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

The_Professor_Is_In.inddLove the blog? Now get it in handy book form!

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It also makes a great gift for all those struggling grad students in your life!

For bulk orders for use in classes, seminars, and workshops, please call Crown Publishing  (Random House) Customer Service at 1-800-733-3000.



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.



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:

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

Productivity Tuesday: I’ll have it to you on [insert uninformed guess]

By Kellee Weinhold, TPII Productivity Coach

Welcome to the Productivity Post!
Each(ish) Tuesday, I share some of the ideas and strategies that inform my coaching in UNSTUCK: The Art of Productivity.

Sometimes, I even record a coaching session! (This is not one of those weeks.)

As promised, this week’s productivity post will take up the question of deadlines that we miss. Or more accurately how you can stop missing deadlines and reclaim your self-worth.

Although the ultimate goal is to be able to decide IN ADVANCE when you can submit a document, for today let’s talk about how to deal with the deadline that is long passed and unmet.

Whether you acknowledge it or not, every single day you drag around that missed deadline takes a toll on your energy. It weighs on your psyche. It weighs on your self-esteem. It weighs on your faith that you can do this career you have chosen.

The majority of clients that I work with come to me with a backpack full of blown deadlines. They were supposed to have something turned in last week, last month, last year and instead have ground to a halt under the weight of shame.

Invariably, they lament, “What is wrong with me?”

In asking the question, they reveal a deeply held and false belief: A blown deadline is evidence of an inherent flaw that disqualifies the transgressor from being a “real” academic.


If a blown deadline disqualified you from academia, Universities would be empty of all but a few staff members.

Academics don’t miss deadlines because of some inherent flaw. You miss them because you have no idea how long it will take to do the thing you promised to do.* Without that information, you are basing your agreement to meet a deadline on either the request of the person asking or on the ever-present imaginary force that dictates when you “should” turn it in.

And the most common outcome: Past due and desperate.

Unfortunately, your instinct in this desperation is to pencil in unreasonable block of time to miraculously finish that thing you have failed to move forward for xx amount of time. You know that one, right?

“I’m going to set aside this weekend and get that R and R finished once and for all!”

Never mind that this same R&R has been sitting in your computer for the past year-and-a-half and you have already penciled in endless hours to buckle down and get the damn thing done only to add another failed intention to the shame pile.

A side note: Binge writing is not the path to meeting a blown deadline. It is a way to learn to loathe writing and avoid it even more vigorously.

The reality is that you have no idea how much time it will take to finish the thing and claiming it will be finished in weekend without a clear idea of what “finished” entails is straight up fiction. Stop lying to yourself. Start gathering actual information.

The three-part process we use in UNSTUCK is designed to calm down your shame response to the problems with your work and gather data on how to correct it.

I’ll be honest. You will most likely hate this process (at least in the beginning). You will run headlong into some pretty nasty self talk. The blue meanies (UNSTUCK lingo for the mean voices chattering in your head about your work) will have a field day with you. But I promise, if you push through, it will get better. And what the hell, you already feel shitty about your blown deadline so why not?

Step One: Let’s get this thing out of your backpack and face the physical product.

Open it. Print it out. Then, read it through completely without a pen or pencil in your hand. Just read. Be prepared for the aforementioned blue meanies). It is soooooo easy to see what you did wrong and very hard to see what you’ve done right. That’s ok. Be brave. Stay the course. You are working in part to get past all the chatter to the actual work.

Step Two: Read it again.

Probably not right away. That is asking a whole lot of yourself. Give it a day and this time read it with a pen or pencil in your hand, but DO NOT EDIT! Simply make a check mark in the margins next to the things that you identify as needing to be resolved. The repeated exposure will start to calm down the shame response and the check marks will actually give you something to address!

Step Three: Make a list of changes that the check marks represent.

NOW you have an actual idea of what you need to do to finish. While the list may seem overwhelming at first, remember those changes were always there. But now, rather than a swirling mass of anxiety, they are discrete items that can be engaged and checked off! Hurray for checking off items on a list!

As you create your to-do list, work on breaking each item into a 15 minute task.* SPOILER ALERT: You’re going to completely over-estimate what you can do in 15 minutes. That’s okay. Keep adjusting. You will learn.

So wait, what does this have to do with deadlines?

It’s simple. You have to understand what you need to do in order to determine how much time it’s going to take you to do it. And then you need to learn how much time the things you need to do will take YOU to do. Not an imaginary academic. You. And like all good data collection, it will take some trial and error.

Once you have a sense of what you are up against, you can get closer to an accurate finish date.

Did you feel a little dread right as you read that? The anxiety start to creep in? Wait! What if I am wrong? Wait! If I actually plan to finish this thing, doesn’t that mean I will have to contact that person I have been avoiding and claim I will do something I failed to do last time? Yep. The only way to get rid of that missed deadline rock is to admit your mistake and make amends.**

FYI: This system also works for a rapidly approaching deadline. If you have something due this week or the next week, or next month or whenever, spend some time determining exactly what needs to be done to finish the piece. If it is clear that you will not make the deadline, contact the recipient immediately and let him or her know. They will WELCOME the advance warning and an accurate deadline. It is exhausting to plan on something coming in only to be tasked with badgering the missing person until it does. And if for some reason when you get back in contact with that editor and he or she says sorry we can’t take it, then you can let it go and move on. You weren’t going to be accepted anyway so you haven’t lost anything.

*Please see my post last week for a system to break down your work into SMART tasks. (Specific. Measurable. Relevant/Realistic and Timely).

** Next week we’ll talk about how to get over yourself and face your shame to get in touch with that editor/colleague/collaborator/advisor who has been waiting all this time to get the doc you’re finally going to finish.


Makeup Monday: Face Makeup, Getting Fancy

Welcome to Makeup Monday, my weekly series on makeup; academic and postacademic job market and productivity posts will continue on Tuesday and Friday as usual.  For the story of how the #MM series came to be, see Why Makeup,Why Now?

