting a guest post from someone with more direct experience with the rescinded offer. (The guest post is up). ]

[2014 Addendum:  I’ve seen two offers rescinded in three years of helping clients negotiate offers, and heard one other such story from a reader. In all cases the institution abruptly shut out the client when the client simply asked for more information about/initially raised the option of negotiating elements of the offer, with a email that said something like, “thanks for your interest in the position; we will be moving on to another candidate. Good luck with your career.”  These were all very low-ranking, regional institutions. It is shocking and unconscionable.]

[2016 Addendum:  rescinded offers are on the rise.  It’s a buyers market.  Please read a recent Chronicle Vitae column about this, and PLEASE get help, from me or from a trusted advisor, on negotiating your offer. Email me at gettenure@gmail.com]

(2014: With the above caveats…) Most offers have room for negotiation. You should first see what the formal offer is in terms of salary, summer salary, teaching load, leave time, research support, expectations for tenure, graduate student funding, service expectations (particularly if it is a joint appointment), support for a spousal hire, and other matters. Until you have these in writing you cannot make an informed response.

Once you receive these, decide what you’re going to come back with in negotiation. Because, you ALWAYS come back asking for more. You are entitled. It is expected. Do not miss this one-time-only opportunity to negotiate greater gain for yourself and your family.  

[2016 addendum: Here are elements for which you can negotiate:

Negotiating Priorities:

Salary

Start up funds

Teaching release first year

Guaranteed junior sabbatical

Computer and software

Conference travel

Moving expenses

Paid visit to look at houses

Summer salary (this is additional salary NOT connected to teaching offered on a short term basis for 1-3 years. Note that this refers to summers AFTER your first year teaching, not preceding it.  Useful as a backup if permanent raise request is unsuccessful)

Insurance coverage in the summer prior to starting the new position, if needed

Spousal position

Tenure expectations (if appropriate, ie, if you’re trying to come in with tenure credit)

If a second job:  credit toward tenure/credit toward sabbatical

[Please read comment stream for more elements of an offer that should be up for negotiation].

What you ask for will depend on you and your goals. A single person with no children might decide to prioritize research support —ie, additional leave time and a larger research budget to pay for overseas research. A person supporting a family might forgo additional research funding to prioritize a higher salary. A person seeking a position for their spouse might forgo both research support and salary in order to prioritize a spousal appointment. The point is, in all cases, this is the one AND ONLY time in your early years in the department that you can attempt to turn circumstances in your favor. So do it.

Always proceed courteously and professionally. I advise that you work by email not phone, especially for the first couple of exchanges.  Inexperienced, brand new Ph.D.s have no ability to instantly absorb the elements of an offer and evaluate them, let alone compose effective negotiating responses to them.  You need time to study them, discuss them with mentors, and craft your replies.  While old school (and usually male) faculty strongly favor the phone, my equally strong belief is that for every new Ph.D., but particularly for women and minorities, and first generation scholars, etc., it is critical that you preserve the breathing space of email, while also being hypervigilant to issues of tone (which so often can go awry in email. This is why you need a good negotiating email editor, just sayin’!)

Respond quickly to emails and calls, and never leave them hanging, even if just to say, “I received your latest email; thank you. I will study it and respond by tomorrow.” Ideally you should have a trusted senior colleague assist you in these negotiations. It is critical that you maintain positive relations with your likely future colleagues. But although they might grumble a bit as the negotiations carry on for a week or two, they will respect you. This is how the game is played.

Now, one aspect to consider is if you have another competing offer or possible offer. If you do, first off, lucky you—you have rocked the system. This is the absolute best position to negotiate from. If you are waiting on an offer from a second school, you may contact that second school and inform them of the offer you received from school one. You will write something to this effect, “Dear Steve, Thank you again for having me out to visit your department at XXX U. I enjoyed the visit immensely. I am writing to let you know that I have received an offer from another institution. My timeline for accepting this offer is approximately one week. I wonder if I could receive a response regarding your search within that time frame. I want to reiterate my interest in your position. I hope to hear from you soon. Sincerely, XXX”

You can be assured that this email will send a jolt of terror through the spine of Steve, if you are his department’s first choice. The greatest fear of departments once an offer is made is that the offerree will reject it and accept an offer elsewhere. The department may have a solid alternate candidate available, but often they do not. Departments often end up voting all but the top candidate as “unacceptable,” so failure to get the top candidate means a failed search, and the risk of losing authorization to hire that year. So all their eggs are in one basket, and that basket is you.

If you are their top candidate, and they just haven’t told you yet because they haven’t had a chance to complete their voting and offer process (offers may have to be vetted by the Dean before they can be made to the candidate), this small, courteous email will send the department into a panic. And a panicked department is what you want. Because a panicked department, sensing that they might lose you to institution one, will be more likely to agree to your demands for salary, leave time, research support, and spousal positions.

Now all departments have financial and logistical limitations. You cannot negotiate above those. If you try, you will quickly alienate them. They will not withdraw the offer, but they will resent you, and those feelings of resentment are dangerous for a soon-to-be junior faculty member. The key to negotiating is to always maintain good faith and honesty, and always have a highly delicate sense for when you are hitting a true wall of “we can’t do that.” Because when you hit that, that’s when you stop.

In terms of salary upper limits, this is particularly serious. Be aware that many public institutions suffer from salary compression problems. That means that associate and full professors’ salaries have not kept pace with the national market, and consequently new assistant professors are offered salaries nearly as high as those of the tenured faculty who have been on campus for years. Salary compression creates terrible feelings of resentment and low morale in departments suffering from it. The Head will be all too well aware of these feelings. When the Head tells you, “we cannot go higher than $68,000 for your starting salary, or we will offend some faculty,” take that as a hard no, because it most likely reflects the Associate level salary scale in the department. This doesn’t mean no additional money is possible—it just needs to be one-time-only, or short-term money instead of a recurring commitment. So, turn your efforts to summer salary for one to three years, one-time research support, a guaranteed graduate research assistant, and other shorter-term forms of compensation that don’t put pressure on an already overburdened salary structure.

In terms of the dreaded spousal issue…this is the hardest negotiation of all. In general, wait until you have a firm offer before you bring up the spouse. Any mention earlier than that could well work against you in the minds of the faculty, consciously or unconsciously. Once the offer is in hand, mention your spouse to the Department Head. Be aware that this is the one and only chance that you will have to negotiate for a spousal hire, so DO NOT WASTE IT! Push as firmly as you can for the actual tenure-track offer, and don’t be put off with the range of one-year, two-year, three- year, instructor, adjunct, and visiting positions that they will try to pawn off on you.