[Weekly Reminder: I’m not going to engage in discussion of why any academic should or should not wear makeup. I have no interest in that debate. If you feel strongly that makeup is a tool of the patriarchy, I hear you, and I understand where you’re coming from. However, I don’t agree with that as a blanket statement. I believe that makeup can be for some people a means of self-care and creative expression that is both empowering and pleasurable. I would request, for the purposes of this post series, that anyone who dislikes makeup, disapproves of makeup, or wants to argue that no academic woman should be judged on the basis of makeup (which nobody is claiming anyway), please, keep it to yourself. I will not engage with makeup-shaming here or on any Facebook or Twitter comment threads. I support your right to not wear makeup, and suggest you come back for my other posts on other topics.]

Last week I shared my basic go-to products for the face.

Today, as promised, I’ll share the the things that I consider a bit… fancy: highlighter, bronzer, and setting spray.

Although this post is only getting up at midnight Monday night, in fact I did my entire makeup routine first thing this morning, so eager was I to take a selfie and share my “fancy” finds with you. And when I sat down to my laptop and opened Professor Is In on Facebook I had a note from a reader: “I need some escape from the news to girly fun. Anxious for Makeup Monday!

Alas, as often happens, life intervened. But, 11:56 PM is technically still Monday!  Better late than never, here we go….

Highlighter, bronzer, and setting spray:  these products are, for me, 100% the result of having an 18 year old daughter who loves makeup.  I sincerely doubt I would have really embraced these trends, if Miyako hadn’t absolutely insisted that she be allowed to “contour” me at least once before she left for college. Being pretty skeptical, I bought a cheap contour kit at TJ Maxx (my go-to spot for noncommittal makeup purchases) and let her have at it. 

It was… interesting.

I mean, don’t forget, I was around the FIRST time contouring was in. And I was ambivalent about it in 1983 too.

I’m not sharing the name of the contour kit, because in the end, I didn’t use it again. We weren’t impressed with the quality.

But Miyako was SO EXCITED about the idea that I would join her in a life of contouring, that I let her talk me into going to Sephora and getting a FORTY DOLLAR Nars bronzer. I had a bad feeling about it….  and sure enough, once it was home and in actual use, I realized that it wasn’t even remotely a good shade for me — way too dark — and that Miyako’s cast-off Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Matte Bronzer from an old Ipsy bag — a little lighter and pinker brown than the Nars — was not only a way better color match but also basically free. And smelled like hot chocolate to boot.

I was so annoyed.

I let Miyako take the Nars to college — the color is great on her half-Japanese skin (hmm… was this her goal from the start??*) and I used the Too Faced until another product came my way, once again from Ipsy, and I fell in love: The Balm Cosmetics Instain Long Wear Staining Powder Blush (in Pinstripe).  Because it’s a dark-rose/terracotta shade, it’s much better on my skin than any bronzer, and because it’s a cross between powder and stain, it STICKS. In other words, it’s not like a fluffy  powdery sparkly blush that floats all over; it’s kind of sticky and quite matte, which makes it ideal for contouring.

I have it on in the picture; what do you think?–>

Also in the picture: my highlighter, Laura Mercier Matte Radiance Baked Powder in Highlight-01. Oddly, I am not sure why I own this product; I think maybe it was part of a free gift of some kind-perhaps from Sephora?  Anyway, this Laura Mercier highlighter actually sat, unused and unloved, in my “drawer of rejected makeup” for a very long time, while I ran off to jump on  the highlighter bandwagon with It Cosmetics Hello Light Anti-Aging Luminizing Creme Stick. This highlighter stick is a nice product, which like my beloved Dr. Brandt primer from last week, does the current “glow” thing without obvious glitter.

But… even so… it is pretty shimmery.  It’s definitely a highlighter. As in, one morning, Miyako said: “your highlighter looks great!”  Which is nice, but not the look I’m going for. I don’t want people to look at my face and see HIGHLIGHTER. That’s just weird.

So, one day, rummaging through the drawer of rejected makeup as I’m wont to do, I happened upon the mystery Laura Mercier, and decided to give it a try.  And, truly, it is the highlighter of my dreams. Why, you ask?  Because it’s matte.  So it somehow (don’t ask me how) is both shiny and matte… simultaneously? What? How is that even possible?

I don’t know, but that’s basically what it is. So you get light, without shine. Or shine, without shimmer.  Or… I don’t know. It’s just good.

OK, so now I have on my foundation and blush, and a little contour, and a little highlighter, and after I do my eyes and lips (which I’ll be talking about in future posts), well then, I finish up with one of my newest happy additions to the routine: finishing spray.

Returning once again to my obsession with durability…  my makeup needs to last. It needs to last through 12+ hour travel/speaking days, and it needs to last through dance classes in mid-summer.

Over the course of many trips to Sephora and Ulta, it was naturally impossible to miss the hype over setting spray. My first response to it, like it is to many things makeup, was: “gah who needs THAT?”  And then, as I applied my Ph.D. analytical brain to the problem of getting makeup to stay on my face, one day it occurred to me: perhaps *I* need that!  I soon found an Urban Decay All-Nighter Setting Spray for a great price at Nordstrom Rack, so I thought–what the heck, and bought it.  As usual with everything Urban Decay on my skin, it did absolutely nothing. (I continue to be mystified about this makeup brand and the hype around it.)  But not one to give up easily, I decided to make another inexpensive foray. A quick search online revealed that NYX Setting Spray is widely beloved, so once again at Nordstrom Rack I found the Dewy Finish for about $7, bought it, and lo—it does EXACTLY what it says. It sets my makeup, holds it in place for hours and hours, and adds a really nice.. uh..dewy finish to my otherwise determinedly undewy middle-aged face. I really, really like it.

Although–make sure your makeup is well blended before you spray! If you don’t, you could look like this –>

So, there you have it: my take on “Face Makeup: Getting Fancy”! Or at least, that was my take. Until today’s Ipsy bag delivered up to me: It Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores Pressed Anti-Aging Finishing Powder.

Of course my first thought upon seeing it was “gah, who needs THAT?”  So, I suppose you can expect to see a blog post about how I can’t live without it, sometime soon…


*Apparently not; she just texted me: “I haven’t used the Nars powder bronzer because I’ve switched to stick makeup entirely; foundation, contour and blush–all stick.”

Productivity Tuesday: Missed Deadlines Can be Deadly

By Kellee Weinhold, TPII Productivity Coach

Welcome to the Productivity Post!
Each(ish) Tuesday, I share some of the ideas and strategies that inform my coaching in UNSTUCK: The Art of Productivity*.

Sometimes, I even record a coaching session! (This is not one of those weeks.)


Fucking deadlines.

They are the Pennywise of academia, lurking in the dark, awakening at random intervals to wreak havoc and feed on insecurities.

Don’t deal with them and things get ugly.

I came to academia via journalism, where a deadline was a real thing. A date. A time. Not to be trifled with if you wanted to avoid humiliation and keep your job.

So, I was completely unprepared for the thing my fellow academics refer to as a deadline.

Typical conversation my first year in the academy:

Me: Have time for lunch?

Academic: Sorry, I can’t. I have a deadline on this article I am writing.

Me: When is it due?

Academic: This spring.

Me: Ok but when?

Academic: I am aiming for April.

THAT IS NOT A DEADLINE! April is a month. 30 days.

30 days of wiggle room, evasion, denial, and procrastination (case in point: “Aiming for…”)

A deadline is not that. A deadline is a limit. A deadline has consequences.

In journalism lore, “deadline” came into newspaper vernacular in reference to the sometimes invisible, “do-not-cross” line set up 20 feet inside the walls of a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp at Andersonville, GA. If a captive Union soldier crossed the deadline, he was shot.

In other words, not only is a deadline an ACTUAL constraint with consequences for failure to meet it, but not knowing your deadline increases the likelihood that you will suffer the productivity equivalent of death: Unfinished. Unpublished. Unemployed.

The challenge for academic writers is that they tend to be as capricious with their deadlines as Henry Wirtz (future war criminal who created the deadline) was with his. They randomly pick a date based on some outside idea of when it “should” be finished rather than assessing when it can be finished. Which is not particularly surprising when you think about how little time most academic writers spend learning how long something might take them to do . (Much more common to beat yourself up for not doing it as fast as you are supposed to, right?)*

Because of this particular self-knowledge deficit, setting an effective deadline will take more than a few reassessments along the way, but for now try these baby steps.

Break your project down (as much as you can with what you have) like this:

  • Main Goal: Writing Project, Submission Goal and Date
    • It doesn’t matter if the deadline is for your shitty first draft or your completed draft. Just SET A DEADLINE and decide who is going to get it.
  • ·SubGoal: Manageable chunks (sections)
    • Divide your project into sections and set a deadline for each. As you do this you may immediately realize the above deadline is unattainable. That’s ok.  That’s actually good!  Now you are grasping a viable writing plan! Just adjust to what you think is reasonable.
  • Tasks: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely (SMART).
    • Begin to break each section into “SMART” tasks and set a deadline for each. Remember “write my chapter” is not a measurable or realistic goal. “Deal with the transition from Paragraph Three to Paragraph Four” is. Once again, the more specific you get about these tasks and when you can realistically do them, the more likely it is that your previously set deadlines will have to be adjusted.

I’ll talk more about facing a deadline you are destined to miss and how not to run away in shame next week

*You write as fast as you write. Stop with the comparisons and figure out you.

Makeup Monday: Face Makeup, The Basics

Welcome to Makeup Monday, my weekly series on makeup; academic and postacademic job market and productivity posts will continue on Tuesday and Friday as usual.  For the story of how the #MM series came to be, see Why Makeup,Why Now?

[Weekly Reminder: I’m not going to engage in discussion of why any academic should or should not wear makeup. I have no interest in that debate. If you feel strongly that makeup is a tool of the patriarchy, I hear you, and I understand where you’re coming from. However, I don’t agree with that as a blanket statement. I believe that makeup can be for some people a means of self-care and creative expression that is both empowering and pleasurable. I would request, for the purposes of this post series, that anyone who dislikes makeup, disapproves of makeup, or wants to argue that no academic woman should be judged on the basis of makeup (which nobody is claiming anyway), please, keep it to yourself. I will not engage with makeup-shaming here or on any Facebook or Twitter comment threads. I support your right to not wear makeup, and suggest you come back for my other posts on other topics.]

About ten years ago I was standing in a Borders Books (remember them?) leafing through a makeup guide, and came across the line, “put down this book, and run, do not walk, to your nearest makeup counter and buy yourself some makeup primer. Primer is that essential. You will thank me later.”

Primer was new back then, and seemed a bit excessive. Now of course, no makeup routine is complete without it. (Here’s the Huffpo Beauty Editor telling you why). Marketing wins again. Indeed, I am bemused at the passion around makeup these days. Is it the fault of Sephora in Penneys? Or is that just another effect? All I know is, I’ve never seen makeup get the kind of attention it’s getting now.  I know this plays a role in my current obsession; I am often susceptible to the consumerist zeitgeist.

And now this week it turns out the Wall Street Journal wants to interview me. Not for my decades of work on the Ph.D. job market and academic careers. No, they want to interview me about makeup. Ie, “about how YouTube makeup tutorials are no longer just for millennials.”  Do I laugh or cry?

Today, I’m going to talk about primer, foundation, concealer, and blush – ie, the basics of face makeup.  Next week I’ll talk about contouring, highlighter, and finishing spray.  Today is about makeup I use at home; later in the series I’ll be devoting an entire post to what I put in my travel bag.

First: my criteria. I want to make these explicit in each post, because I don’t want you to take recommendations for products that don’t serve you if your goals are different than mine. So, I like a light to medium coverage; I do NOT like a heavy makeup look, and would feel weird about that in academic settings. For years I wore BB cream or tinted moisturizer, but as I’ve entered middle-age, I realized I wanted to pump up the coverage a bit more, while still aiming for a natural look.  I’m pretty light skinned and freckled. When I was young I’d be in the Light tones (ivory or bisque) shades; these days I’m in the Medium ranges, with a pink/peach undertone. I steer clear from any brands or colors that lean yellow/gold in undertone, and that has a big impact on the brands I end up buying. I also have bad allergies, so have to regretfully dismiss many excellent products because my skin won’t tolerate them. I insist on ultra-long-wear in all products because I dance or do yoga 5 days a week, and when speaking on campuses, usually end up in 12 hour+ days.  Any product that doesn’t last 12 hours, regardless of how great it is in other respects, won’t make the cut.