They may say something like “oh we can revisit your husband’s tenure case later, when this contract is up,” but DON’T BELIEVE IT. It is never, ever revisited after you lose the leverage of the initial offer (that is, until you gain the leverage of an external offer, and that’s a pain and time-consuming to manage).

Accept nothing in negotiations, but absolutely nothing in the case of spousal negotiations, that is not in writing. Any “informal” agreements or understandings that you may have with the current Head or Dean are meaningless if not in writing, because Heads and Deans change, and with no written agreement, all arrangements are void.

Make sure that your spouse is debut-ready. His or her cv should be spit-shined, the dissertation finished, and a polished research and teaching statement prepared. Be clear what departments the spouse would be eligible for an appointment in, and the full range of positions for which he/she is qualified.

Be flexible about any offered position that is tenure-track. There are many painful and difficult negotiations that have to take place to line up a spousal hire, and some departments and department heads will play ball more than others. Some Heads are incompetent while others are savvy. To some extent you are at the Head’s mercy.

Be aware of how spousal hires are paid for. Generally, the original department will pay one third of the spousal hire’s salary, the Dean’s office will pay one third, and then the spouse receiving department will pay one third. This obviously has a great deal of appeal for the receiving department as they are getting one full line for 1/3 cost. However, they may resent being forced to accept a faculty member whom they did not go out and recruit on their own, and they may fear that the spouse hire will derail the actual hiring goals they have in place (ie, that the Dean will say, “well you got a full line hire this year, so we won’t approve your other, original search requests”). Thus the interested parties may have to knock on several doors to find a department willing to take this “free gift,” and may well find it impossible, in the end, to accomplish.

The important thing, once again, is to hold firm and politely repeat, “My biggest priority is a position for my spouse,” without any escalation or emotionalism or drama, day after day, to person after person, until you either get the spousal offer, or get a flat-out NO that you read as unmistakable. As long as they are still talking to you about it, don’t waver.

Once you make your decision, call or email both departments immediately, and courteously and professionally express your gratitude for their offers, and accept one with warmth and enthusiasm, and turn down the other with kindness and respect. Remember that the colleagues in the rejected department will continue to play a role in your professional life for many years to come. You will see them at conferences, they might be external reviewers for your journal article or book mss., and who knows, one of them might end up one of your tenure writers one day. So preserve your good relations with these people at all costs. They will not be angry that you rejected their offer. They will just be disappointed. Be very friendly when you next run into them at a conference.

 

Re-examining Life in Academia in the Face of Death – A Post-Ac Guest Post

By Cassia Roth

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From Karen:  Upon learning of Cassia’s story, I asked her if she’d be willing to share her story in a guest post.  She kindly agreed.  Then, I also encountered Darcy Hannibal’s story, which we posted last week.  These two stories of reevaluating the academic career in the face of profound loss and grief are very powerful.  I hope that you find them as meaningful as I do. 

 

Cassia Roth is a PhD candidate in History. She is a contributing writer at Nursing Clio, where she blogs on reproductive justice, human rights, and women’s health. You can find her on Twitter @Mixmastercass.

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Last academic year started out typically for me. I was set to defend my dissertation and receive my PhD in history. With the help of my adviser and The Professor Is In, I had gone on the job market. I received an interview and was the finalist for several post-docs. I felt good about my work, and I was excited about going into the Academy. My partner Clayton, who I had met during fieldwork in Brazil, was making plans to move here. We were going to get married and begin the process of getting him a visa. He supported my career and was willing to follow me wherever I needed to go. Everything seemed to be on the right track.

Then, on April 28, 2015 my life changed forever. Just a few weeks before Clayton was supposed to board a plane for the first time and come to the United States, he was brutally murdered. Clayton was a police officer in Rio de Janeiro. On the evening of the 28th, three drug traffickers followed him as he drove his motorcycle home from work. When they got close enough on their own bikes, they shot him in the back 20 times. He survived for more than five hours before dying on April 29, 2015 at 12:45 a.m. The injustice of the situation is staggering (you can read the whole story here). But to summarize the situation, drug trafficking had been on the rise on the region where he worked. Clayton was targeted and executed for being an honest police officer who stood in the way of both trafficking and police corruption.

Before Clayton’s murder, I felt secure in my future. What had started out as a path to getting my PhD morphed into something bigger. I had gone to Brazil to do fieldwork, and then I met Clayton. He hadn’t drawn me to the country, but soon he became an integral part of my connection to Brazil. I loved him, and that love supported me not only emotionally but also intellectually. And now he has been cruelly executed. My feelings for my work are inextricably tied to Clayton’s murder. A shaky academic foundation indeed.

In the months since his death, I have felt (among many emotions) confused as that once-solid career path has disintegrated before me. Now, I am not sure I will be joining the tenure rat race. And I have begun to feel liberated. That feeling of freedom—I have so many options I can choose from! I don’t have to move to Podunk, USA because it’s a “good” job!—also makes me feel incredibly guilty. Did I really need the murder of my partner to come to the conclusion I can make a career decision that is best for me (instead of just doing what is expected)? And not just best for me in a moment of extreme pain and grief, but for the rest of my life. I felt like I had finally spit out the Kool-aid and surfaced from a cultish trance. Clayton’s death exposed many of the misgivings I have always felt about an academic career but never fully examined. These doubts have only been reinforced since his murder.

For example, the indifference and downright harshness of the peer-review process amidst my grief underlined the hidden inhumanity of academia. Several months after Clayton died, I received the anonymous peer reviews on an article. All three reviewers gave important feedback (and the article needed serious revision). But one of the reviewers decided that being mean was the only way to get their point across. Were the comments on “poor writing” and “unsurprising” omissions really necessary? This is not to say that other employment sectors will not harshly review one’s work, or that people can be much crueler if they are allowed to work anonymously. Rather, I feel that this anonymous cruelty has become so normalized in the Academy that its pervasiveness is now hard to pinpoint and root out. Constructive criticism always makes our work stronger. But do we have to bludgeon you to death before bringing you back to life? And then do we have to pretend we don’t do that? As TPII says, it’s an extremely hierarchical system that disavows that hierarchy. That makes it even more insidious.

Or take an interview I got last month. The committee gave me 23 hours notice, and one of them walked out in the middle of our Skype session. Again, this disorganization and lack of manners is not specific to Academia. But since we pretend to be much more civilized than other sectors, can we at least try to live up to our rhetoric?