And last:  Please be aware, I wear expensive makeup. I mentioned this before, but I’ve found that aging skin doesn’t respond well to drugstore brands. Also, because of my skin allergies and my demand for long-wear, I am picky, and invest in and stick with products regardless of cost if they work for me. I haven’t run comparisons of high end and low end products, so I will not be recommending budget alternatives to products.  Anyone who has done comparisons of this nature, PLEASE feel free to share your recommendations in the comments. In fact, if a set of consistent recommendations emerges from the comments, I’ll be happy to combine them into a new post.

Foundation: I am utterly obsessed with Becca Aqua Luminous Perfecting Foundation.  For years I wore Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer, which was great, but when I went to replace it, I ran across Becca, and I’ve never gone back. This stuff is magic. First off, Becca is in pinker/peachier tones than LM, so all of its color options match my skin both summer and winter.  It is a light, natural coverage that covers what you want covered while retaining the sense of your own skin. It has the wonderful glow of all Becca products (it’s their main claim to fame) but translated to a grown-up effect appropriate for the academic workplace. My only issue with this product is its utterly annoying dropper delivery system, which took ages to get used to and still drips product around my dresser. But, honestly, I’ll tolerate that for the outcome. I guess it won some awards too.

Applying foundation:  Close your computer, and run, do not walk, to your closest TJ Maxx, and buy yourself a silicone makeup sponge. You will thank me later.  You have NO IDEA how much foundation you’ve been wasting with your sponge or your brush. Really, it’s scandalous. I think the whole sponge trend was a scam by the makeup industry to waste foundation. Anyway, go ahead and use your sponge or brush for final blending, but for the application: get the silicone sponge. And, get it at TJ Maxx for $3.99.  No need to spend $15 or whatever at Ulta. When you use the silicone sponge for the first time, only put on a TINY drop of foundation – trust me, it’ll be enough!

Primer: All primers are better than no primer; primer really does what it claims: it provides a base for the rest of your makeup to make it go on smoother and last longer. And these days, primers also address various skin issues, like pores, or redness, or lines. So, use a primer.

I’ve used a lot of brands, and they’ve all been decent. But for a couple years now, I use only Dr. Brandt Pores No More Luminizer. This stuff is the bomb. It smooths out the skin, and it lends a very subtle glow that gets with the “glowy” trend, but again, like the Becca foundation above, in a subtle, understated, grown-up way that works for older skin and professional settings. Covered over with foundation, it just adds a tiny bit of brightness.  But it’s also great alone, especially in the summer, over a tan, etc.  You can get a similar item from Smashbox, Becca, NYX and other brands. I’ve tried the first two, and they are nice, but I always come back to Dr. Brandt for its particular combination of shimmer, weight, and scent.

Before I started investing in intensive skin care, when my skin wasn’t as good, I used to like Tarte Timeless Smoothing Primer, which is a bit like spackle for your pores, lol.  It claims to work on lines, but I did not find that to be true; it was great as an overall smoother though. I really like the Tarte brand in general.

I have experimented with green color correcting primer to correct for reddish skin, but I haven’t found it to do anything special.

Concealer: I don’t like concealer and don’t use much of it.  I think it’s the main culprit of the over-made-up look that one sees a lot of now, and I don’t aim for a flawless mask effect. One of the things I’ve learned from makeup tutorials is that it’s usually better to play up your good features than it is to try and cover over your bad ones.  Heavy coverage usually just cakes up and ends up drawing more attention to the problem you were trying to hide. I find this to be especially true with undereye concealer, which is almost inevitably too pale, conspicuous, and creasey.

However, having said all that, there are occasions when a bit of concealer is helpful around the nose or mouth, or even very carefully under tired eyes, and for those times, I use It Cosmetics Bye Bye Undereye Corrector, or Amazing Cosmetics Hydrate Concealer.  I’ve used the It product for years, and only just recently got the Amazing Cosmetics one.  Both of these contain hyaluronic acid; I can’t speak to any lasting effects, but I can say that they both smooth on in a very elastic, flexible way that blends well into the skin, rather than sitting on top like so many concealers, and they are totally non-drying and non-caking. Because of this, they absolutely do not settle into wrinkles. I also like that the one is a stick and the other a cream, rather than the usual concealer applicator. I find they both offer more control; I use them with a mini-sponge.

The It product provides a bit more coverage but these are not the most heavy-coverage concealers out there; to get the elastic, natural effect you sacrifice a bit of coverage, which is fine with me.  The trick to concealers is to get them in a darker shade than you might expect. The temptation is to get a really light shade to try and lighten shadows, but I actually find that a shade just like my foundation achieves the effect I’m going for.

Before I understood all this, I went for the classic Nars Creamy Concealer. It is a great concealer, but it’s too heavy for my taste now.

Blush:  As you can see above, I am pretty loyal to products when I find them.  Being so picky and so allergic, I don’t do a ton of experimentation once I find the good stuff. But, blush is the exception. Mostly because of my daughter Miyako’s Ipsy subscription, I have an endless collection of different small-brand blushes, plus a few others I’ve picked up here and there, and I use them all, and don’t really have much investment in any of them. The Susan Posnick is a surprisingly nice blush I got at RiteAid! I switch them out mostly based on my level of summer tan, with bronzey options in the summer and peach/rose options in the winter.  Blush is the one area I haven’t gone completely high-end; I recently got a Nars liquid blush sample which I loved, but not enough to inspire me to go out and buy the full size.

Of course I apply all blush with a big poofy brush. The blush brush is such an animal pleasure, is it not?

Speaking of brushes: I don’t spend a ton on brushes. I don’t see the point. I tend to buy them at TJ Maxx for $5-10 a set!  If anyone has brush recommendations and can explain why a person might want to spend $20+ on a brush, do comment below!


Your Academic Cover Letter – The Second Project Paragraph

By TPII editor extraordinaire, Verena Hutter

~This is a continuation of our 2017 series on the Academic Cover Letter.~

After you’ve outlined your publications and planned publications, you’ll outline your second project. Two things right away:  I know that there are (still) advisors out there who tell their grad students to not think about that now, and instead focus on the diss. Or, tell them that turning their diss into a book counts as a second project. They are wrong on both counts. We won’t elaborate on what has already been said many times: You need a second project. (See also page 145, 213-4 in my book).

Your second project will be connected to your first project, but it needs to also show that you’re going into new directions, nobody wants to hire a one-trick pony (although, if we’re honest, there are a lot of them out there).

Don’t be this.

The idea of a second project may loom intimidatingly large, especially if you’re ABD, but chances are, you have thought about other projects, even if not in these terms. You may not have Niklas Luhmann’s 90.000 index cards, but chances are, you have a notebook, or a folder on your computer where you write down and explore new ideas. If not, I suggest starting the ritual of morning pages, which UNSTUCK graduates love to hate (it is very effective).

How specific should you be about your second project? It depends on where you are in your career. The idea is that by the time you get that tenure file ready, your second project is “at minimum proposed, under way, funded and have produced some high-profile conference talks, and ideally an article or two” (p. 145). So, if you’re ABD, nobody will expect you to have cranked out two articles for your second project, but they want to see that you have a plan for research output, that you’ve thought about funding, and where to present your next project.

Present your second project similar to your first project- tell us what it is about. Don’t use the word extend, when you talk about the project, and don’t start the para with “Like my first project, my second project will…”- be clear about the difference to your first project.

As always, don’t be vague. “My second project will explore gender in France” won’t tell us anything. At the same time, don’t go into every little detail, and by all means, don’t talk about how you will use so and so’s theory to show something- that’s grad student speak. At the end of the day, nobody will care too much about the second project (just like they don’t care too much about your dissertation), but they want to see that you’re going somewhere.

Productivity Tuesday: Perfect Does Not Exist. Stop Trying.

By Kellee Weinhold, TPII Productivity Coach

Welcome to the Productivity Post!
Each(ish) Tuesday, I share some of the ideas and strategies that inform my coaching in UNSTUCK: The Art of Productivity*.

Sometimes, I even record a coaching session! (This is not one of those weeks.)

Perfect is not required. Published is.

For many writers, the path to getting their work submitted disappears painfully into the thorn-infested borderland of getting things just right.

The closer they get to hitting that submit button, the louder the mental chatter gets about what might be wrong and why the work can’t possibly be put out there for feedback.

And in the midst of all that noise, we lose track of the path to the end goal — completed and published — and instead turn toward the thicket of perfectionism.

Let’s just be clear. You cannot ever get to perfect. It doesn’t exist.

But, depending on your belief system, the pursuit of perfect will lands you in one of two nasty locations: 1.) hubris (trying to attain the divine) or 2.) insecurity (trying to avoid critique), leaving you with only two extremes of engagement with your work — brilliant or embarrassing.

But wait, shouldn’t we try to make our work the best it can be? Shouldn’t we aim to be seen as the very top work in our field? I mean, why do it if it’s not the best?

Yes. And No. Yes, you should do YOUR best.  Not someone else’s best, but yours. And that, young writer, is far from perfect. And no, you should not be holding yourself to the standards of people who have been doing this thing for decades. Aiming for it, yes. Declining to submit your work until you “feel” like it measures up to it? Nah.

“But wait, I can’t submit this because someone will find a mistake. I’ll have missed something. I will be embarrassed.”

That’s perfectionism talking. (And, just a gentle reminder, you are not your work.)

Of course, someone will find something to critique. That’s the core contract of the academy. We read. We think about what we read. We write something engaging with (read: critiquing) what we read. We submit it. And (we hope!) someone reads it and thinks about it and engages with it. Welcome to academic publishing!

The only way to be in the game (and improve) is to put your work out to be critiqued.

But wait! What if I am not smart enough? How can I possibly get through all of my fears of inadequacy and imposter syndrome to press the submission button?

If you find yourself ceasing to move forward in order to make something “perfect,” the problem is not that what you are trying to do is too difficult for you. The problem is actually the perfectionism itself.

Focusing on each and every tiny detail ultimately RESULTS in losing track of the larger project. And, in yet another case of doing exactly what we were trying to avoid, we fall behind, miss deadlines, and generally increase our stress. In other words, perfectionism is a barrier to success, not a path to it.

The solution? Let go of expectation.

“It’s not going to measure up” is an expectation of how people will react. It is also 100% fiction based in comparison* and a belief in perfectionism.

Just for today, just for right now, let go of being perfect. Let go of meeting anyone’s expectation. Rather than focusing on getting it “right” aim for a solid draft that meets the minimum expectations for publication.

When the blue meanies start to chatter — and they will — just tell them “I’m not I’m not working on perfect. I’m working on joining the world of continuous improvement through engagement and feedback.

*And we all know Comparison is the THIEF OF JOY, right?

Why Makeup, Why Now?

I’m starting Makeup Monday with some background story. While reactions to the Makeup series here and on social media have been uniformly positive, there has definitely been some surprise also. The Professor Is In is doing makeup now?? What??

And indeed, my newfound obsession with makeup is a bit of a surprise even to me.  So here’s the story.

I’ve worn makeup since my teenage years, and really enjoyed it, and never totally stopped.  But, when a person works at home in a place like Eugene, Oregon, where Birkenstocks rule, the opportunities to wear makeup quickly shrink to a vanishing point. I didn’t give it up entirely, but my enthusiasm definitely waned. There just wasn’t much point, and aside from my beloved Kellee, almost no appreciative audience!

And then three things happened. The first is, I started giving more and more public talks around the country and internationally.  And almost every time I gave a talk I had to provide a publicity photo, and every time I gave a talk, I was photographed.  And lo, I was not happy with the results. Not Happy At All.  I’ve never been particularly photogenic. I’m awkward in front of the camera, and my tendency to shrink back in anxiety leads to a multiplication of chins, among other unpleasant outcomes.  The photos were not good.  Something had to be done.

At almost the same time, my then-high school age daughter Miyako began her own explorations in makeup.  She spent endless hours with friends at Sephora and Ulta, and subscribed to Ipsy, the monthly makeup sample bag.  She would come home and regale me with her finds and newfound knowledge. Eventually she started giving me the cast-offs from her Ipsy bags.  Then we started watching makeup tutorials together. It dawned on me that there was a whole world of makeup products, tools, and techniques that could potentially help with the public talks/promo photo problem above.