And while I have been amazed with the support I have received by people within my department, university, and field of study, I have also been unsurprised with the disappearances of other, important people in my academic career. I feel an unabated rage towards colleagues and professors who theorize about violence but have gone AWOL when it hits so close to home. Us Latin Americanists have a tendency to idealize poverty and violence in the region. I want to tear up the books and storm out of the talks that pretend to really get at the issue of urban violence but end up sounding like one-sided diatribes against whoever Academia thinks is to blame (in Rio de Janeiro, that’s often the police).

But I haven’t turned my back just yet. There are good people wandering the ivory tower. Take my adviser, who during this time has been nothing but supportive. In fact, without his help, I would not have been able to get through the months after Clayton’s death. He galvanized the department and the field to come to my aid. And many, many people did. I am forever grateful for an adviser who not only expertly guided me through my graduate career but also provided support and friendship beyond campus. But I feel this support is rare for most graduate students.

So as I navigate the raw and jagged contours of my life without Clayton, I am heeding the words of a good friend of mine: choose happiness. And the more I think about it, the more I believe that happiness means a life away from Academia.

Transition Without Guilt or Shame – Post-Ac Guest Post (Hannibal)

By Darcy Hannibal

Dr. Darcy Hannibal

Dr. Darcy Hannibal

Darcy Hannibal is one of three new Out-Ac consultants starting this Winter.

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I come from a mostly working class background, and while it is totally possible to go from that to a PhD and a tenure track job, the distance and challenges are great, and so the cumulative probability of ending up on a different career path is also greater. Ending up somewhere else is not a failure for me. It is just part of the route I took to get out of the circumstances I grew up with, and to some place where I want to live, doing work I find intellectually challenging. As much as I love science, primatology, and anthropology, I rarely felt the love coming back to me. Looking back, I realistically just had a tremendous distance to grow into an academic profession where there is relatively little effort to mentor students. It was a constant struggle to make myself acceptable to the academy. Making it our struggle, combined with the myth that we labor within a primarily merit-based system, sets us up to make it our guilt and shame when we do not get a tenure track job. This is absurd—particularly when there are far more PhDs produced than there are tenure track jobs. There are so many options open to us post-PhD and they are all valid and rewarding career options if they fit your interests and skills.

The need for a backup plan to make myself employable outside of academia, without being pulled back into a life I did not want to return to, was automatic for me. I did not sit down and plan this from the start, but built it somewhat haphazardly, by responding to what resources I had and the options I thought were possible. The graduate school experiences I built in data management and analysis, as well as choosing to work with the primate species most widely used in research, are what allowed me to transition to a different career relatively easily. The catalyst, though, that finally led me to let go of the limited and traditional view of a career path in academia, without guilt or shame, was a life-changing event.

My husband Jord and I had just bought a house. Since he was a contractor, our plan was for him to remodel it while I finished graduate school, and then have a nicely fixed-up house to put on the market at some point. I had just finished collecting my dissertation data and was looking forward to working on the analyses and write-up. I was also three months pregnant with our first child. Unfortunately, and unknown to us, Jord had a clot in his vertebral artery from a neck injury. When it broke loose, it caused a brain stem stroke. This is a particularly devastating type of stroke, which almost always leads to death or complete paralysis. We are incredibly lucky that he survived and has regained so much, even though he is still permanently disabled. We are even luckier still for the tremendous outpouring of emotional, physical, and financial support we received from friends, family, and the people in the Anthropology Department where I received my degree—all of whom made his recovery possible. In many ways, however, the people we were died on that day. The grief that event brought to us overshadows any sense of loss, guilt, or shame I could possibly feel over not pursuing a tenure track job. Jord had to work incredibly hard to re-learn everything from breathing on his own to walking with a brace. I took a year off from school to work with him on his rehabilitation, at least as much as I could before our son arrived. Even with all the help we had, in the early months after coming home from the hospital, it felt like we were treading open water with no idea which direction to go in to find land.

By the time I returned to finish my degree, the university environment felt like a bizarre dream-world where people fretted and fumed about arcane crap that did not matter. I could not relate and I could not be bothered to care about anything that did not feed, clothe, shelter, or heal my family. My main reason for finishing my degree was that it was a direction to go in to find some land to plant my feet on. I was close enough to finishing it that I felt it would be better to just do it, but I knew that was most likely not going to lead to an academic job. I went back to assistant teaching and began to actually look at my data. Working with my data and writing became a path back to finding that kernel of what I originally loved about academics.

I finished my degree in 2008—the year a tight academic job market became a market of cancelled searches. The data-related work I did early in grad school as a research assistant quickly became essential, along with some adjunct teaching, to having an income while I was on the job market. I cast my job search wide for both academic and non-academic jobs, but only applied when I felt competitive for one. By January 2011, I was employed in a staff position at the University of California Davis—a job I absolutely loved, earning a better salary than most anthropologists. I have since moved into a quasi-academic position, with more grant and publication writing. This is a great fit for me right now, doing work that I love and being paid pretty well for it.

I arrived where I am without guilt or shame not because I am somehow impervious to these processes, but because other events in my life overshadowed them and have minimized their effect on my life. My hope for those of you experiencing a similar transition is that you can take from my experience the benefit of understanding this without having to experience far greater upheavals to overshadow it. It is time for you to move ahead, find dry land, and set your feet upon it.

Work-Life Balance? Post 1 of Many

This was originally posted in 2011. As you can see from the title, at the time I expected to write a lot more posts about work-life balance. I’m just getting to that now, in 2016!

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Since opening The Professor Is In, the question I’ve been most often asked, by women, is “how can I maintain some kind of work-life balance while pursuing a career in academia?” (The question I’ve been asked almost as often is, “when should I decide to throw in the towel and quit trying to have an academic career?” That question I will confront next week).

This question is difficult. The fact is, maintaining a work-life balance has become almost impossible in any job in the downsizing U.S. economy. We are expected to do more and more with less and less. Hours are increasing while pay is falling in most professional sectors (law, medicine, etc.) Even the “booming” sectors of the economy, like IT and Finance, are based on truly inhumane expectations for hours of work. The eight hour day and the weekends for home life are becoming things of the past.

In that context is the academy. Academic pay scales are declining while work expectations are increasing. Expectations for tenure go up, class sizes go up, administrative duties go up, and support goes down.

Women in the academy are trying to juggle, on the job, writing, research, teaching, service, and if tenure track, the clicking tenure clock, and, at home, partners, children, home life, spirit-sustaining personal interests, and the biological clock. Even thinking about timing a pregnancy, for a graduate student or assistant professor, can be overwhelming.