Meanwhile, while all this was happening, I was also getting more and more deeply into dance in Eugene.  I dance with a women’s group called Dance Empowered three times a week, and do other kinds of dance or yoga 1-2 other days, every week.  And I am a very overheated kind of person.  At dance and yoga I sweat gallons. I wanted to look glamorous in dance class, but to my dismay, every day I’d come home from class only to find rivulets of mascara running down my cheeks and my lipcolor vanished. I’d see other women in class leave with makeup as fresh as the moment they arrived. This annoyed me. What was I doing wrong?

This confluence of events piqued my curiosity. Was there makeup that might solve these issues?

I started tagging along to my daughter’s Sephora trips, and actually using all my newly acquired cast-off Ipsy loot. It was a fun, and frankly, the best way to spend precious time with my daughter (along with regular mani-pedis!)

It helped that I’d recently subscribed to Teen Vogue to follow their amazing new political writing. An unforeseen benefit: makeup tutorial videos started arriving in my inbox. My life became rather confusing.

Indeed, as I pursued my experiments, I soon learned that the makeup I’d used and loved from age 15 to 40 would never do.

It no longer worked.

At all.

50+ year old skin is no laughing matter.  Colors that used to look cute look garish, or invisible.  Foundation that used to work like a dream settles into wrinkles in places I didn’t even know I had wrinkles.  Eye shadow smears all over droopy eyelids.  Mascara slides off thinning eyelashes.

No joke, middle aged makeup is not for the faint of heart!

And that’s not counting the allergies! I’ve always been allergic– I have an anaphylactic allergy to tree nuts, hayfever, allergies to antibiotics, even allergies to my beloved bunnies.  But now, I couldn’t put a product on my face, it seemed, without breaking out in hives or tearing up and crying it off within a half hour.

Outcome: frustration.


But I am never one to give up in the face of a challenge.

So, in the last two years I got serious. I started seriously researching makeup products, and seriously buying, and seriously trying.  I have spent a small fortune, there is no doubt about it. (Sorry, Kellee!)

But I can happily report that I have solved every one of these problems.  I have great makeup that looks great, that works on my middle-aged face, that vastly improves my appearance in photographs, that I am not allergic to, that even stays on through a mid-summer dance class.  Not only that, I have makeup solutions to take with me travelling.

The weirdest part of it all?  It has actually has helped me deal with Trump. I’m not kidding.  Makeup has given me a new creative outlet, a place to pursue color and shimmer and glow in a time of gloom and despair. I never go to a protest, and Kellee and I go to them weekly (I’m actually an organizer), without a great lipcolor.

My delight in this accomplishment is what led me (with great trepidation) to write the first makeup post, on long-wear lipcolor. Honestly, for me, long-wear lipcolor is the HOLY GRAIL of makeup. And when I found a product by an African-American owned indie brand (Beauty Bakerie) that stays on for 12+ hours, well, I just had to overcome my embarrassment and share it.  I honestly did not expect the response to be so positive, and so enthusiastic.

But it was!  So, now I’m going to blog about makeup every Monday.

When I texted Miyako, now away at college, to tell her that I’m going to be a, um,  makeup blogger, she responded:

“that’s hilarious.”

Followed by: “Am I going to be featured in this series?”

So here is Miyako (with her brother Seiji), my makeup sensei, the inspiration for all of this!

She promises to share a post about foundation and contouring techniques.

Next week:  Face Makeup, The Basics.

Please, Sir, I Want Some More Employment: Applying For UK Jobs, Part I – The Lay of the Land

By Alice Kelly, Ph.D.

Alice Kelly is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Oxford. Her academic training has been in the UK and the US. She completed her PhD in English at Cambridge in 2014, with a year as a Fox Fellow at Yale, and before that she studied at Sussex, Reed College (Portland, Oregon), and Oxford. She has taught English and History in the US and the UK. Having applied for academic jobs on both sides of the pond, she understands the challenges and opportunities of being on the transatlantic academic job market. Alongside her academic research on twentieth century literature and culture, she advocates healthy writing practices. At Oxford she founded the TORCH Academic Writing Group, which she has written about in Times Higher Education.


Note from Karen:  I met Alice during Kellee’s and my visit to Oxford in Spring 2017. We really hit it off, and I was impressed with her energetic, no-nonsense, and clear-eyed sense of the UK academic job market.  I could tell right away that she’d be a wonderful resource for TPII readers and clients looking for jobs there.  I requested a series of blog posts, and she has kindly obliged with a four-part series. She will also be serving as an informal consultant on the UK job market.  Please welcome Alice, and please do send along your questions!


Part One: The Lay of the Land: Your Guide to British Universities and Jobs

Tired of getting nowhere on the US job market? Interested in applying abroad? As the job market looks increasingly diminished in the US (and if your personal circumstances and lifestyle permit), you may be broadening your search to include our fair isle.

Then, dear reader, look no further than here for this new series on applying for academic jobs in the UK. Think of this as a British version of Karen’s post “Why Your Cover Letter Sucks,” primarily aimed at doctoral students and early career researchers in the humanities in the US – but UK applicants may also find it useful. Although we technically speak the same language, in academic terms we don’t always match up.

Like other modes of writing, job applications have a set formula. I’m writing this series because I believe that we could be doing much more, especially in the British system, to train our graduate students in how to write them well and with the least possible stress. My own 70+ applications on both sides of the Atlantic (with separate letters and CVs for each country), plus giving talks on this topic and reading numerous cover letters for applicants on both sides of the pond, have given me some hard-won experience. I may not know everything that works, but I definitely know what doesn’t.

This series will teach you how to navigate the different types of universities in the UK, the types of jobs you might apply to, and the schedule of applications; the current academic landscape, primarily the unknown, utterly unquantifiable impact of Brexit and the opposing total quantification of publications through the REF; the language, length and structure of UK cover letters; and the interview and the multiple forms it might take.

So without further ado…

First of all, if you’re going to be applying for a job in the UK, you as a candidate need to understand the different types of universities in the UK and their particular cultures and preoccupations. In a nutshell, there are four key types:

Ancient universities, founded before 1600: Oxford, Cambridge, St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh. Likely to have small class sizes, particularly Oxbridge (a hybrid term for both universities), which have tutorials (Oxford) and supervisions (Cambridge) with one to four students. Incidentally, these points hold true for Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, as well.

Red brick universities, founded in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in industrial cities: including Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield. There are also other universities founded between 1900-1963, including Cardiff, Leicester, Nottingham and Reading.

Plate glass universities, founded mostly in the 1960s on self-contained campuses: East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Lancaster, Sussex, Warwick, York. Sometimes this list is extended to included existing institutions which became universities in this period, such as Aston, Bath, Salford and Strathclyde.

Post-1992, mostly former polytechnics and central institutions: These institutions were mostly given university status through the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, and include Anglia Ruskin, De Montfort, Oxford Brookes, Greenwich, and Nottingham Trent. These universities may require lower entry grades.

There are a lot of other universities – these are just a few of many.

Another grouping you may come across is the Russell Group, a group of twenty-four public research universities, which joined together in 1994 to represent its members’ interests to the government. These universities receive two-thirds of all research grant funding in the United Kingdom and are generally regarded very highly. There are also particular types of university, such as the Open University, which is a distance-learning university, or Buckingham University, one of the UK’s five private universities (most other UK universities are government-funded). There are also UK satellite campuses of American universities, most in London (including Boston University, Central University of Iowa, Florida State, Georgetown, James Madison, NYU, Pepperdine, Syracuse, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Yale) and some elsewhere (Middlebury College in Oxford, Harlaxton College in Grantham, Luther College in Nottingham and Randolph College in Reading).

You might be thinking: how does knowing the types of British universities help me on the job market? Well, you have to be familiar with the lay of the land and the particular focus of each type of university and which students it may attract. How will your research and teaching fit in this university? What are the class sizes and how will your courses serve its students? What’s the availability of funding and how will it enable or restrict your research and teaching?

Next, what are the types of jobs you might be applying for? (FYI – in the US, a ‘job’ typically means a tenure-track job, but in the UK we use it more loosely to mean short-term posts, postdocs and teaching fellowships, as well as permanent lectureships):

Postdoctoral and Research Fellowships: These come in many shapes and sizes and vary from one to five-year contracts. They are usually themed or based as part of an existing research project team. Like American postdocs, these are research focused and usually involve little or no teaching. At Oxbridge, postdocs are called Junior Research Fellowships (as well as postdocs) and are based at particular colleges, and may be themed or completely open. If you’re a UK citizen, you can also apply for prestigious fellowships through national funding councils such as British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowships and Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowships, which are held in conjunction with an institution.

Research Assistantships: Useful if you’re a UK citizen and need a short-term post to tide you over before you get a longer-term post (and you’re interested in the work). Due to short-contracts and funding constraints, they’re probably unlikely to hire an overseas candidate, although it depends on each particular project.

Teaching Fellowships: Usually a year, although can be longer or shorter. In American terms, these are a bit like Visiting Assistant Professor positions. At Oxbridge, these posts are usually called College Teaching Posts, as opposed to permanent/long-term Faculty/Departmental Lectureships. Can provide useful teaching experience, especially if you’re a newly minted PhD looking for experience. However, these posts can sometimes be exploitative and have been criticized as hiring fresh blood in order to free up more senior academics from their teaching qualifications to write more REF outputs (see my second post coming up, for more on the REF – and Dr. Karen posts links to writing on the REF periodically on the Facebook Page). Watch out for weird-length contracts – I’ve applied for 7-month and 10-month contract positions, which can make finding accommodation difficult.

Lectureships: Our equivalent of tenure-track assistant professorships. In book-fields in the humanities, most applicants will have either published a monograph based on their dissertation, or have a book on the way, before getting one of these prized positions. Although these posts do not advertise themselves as being permanent, they are typically just that. They come with full research, teaching and service requirements. Lecturers are referred to as “Dr.”, not “Professor.” (In the UK, “Professor” denotes a position of seniority, whereas in the US it is used colloquially for all lecturers, regardless of rank).

Applying for more senior positions (Senior Lectureships, Readerships, Professorships) will come later. Hold your horses.

To complicate things further, some British universities (such as Exeter, Reading, Warwick and Kingston) have taken on the American terms for academic ranks, using the term “Associate Professor” instead of “Reader.” Oxford has got rid of the term “Reader” altogether, and only hires at Associate Professor level, not Assistant.

One significant difference between the two systems, however, is the schedule of applications. In the US everything depends on the disciplinary job lists coming out August-September, whereas in the UK jobs are posted throughout the academic year. There are pros and cons of this system: in the UK, jobs can still appear late in the academic year (May/June) for a September start, and the turnaround time from application to interview to offer is much faster than the US system. But it can mean that you may not know whether or not you will have a job in the next academic year until the summer.

To Do: Subscribe to daily/weekly jobs posting from either or Times Higher Education Uni Jobs to give yourself a familiarity with the types of jobs being advertised. Subscribing to either rather than both should adequately cover your back, as the same jobs are posted to both. To find out about JRFs in Oxbridge, look up the vacancies sections in the Cambridge Reporter or the Oxford Gazette (old school, I know), or more simply check the Postdocs Wiki where they are usually posted – just remember to check that you have the right year.

So that gives you a brief introduction to the types of universities and jobs you might apply to. In my next blog, I’ll discuss the current landscape of the British academy.



Leaving Academia: Learning to Grieve – #Postac Post

Dr. Lisa Munro

by Lisa Munro, PhD*

This is the second of a three-part blog post series by Lisa Munro. The first is here.

A big part of my work in crime victim advocacy involves preparing people to take their next steps forward so they know what to expect. If, for example, I’m on a crime scene talking to a victim of domestic violence, I talk with them about the upcoming steps in the court process. If I’m on scene and talking to a family after the suicide of a loved one, I talk with them about what the coroner will do during the investigation, the grief process, and the next decisions they’ll need to make. With some information about what to expect, people feel more informed and ready for the next step.

I was not prepared in any way for the intensity of the emotional fallout of leaving academia, which punched me square between the eyes precisely because I wasn’t expecting it. I had expected to celebrate my decision not to pursue an academic career. I thought I’d feel relief, freed from a culture of pseudo-meritocracy, adjunct exploitation, and nefarious neoliberal university restructuring schemes. I didn’t understand why I felt so awful when what I expected was joy.

After a while, I realized that what I felt was genuine grief.