Senior female colleagues are not always that helpful either as models or mentors. Once, as a new assistant professor, at a dinner at a national conference, I turned to the woman sitting next to me, a highly productive, prolific department head about 40 years old, and earnestly, oh so earnestly asked, “HOW did you manage to have two kids??” Barely glancing my way she replied, with a sneer in her voice, “well, I had sex with my husband….” before turning away to talk to someone more important.

The senior women with children in my departments mostly fell into two camps: those who paused after tenure to dedicate themselves to child-rearing and remained affably at the Associate level, and those who handed their children over to full-time nannies and worked ridiculous hours, and made it to Full.

I was never happy with either of those choices.  In the end, chaotic life circumstances placed me into the former category, although I was never affable.

In my first year on the tenure track I applied for and won two major research and writing fellowships, including the National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for University Professors. My department generously allowed me to stagger them, and I ended up with two full years off. I spent those two years writing my book and commencing a second project. And having my first child. When I returned to work full time, my tenure case was secure, so I felt comfortable having a second child.

After the insanity of the first year, and its all new class preps and the unfamiliar rounds of committee meetings and department obligations, and demands of undergraduate and graduate students, my life came to feel sort of balanced. When I went back to work after my 2 years of leave, my children were in daycare, but I religiously picked them up before 5 PM, and dedicated my time at home, when they were awake, to hanging out with them. I did not work a lot on weekends, and limited my conferences to two large national meetings a year. I woke early and wrote while they slept.  I worked out every day.  And I had a spouse who did his part—got the kids up and fed and dressed for the day, cooked dinner, and did a lot around the house.

Basically, my experience of the tenure track echoed my experience of graduate school: balance of personal and academic life is possible when you are well and abundantly funded, freed from excessive teaching or service responsibilities, and have support at home.  It’s why I am so fixated on grant-writing, FYI.

I know that for many, these resources are unavailable. TAs, adjuncts, the un- and underderemployed, assistant professors on the tenure track in penny-pinching, chaotic departments—so many in our world are scrambling desperately to keep their heads above water.

What struck me at my R1 institution, however, was the degree to which even those who did enjoy access to these resources refused to use them to ease their lives. Indeed, they just seemed to work harder.

My tenured colleagues never let up. They were always in their office. They were always working. They never had time for lunch or dinner or coffee. They were always at this conference or that symposium, or if not actually there, then writing the paper in preparation. They weren’t just grading, or in meetings, or in class. They were launching a new university-wide initiative, or spearheading a new major, or starting a film festival, or creating a regional consortium.

None of these things is bad. In fact a lot of them are good. But what I could never entirely understand, was: why? The hours the faculty put in to accomplish all of this were impossible. They didn’t make sense. They seemed counter-productive.

I came to feel that university faculty are more thoroughly interpellated into the logic of capital than anyone else in the economy. Because after tenure they’re basically given a choice about how much they’ll work, and they STILL work themselves practically to death.

Why couldn’t senior faculty just take a break? Why couldn’t they slow down? Why couldn’t they sit still for a moment, and take a breath?

It’s my view that they don’t want to. Tenured professors have a choice, and too many choose to have lives out of balance. Why, I’m not sure. But I increasingly suspect it’s because if they slow down, if they sit still, then they might have to notice.

  • Notice the disintegration of their workplace.
  • Notice the whittling away of their power in the institution.
  • Notice the marginalization of their voice in society.
  • Notice the scared graduate students and the struggling adjuncts and the anxious assistant professors.
  • Notice that their privilege rests on countless others’ exploitation.

Professors are smart. So they keep moving. To keep that knowledge at bay as long as they can.

 

 

 

 

 

How to Get Clients and Keep Them – Postac Post by Margy Horton

By Margy Thomas Horton, Ph.D.*

Dr. Margy Horton

Dr. Margy Horton

Three years ago, I thought morning and night about how to get enough clients to fill my schedule at my business, ScholarShape. I knew I could help researchers write better and more efficiently, but there was such a gap between what I knew I could do and what the general population of potential clients (who didn’t yet know I exist) believed I could do. I had to find a way to show people that I could understand their problems and help them define and realize their goals.

Today, when people ask how I get clients, I vaguely reply, “Oh, word-of-mouth, Google, client referrals.” It’s true: I never pay for advertising, yet somehow clients fill my schedule, often booking weeks in advance. My vague answer is unhelpful to a prospective business owner who wants to know about the process of building a client base, rather than what the resulting client flow looks like. How do you get influencers with no financial stake to refer clients to you? How do you write blog posts that Google will find? How do you persuade your first few clients to write glowing testimonials for your website?

The answers to these questions depend on what you’re selling and to whom. But no matter your business model, in order to make a living, a wide audience of potential clients or customers needs to become aware of and confident in the product you offer.

Three years ago, when I set out to communicate about my services to the people who might benefit from them, I tried every tactic I could think of. Given my target audience, I studied academic resource websites, looking for clues about what unmet needs were being felt by whom and in what way. I cold-emailed administrators and professors to “let them in on” the new kinds of services I was offering in case they knew of anyone who might need my help. I scrolled through elance and odesk, but it seemed futile to try selling a service there on quality, not price, so I never made an account. I strolled around the university campuses near me, soaking in the vibe and trying to imagine the world through my potential clients’ eyes. I foisted my open laptop upon near-strangers, asking them what they thought of my homepage. I read every website and library book I could find about how to create a product people would want to buy. I printed business cards and left them in stacks at coffee shops. In one coffee shop I was scolded by the barista for “advertising something for-profit” within the confines of an establishment where I can only assume all coffee, pastries, and logo tee-shirts were handed out for free.

I scattered so many seeds that it’s hard to know now which specific strategies ultimately worked best. In hindsight, I think that more than any single strategy, what has made my business, ScholarShape, work is that it has always been about what clients need. The way I’ve framed my services has grown directly out of my communication with friends, strangers, clients, potential clients, collaborators, and the influencers I admire. This constant give-and-take tells me what is working and what needs adjusting. Five practices have been especially helpful to me in getting and keeping clients:

  1.     Offering the services I’m best at, and being clear on what I’m offering.

In my early days, I used to take on light proofreading/formatting jobs, fixing margins and typos. Now I’ll only do that kind of polishing for clients I’m helping in a substantive capacity. Focusing on the services that most distinguish me as an editor, and that I most enjoy, sets me up to offer services that the client will be thrilled to receive–customized writing consultation, developmental feedback, and substantive editing. I regularly revise my services menu as I gain clarity on how I can best help my clients, and as I make choices about which direction to take ScholarShape. Next up: my very own spin on a writing retreat!

  1.     Getting the right clients.

The right clients are the ones who choose you for the qualities you want to be chosen for, who are willing to trust you, and who value the product you’re offering. For me, the best way to get the right clients is to require payment in advance. This not only simplifies my record-keeping; it also ensures that people have carefully decided whether to hire me and are confident my approach is the one they’re looking for.

  1.     Managing client expectations.

My standard service contract has grown from one to four single-spaced pages in the past two years. Like a syllabus that grows each year to account for contingencies you never could have imagined in your first semester, my contract now details my clients’ and my rights and responsibilities within our working relationship. As my lawyer has explained, the most important function of a service contract is not to resolve a conflict once it has occurred, but rather to establish clear expectations such that most conflicts never arise at all.

  1. 4.  Monitoring client experience.

This includes checking in with clients at natural pauses in the workflow, building in feedback mechanisms to the service process, and creating moments of pleasant surprise for the client. With the services I offer, all of this happens naturally because my services are so high-contact and customized. But it’s important regardless of what you’re selling. Aspire to be like the waiter who refills the water glass before it’s even empty.

  1.     Following up.

Unlike most businesses, which have a newsletter or automated emailing system to maintain client relationships over months and years, my current “system” is just to exchange emails and texts with “inactive” clients from time to time. I still need to figure out my long-term plan for keeping in touch and following up–whether a MailChimp newsletter, a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, or some combination of the two–so that I have a more systematic way stay connected with clients who aren’t actively working on projects with me.

Those of us who make our livelihoods from small businesses must live by a cardinal rule: love thy clients. Our clients are the reason our little enterprises are humming along, and we owe it to them that we can earn our livelihoods doing what we do best. And as long as we keep up our end of the bargain, they’ll make sure our businesses grow–so that we can start losing sleep over what exciting new direction to take our businesses next.

*Margy Horton is a TPII Out-Ac Coach and Consultant and can help you envision and plan your own exit from academia in the form of a small business.  Contact us at postaccareers@gmail.com to learn more!

How to Write Your Own Rec. Letter, plus All of my Vitae columns

In my two+ gratifying and enjoyable years of writing for Chronicle Vitae, I’ve only had one column rejected by them, and it is this one, which I submitted late in December as an end-of-year compendium of all my columns, organized thematically. I thought it was a great gift to readers to help them navigate among all my many and varied writings, but the editors disagreed.  So, I’m putting it here today, on The Professor Is In. Like all my Vitae advice columns, it does begin with a reader question: in this case, on how to write your own recommendation letter when your recommenders demand you do so.  And it goes on from there.  I hope you like it…

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Q: My problem: Since starting graduate school, no one has written me a letter of reference. To be more clear: My referees have signed letters of reference for me, but I have drafted the text in all cases. I’m out of grad school now, but this behavior only seems to spreading. While writing my own letters disturbs me–I find it unethical on many levels–I don’t see any way to challenge the request. When I ask a referee for a letter, and he asks for a draft, I’m gently given to understand that what I don’t write won’t be written. I don’t have a huge roster of people to ask, so I can’t afford to antagonize any of my referees, which means I’m stuck writing the letters.

While there’s plenty to say about the corrosive effects of this practice, I could really use some practical advice. What’s the formula for a solid letter of reference? I’ve had referees coming from all three of my disciplines ask me for draft letters. I’ve asked around among my circle in academia, and while many referees still do write their own letters, there seem to be more and more who drop it onto the students.

Higher education has been acting more and more like an extraction industry—treating its primary source of value (the basic human relationship between teachers and students)–as something that needs to be used up in order to add to the bottom line.

A: I agree that this is an abhorrent practice. Recommenders should write their own letters. If they can’t write letters for each job, then they should certainly write one generic letter for a dossier service, such as Chronicle Vitae’s or Interfolio. I’m happy to provide advice on how to write your own recommendation letter, except that I’ve already devoted a column in this space to the structure of an effective recommendation letter.

Reading this question reminded me that I actually see questions arise pretty often that I’ve previously answered. I’ve been writing this column for Chronicle Vitae for over two years, and I’ve covered a lot of topics! So, for this end-of-year holiday season, I’m going to give you readers a reference list to the main advice topics I’ve covered.

On how to write a recommendation letter, read Only Positive Recommendations Please. (Be sure the follow the link in the column to a post on my blog for more!) Other recommendation advice can be found at The Three Letters of Recommendation You Must Have and Getting a Reference When You’re New.

For advice on constructing your applications to tenure track jobs, read Search Committees Are Made of People! (about letter length), Why Letterhead Matters, Making Sense of the Diversity Statement, When CVs Get Complicated, CV or Resume? They Didn’t Ask for a Research Statement-Can I Send One Anyway? Research Statements vs. Research Proposals, Research Plans, Proposals and Statements, The Weepy Teaching Statement, Should You Mention Your Blog in Your Job Application? Here’s My Application, Part Two (on applying for a job a second time), The Fine Art of Choosing a Writing Sample, Don’t Tell an Adjunct Tale, I’m an Internal Candidate; Why Wasn’t I Interviewed? I’m Queer, Am I a Diversity Hire? (includes a discussion of service as well), White Male in Black Studies, The Meaning of Inclusiveness in a Job Ad, The Posdoc App: How It’s Different and Why, What Will Your Service Yield for You? Will the Candidate Stay? (on providing evidence that you’ll stay at a low-ranking institution) It’s Not Your Fault (on applying when your program has been eradicated) and Don’t Become Liberal Arts Mush!

On the perennially stressful topic of interviewing and campus visits, read Surefire Ways to Screw Up Your Campus Visit, Interviewing the Interviewers, How to Deliver a Halfway Decent Job Talk, Job Talk Q and A, Your Teaching Headspace, Dinner Before the Interview, What Should I Wear? Asking About the Adjuncts’ Work, Will They Remember Your Topic? Who’s Your Ideal Candidate? How to Interview for a Joint Appointment, and Stamp This Candidate Acceptable or Unacceptable.

I’ve written about negotiating in Disappointed With the Offer?, Negotiating Temporary Insurance, and OK, Let’s Talk About Negotiating Salary.

Beginners should be sure and check out First Timer on the Market? Finding Traction on the Academic Job Market, Learning the Ropes as an International Graduate Student, and What If I’ve Never Taught Solo?

General career strategizing advice can be found in How to Build Your CV, How to Tailor Your Online Image, Choosing the Right Holding Pattern, Should You Attend That Interdisciplinary Conference? I Know What You Need to Do This Summer, One Too Many East Asianists, How to Score that Elusive Partner Hire, Should I Write a Book? Should I Publish With a Low-Rent Press? Does Cold Calling Ever Work? and Can I Apply for Two Jobs on One Campus?

Women on the job market might check out Do I Sound Pushy? Should My Letters Mention the Baby? And Ignore the Haters and Toot Your Own Horn.

Those on the tenure track should check out Tenure Expectations, Do I Really Have to Play Baseball? Decorating Your Office, Going Back on the Market for Your Spouse, Getting External Review Letters, A Nasty External Review, Changing Jobs as an Assistant Professor, Drowning in Application Files, and Stopping the Senior Snipers.

Those further along might read When to Make Your Move, and How Do I Pitch Myself for Associate Level Positions?

I’ve even written a bit about writing. See When Reviewers Disagree, and Should You Skip Revise and Resubmit?

Last of all, a general explanation of why I do what I do, as an advice columnist, blogger, career coach, and entrepreneur, that relates to the undervaluation of labor in academia: To Think, You First Must Eat.

I hope these help you as you progress in your academic endeavors! Good luck!

 

 

 

Here’s Hoping! Post-Ac Post by Karen Cardozo

by Karen Cardozo

Karen Cardozo

Karen Cardozo

To everyone struggling under the weight of your New Year’s resolutions, I empathize and salute you!

Cynical as we academics may be, few can entirely resist the powerful turn of the calendar that pushes us to take inventory:  to see what’s in stock, what’s expired, and what new items we need to bring into the warehouse of our lives. In so doing, we act “as if” we shape our own futures.  True, many things are out of our control.  But much remains within our sphere of influence.  No matter how bad things get, there are still choices we can make. Speak or be silent. Apply or don’t. Stay or go. When we assert our agency, against the odds, hope tweets.

Academe has multiple new years built right in.  At the start of every semester, we have a chance to reconsider how and why we do things.  Ideally we would take a moment to consider our big rocks—those priorities into which we most want put our time and energy. This allows us to focus on what we can control and change. When we feel most overwhelmed by our obligations, we need to identify the self-imposed burdens: the places where we have confused “I should” with “I must.”

Must = all the non-negotiables for which there will be stark consequences, such as when you don’t eat, pay your rent, or show up for work.  But it also includes essentials that feed your humanity and sanity, such as creative pursuits or spending time with loved ones. Without these, you starve in a different way.

Should = negotiable ideas about the “best” way to live or work.  There is no objective measure here; such prescriptions tend to be an unholy mixture of social pressures and our own insecurities. There is always a different (and possibly better) way to do things.  So go ahead: change your mind about what you “should” be doing.

Must is the essence of WHAT we most need to have, do, or be; should is the nagging voice that tells us HOW to engage in our pursuits—it often means holding ourselves to unreasonable, unrealistic and rigid standards.  Liberation beckons when you stop “shoulding” all over yourself and aim for flexible rather than dogmatic, good enough rather than perfect, genuine rather than impressive.

I leave it you to imagine the potentially freeing applications of this idea in your professional and personal lives (for example, in your teaching, domestic, or social practices).  But I assure you, clarifying the difference between “must” and “should” might be the crucial difference between living YOUR life and someone else’s.  So, instead of resolving to achieve particular outcomes in 2016, why not commit to a process of sifting out the musts, and letting the shoulds fall where they may?!  In so doing, more fitting steps on your path will emerge.

We teach (or blog) what we need to learn. Now on the tenure-track, where I never expected to land, I am working harder than ever to tell must from should.  In my current work/life context, this distinction does not map neatly onto the familiar hierarchy that privileges research and publication over teaching and service.  Thus I am not merely reissuing the conventional wisdom to protect your time for what the academic hierarchy considers more “productive” pursuits (although that may indeed be something you decide you must do).

Rather, I am talking more broadly about the capacity to decide what is essential and what is dispensable in any given moment…to YOU.  This may mean prioritizing a troubled student over a writing deadline, a campus event over a family dinner, or a meeting over yoga; in other institutional and personal contexts, it may mean exactly the reverse.  Each of us will draw the line between must and should in a different place at different times, but to be able to live comfortably with your choices, you still have to draw the line.  Only you know where to put it.

To the wonderful clients I’ve met through TPII, those yet to come, and all the readers I will never meet, I invite you to embrace your own little bird of hope in the coming year, small and fragile as it may be. Risk a whole new you—doing only what you must—and maybe you will eventually “shake your head in wonder/when it’s all too good to be true.” That is my hope for you.

On the Death of a Former Colleague

My former UIUC colleague, Korea anthropologist Nancy Abelmann, died this past week, after a long and protracted battle with cancer.  It was very sad. She was only 56.

Nancy Abelmann

Nancy Abelmann

Those who were fortunate enough to know Nancy loved, above all, her incredible generosity and unfailing kindness.  She was a gifted mentor to countless people, especially her many Ph.D. advisees, but also junior faculty, colleagues and peers, as well as random academics she met along the way.  She had time for everyone.  It’s a mystery how she did it.

There’s been a collective outpouring of grief and remembrances on Facebook, where these things happen nowadays.  It’s amazing to see how many people she touched, of every rank and status in our academic cosmos.

Her death has been difficult for me not just because the world has lost a very special person (and East Asian anthropology a very gifted colleague) but because I never really reconnected with Nancy after my loud, public, and acrimonious departure from UIUC in 2009.  A snapshot of that departure is preserved here, in this guest post I wrote not too long afterwards on the Worst Professor Ever (now Tech in Translation) blog.

I made a kind of amends to Nancy for the way I left, about a year ago, but she was already very sick by then and was occupied with other things. I never got to really sit down with her and apologize in person.

And I owed her an apology.  While the UIUC was indeed a wretched place for me, Nancy Abelmann was never anything but kind and generous and good to me, as she was to others. She is actually the person who hired me to the tenured position at UIUC, and she was a steadfast supporter, even coming to my aid in one of the many court battles involved in my custody dispute.

I have been reflecting on why I was unable to distinguish between the bad that I experienced on that campus in general, and the good that I knew from Nancy, when I left and for most of the years afterward.  I tarred all of UIUC with a single brush; I could not then or for a long time afterwards, see any variations or shades of gray.

Part of it is, I’m sure, that I was traumatized.  As I explain in the post above, I had to leave Illinois not just because I was miserable at UIUC, but because I was involved in a threatening and terrifying custody battle, in which I was not, at many points, sure of my own or my childrens’ physical safety.  I’ve been dealing with the aftermath of that trauma for the almost six years I’ve been back in Eugene, Oregon. I’m only now seeing how it consumed and warped me.

I look back now and see that when I left UIUC I was, in a way, out of my mind.  It felt like I was fleeing for my life. The misery of that campus and the misery of my life collapsed onto each other, entwined in each other, and squeezed me tighter and tighter until I was frantic and desperate, and could only repudiate the entire place and all the people in it, and indeed, the entire academic career. I was not in my right mind. Not that I should have stayed, of course.  But I do look back kind of stunned at the way that I left.

I was angry. I was angry that nobody at UIUC would speak publicly about the meanness, the coldness of life there – the astonishing racism and sexism – even though Nancy and I had many candid private conversations about it all.  I felt, in general, abandoned.  Now of course I know that one abandons oneself. I abandoned myself. It wasn’t my colleagues’ job to be different than they were, for my comfort.

I’ve been thinking about all this in light of the piece, “How to Read a CV,” by Monica Casper.  In this amazing piece of writing she narrates the personal backstory of love, heartbreak, loss, babies, moves, despair, desire, behind each line of the CV.  One part reads:

Executive Director, Intersex Society of North America, Seattle, WA (2003)
Yes, I am “that” woman – the one who leaves a tenured position at UCSC (the dream job!) to raise babies on Whidbey Island. I can no longer stomach academia’s nasty politics and its contradictions (e.g., labor stickers on shiny new Volvos). Also, it is unbearable to live in such a beautiful place as Santa Cruz while listening to a litany of complaints from privileged colleagues. My head hurts from the undercurrent of hostility and my heart is empty, so I flee north.

 

This is familiar.

Casper goes back to the academy, ultimately.  I do not.

Nancy was a connecter of people. I admire that about her.  I’m more of a separater.  I’ve been working on that.  But separating is what has made The Professor Is In possible. I separated from the academy, and then fought to get my readers to separate from (the self-serving mythologizing of) their advisors and departments, so that some clarity and truthfulness could find space to emerge–truthfulness about the job market, the nature of Ph.D. training, the ugliness of many aspects of academic life, things that are often shrouded in denial.  With separation could come autonomy, and with autonomy, a regaining (or finding) of personal truth based on intentionality and choice, beyond the constant bludgeoning of the academy’s external judgment. For readers, and for me.

But I regret the lost connection that was there, that I forgot to remember in my trauma, while Nancy was still alive. I regret that I couldn’t sit down with her and say: sorry I did that the way I did.  And thanks for being one of the good ones. One of the best, really.

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Building Solidarity Across the Profession – A Guest Post

By Miranda Merklein

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Miranda Merklein lives in Seattle, WA where she works as a faculty organizer for SEIU Local 925. She is a former adjunct professor with a PhD in English from the University of Southern Mississippi, an MA in liberal arts from St. John’s College, and a BA in political science from College of Santa Fe.

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By now everyone is aware, inside and outside of academia, of the wave of faculty organizing taking place across the country. I became involved in the movement two years ago during Campus Equity Week where I once trembled at a table with handouts thinking–knowing!–that I would most certainly be fired just for speaking out and bringing attention to the horror of “the profession.” This was preceded by my wake-up moment upon learning of the death of Margaret Mary Vojtko. However, I didn’t get fired then, so the successive risks I took got bigger. Finally, I decided to take an extended hiatus from teaching one year ago to eventually find full-time employment as an SEIU faculty organizer in Seattle.

Throughout my adjunct journey of loss and humiliation, the solidarity I found in the network of activists and leaders across the country always kept me focussed on one overarching goal: to do what it takes to improve the lives of faculty and students by organizing faculty and disrupting the conditions that make it possible to exploit and degrade an entire industry of professional educators in Higher Ed. The way I see it is that we have a duty to stand up and stop institutions from undermining the public good and the educational experience of our indebted students, who are also struggling to survive, some of them homeless and dependent on food banks, just like their favorite professors.

My own experience working as an adjunct was typical: I earned poverty-level wages working at multiple institutions and saw our courses cut for the specific purpose of denying health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, which so many of us voted for without ever imagining the cutthroat, heartless reaction from our employers. Despite the setbacks, every semester I shuttled between one and three campuses while struggling to keep gas in the car and avoid eviction for myself and my son. Several of my colleagues and I tried our best to get organized and fight back, but there were few prospects in resource-deprived New Mexico, which seems to exist in an organizational black hole when compared to Higher Ed organizing in coastal cities. Unfortunately, this is the case in several landlocked states–the situation looks and feels hopeless.

Although being on the tenure track means more security than any instructional position I have personally experienced, I don’t know too many tenured faculty who would argue that tenure itself provides sufficient due process against the assault on public Higher Ed, as there are plenty of cases where faculty have been fired, found their positions defunded, or have otherwise seen tenure eroded by rogue administrations and vengeful politicians, as in the case of Scott Walker in Wisconsin, which serves as a nightmare, worst-case scenario for faculty all over the country.

Faculty whose positions were once stable are increasingly subjected to irrational performance metrics and restrictive speech codes that essentially place a gag order on faculty’s right to academic freedom to the point where it is hardly viewed as a defendable policy in the institutional sense. Economic security is not as common as it once was, to say the least, even at prestigious R1s, due to wage compression and shrinking state funding that has reduced prominent researchers to frantic grant-hustlers trying to constantly fund their own positions only to lose half their awards to opaque administrative overhead after which they are forced to account for through legal perjury before the US government.

In my opinion, executive management and presidential salaries should be in line with those of modest civil servants; this would undoubtedly weed-out the professionalized profit-seekers. And governance in any case should be left to faculty and students. However, in order to accomplish real change on the ground, It is not enough to simply vent about the decline of the profession to each other in the hallways, social media outlets and comment sections. We have to equip ourselves with resources to apply the collective force necessary to push back and obstruct the pipeline of exploitation.

The problems in Higher Ed are painfully clear to most of us, yet not all faculty are able to improve working conditions through collective bargaining, whether it be due to anti-union state laws, fear of retaliation in the workplace, or because of the isolating reality of the work itself. This is why it’s important to build power organically and help faculty and students find professional organizing support on a national level. We must also continue bringing attention to the unsustainability of student debt through organizations like The Debt Collective.

By coordinating collective actions and walkouts in the spirit of National Adjunct Walkout Day, we can accomplish a lot in terms of shifting the power dynamic in our favor. In addition to work in the for-profit sector, Faculty Forward Network campaigns include: fighting for a renewed public investment in higher education, investing in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), where full professors can expect to earn little more than half of their counterparts at non-HBCU institutions, and ending the parking toll on teaching–because people who can’t afford a sandwich or medical care don’t deserve to pay outrageous parking fees just to do their jobs.

The gains made since Margaret Mary’s death are just the beginning. Faculty Forward Network is an opportunity to expand faculty organizing beyond current collective bargaining campaigns in order to mobilize a broad base. Building power collectively through membership and pooled resources is especially critical leading up to the Supreme Court case, Friedrichs vs. CTA, which will most likely result in national right-to-work legislation for the entire public sector.

It is time to act in order to rebuild the profession, support our students, and push these no-talent banksters out of Higher Ed where they have until now enjoyed free reign at taxpayers’ expense. This is our profession and we need to take back the agency we’ve lost as teachers, researchers, and workers. I invite you to join me and Faculty Forward Network today.

Facing Fear in the New Year

Hi everyone, Happy New Year!  I hope you had a good break and are ready for Spring semester/Winter term.  I had a great break, visited family (my niece moved to the Northwest!), celebrated my son’s 15th birthday with our traditional 5 AM donut run, danced a ton, meditated like crazy (is that a thing?), got to see my book at the Amazon brick and mortar bookstore in Seattle, and contemplated the changes I want to set in motion in the coming year.

My book at the Amazon bookstore in Seattle!

My book at the Amazon bookstore in Seattle!

On a personal level, I resolve that this is the year I deal with fear.  The fear that I’ve lived with my whole life–fear of not doing enough, having enough, being enough.  I know from my mindfulness practice so far that the goal isn’t to defeat fear, or banish it, or reject it.  The goal is to make friends with it. “Ah, fear, here you are again, old friend.  Come, have a cup of tea.  You’re welcome to visit (but I might be occupied with other things…)”  I love the idea of this!  The practice, though… that’s been a challenge.

Fear drives the academic psyche, of course.  Academia thrives on all of us fearing that we don’t know enough and aren’t good enough. I’m sure it’s possible to be an academic without fear.  I just don’t think it’s very likely.  And the financial contraction and job insecurity just intensify it all.  Those of you who determine to leave academia have to confront fear first–the fear of what your advisors and colleagues will think, fear of being seen as a failure, fear of making your way in an unknown out-ac world.  But even those who stay in academia might face the role that fear has in their lives, driving workaholism and the sense of never doing enough.  As I write in my book, it’s a system built on external validation.  And one day or another you realize, that never satisfies.  Only inner validation can bring peace.  Over the coming year I will be writing more about how academics and post-academics can recognize fear-based thinking and overcome it, for a more balanced and sane life, whatever route you choose. (Here is my first post on that theme, ICYMI).

And, as part of this new direction, I want to hear from YOU.  I want to know, what are you stressed about? What are your goals?  What are your challenges? What can I help with?  So, to that end, for the first time in two years, I’ve reopened live one-on-one Skype Advising Sessions with me. We can start as early as next week, and dates will continue on in Jan and Feb.  Once you get in touch, I’ll schedule a slot at your convenience.  If you’re stressed about your job search, your career planning, your record, your advisor, your students…  I can help.  I look forward to talking.

Besides the Live Skype Advising Sessions, here are other cool things coming up in 2016 at The Professor Is In.

Job Talk Webinar – a new webinar!  Coming up Jan 21.

In this brand new webinar, we will delve into the challenges of the all-important job talk. I’ll explain the role of the job talk in the campus visit (it’s the single most important element), and what it is meant to show about you as a candidate (it’s not what you think). I’ll explain the most common pitfalls of the job talk, which are legion. And I’ll provide a template for job talk structure that will ensure yours showcases your research, engages the audience, and establishes your scholarly profile AND collegiality. Finally, I’ll discuss the treacherous Q and A after the talk–what kinds of questions to expect, how to handle the audience, and most importantly, how to handle challenging, critical, or inappropriate questions. Includes 30 minutes of Q and A.

Joining our wildly successful Art of the Cover Letter online course, we are developing Art of the CV, Art of the Teaching Statement, Art of the Research Statement, Art of the Interview, and Art of the Job Talk.  These are self-guided programs that use videos and worksheets and exclusive content to walk you through the writing job docs and prepping for interviews.

We are creating a membership site, where you can pay a flat annual rate and have access to all of the “Art of” courses as well as webinar recordings and other services, products, and discounts, at no additional cost.

We’ll be creating institutional memberships so that institutions can pay an annual fee to provide the above access to all grad students, postdocs, and/or faculty at the institution.  All of these things will be launching this Spring and Summer.

Lastly, we are opening limited services to Ph.D. program applications.  If you are applying to Ph.D. programs we will help edit your statement of purpose, and assist with application interviews.  You will get a lecture from us about ALL of the risks.  But if you are determined to persist… we can help.  Here’s a testimonial from an early client: “Thank you, TPII, for everything. I feel SO much better about applying this time, and seeing how drastically my documents have improved, it’s really no wonder that I didn’t make the cut the before. This has been one of the best investments I’ve made in myself. I have been singing your praises and will continue to do so.” This is starting now.

In other news, Dr. Karen is on the road!  I just came back from the American Astronomical Society meetings in Orlando, and I’ll be speaking at the U of Oregon, Washington State, U of New Mexico, Duke (virtually), and UNC Chapel Hill (virtually) soon.  Then, I go on two speaking tours:  I’m speaking at Brown March 18 and Harvard March 21, and then a tour of the UK in April and May: U of Aberdeen in Scotland April 25-26, U of St. Andrews April 27, U of Edinburgh  April 29, Kings College London May 3, London School of Economics May 4, Oxford May 6 , Cambridge May 9, and University of Warwick May 10.  Possible dates in Denmark and Switzerland as well.

I’m excited about all these new things for 2016.  And I’m scared as hell.  Every one one of the things above is scary.  It’s scary to make a new webinar (what if nobody comes?) It’s scary to do live advising (what if I say something dumb?)  It’s scary to change the business (what if it doesn’t work?)  It’s scary to move into Ph.D. application help (what if it’s a bad idea?)  And it’s scary to go around the world speaking (what if I miss my flight?)

But I’m doing it anyway. “Ah, hello, fear. I see you’re back. Here’s the tea. But excuse me while I go ahead and do this stuff. And, you can see yourself out.”

Here’s to a steadfast 2016.