In 1969, Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced the world to her model for grieving in her book, On Death and Dying. She proposed that grief happens in five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Her work transformed how we think about grief. Critics of the Kübler-Ross model argue that the stages of grief aren’t really stages at all; in this regard, they are absolutely right. The stages of grief often feel more like phases or sometimes even like polite suggestions about one of life’s most intense emotional experiences. Grief is not a linear, orderly experience, but rather a roller-coaster complete with upside-down loops and unexpected turns. People in grief often cycle through all of the phases many times and then back again. Sometimes just when a person thinks that they’ve reached acceptance, something sucks them backwards into anger or they’re back to trying to bargain their way out of loss. Nevertheless, the concept of the five stages of grief provides people a road map for what to expect in the aftermath of losing something or someone we cared about deeply.

Grief is the process by which we accept new realities. In my last post, I talked about the trauma of identity loss. Losing one’s identity hurts so very, very much. Grief is a normal and healthy response to the loss of someone or something we love. It is an absolutely vital and necessary part of letting go so that we can keep moving forward. Grief can, however, also temporarily hijack people’s lives, taking control over living, thinking, and doing. Grieving consumes huge amounts of emotional and physical energy. Grief can feel uncontrollable, frightening, fierce, irrational and wholly unpredictable.

We fight grief sometimes. We don’t want to have anything to do with it or we deny that grief is something we need. We also sometimes try to rationalize and control grief, as if we’re the ones in charge. Grief is not an intellectual project; it is an involuntary experience of the heart and soul. If you’re grieving, know this: you can trust in the grief process. Giving oneself fully to the grief process often feels frightening, as if grief may swallow us whole and we may never return. Grief, however, is faithful. It will take you where you need to go, eventually leading you to quiet acceptance. Grief is also an incredibly taboo subject in academia. Much like issues of mental health, grief isn’t something that most people are comfortable discussing. Sometimes people feel ashamed for even having grief in the first place, as if they are somehow bad people. Healing a broken heart after losing a huge chunk of your life, identity, and career requires grieving; there is literally nothing to be ashamed of.


I’ve discovered that there’s no timeline on grief, either. I’ve been out of academia for two years and am just now coming to accept my choices. Here’s kind of how my personal grief process went. Identifying and naming the experience as grief made it feel less frightening. Keep in mind that my grief process wasn’t nearly as neat and tidy as I’ve presented it here. It felt chaotic, confusing, exhausting, and endless. I’ve come to better acceptance about my situation, but I still struggle with it some days.


When I was still on the academic job market, I ignored everyone who told me that the job market had collapsed and wouldn’t be making a comeback anytime soon. When I received a bunch of rejection letters, I told myself that it was just a fluke. I’d be the exception to the rule. I continued to revise my application materials and apply to any job that seemed like a possibility. It was just a matter of time. I wasn’t giving up. I was not a quitter.


After a few unsuccessful years on the market, I got angry. When I realized that I’d been flat out rejected by the very system that had trained me to be a scholar, all I could feel was rage. And to be honest, righteous indignation feels pretty good. I raged about the corporate university and the neoliberal market schemes that had decimated higher education. I ranted about the adjunct crisis to anyone who would listen. Anger feels good, but its also exhausting. It burns bright, but then burns out.


I felt angry, but I was also flat broke. I started wondering if maybe I’d been too hasty. If maybe I should give the job market one more try. I thought about trying to get a post-doc or a visiting assistant professorship. If I were to get one of those jobs, I’d take back all of the awful things I’d said about academia. I was ready to strike any number of Faustian bargains. If the universe would cooperate and grant me a small miracle in the form of even a short-term academic job, I’d agree to living in a place I definitely did not want to live in exchange for temporary health insurance. I really wasn’t asking all that much. I just wanted to feel like the work I’d put into my PhD hadn’t been a huge waste of time and money.


Eventually, I literally didn’t know what to do. I was pretty sure at this point that my PhD had ruined my life. I was 39 years old, broke, unemployed, and drowning in massive student loan debt. I felt unemployable and worthless. Out of desperation, started sending out non-academic resumes. In return, I received a whole new pile of rejection emails. I sank lower, realizing I’d spent my 30s accruing a huge amount of debt for a humanities degree that disqualified me from most employment. I’d sacrificed years of paying work and had nothing to show for it but a fancy degree and some Ikea furniture. I cried a lot. I cycled between anger and sadness often, the opposing sides of the same coin.


Like everything else about grief, acceptance appeared when I least expected it. I’d wanted to arrive at acceptance with a loud bang, a drum roll, and a megaphone to announce that my heart had finally come to terms with my decision not to pursue academia as a career. A champagne toast would have been a welcome touch. Instead, when acceptance came, it came as if on soft, silent cat paws so quiet I hardly noticed. I found myself starting to think about what I really wanted to do in life. I wanted to write. I began thinking about how I might do that. I did some brainstorming. I realized one day that I was making plans to create a life that I wanted more than I wanted an academic career. I was healing, slowly.

If you’re grieving, here are some things that you can do:

  • Validate your own experiences and feelings. Whatever you’re feeling is okay and normal. Sometimes other people can’t or won’t understand how we feel. Your healing does not depend on them understanding your story. Your healing depends on YOU understanding, accepting, and standing tall and resolute in your truth. At the beginning, you might not like your new story of academic exodus very much. It sounds and feels like failure. That’s okay and normal. You don’t have to like your story right now. Know that it might be a while before you get anywhere near healing or acceptance.
  • Grief often makes people feel isolated and alone. In other cultures, grief is much more of a community experience and public event. People often want to help support others in grief but they don’t know how. Ask your people for help. Maybe you need someone to check in on you every week and ask how you’re really doing and actually care about the answer. Maybe you need a gym buddy to keep you exercising while you’re grieving. Maybe you need a friend to help you with cooking actual meals for a while because all you can manage to eat is cereal. Figure out what you need and ask people to help you.
  • You might also just need people to listen to you. You can ask people to listen and not say anything. Grief is so awkward and uncomfortable that most people try to fill the void with meaningless conversation. It’s okay to let people know that they don’t have to say anything and that just listening is enough. When people listen to our whole stories without trying to fix them, they’re drawing on the power of empathy. Empathy and connection are a marvelous antidote to feelings of isolation and the weird shame that sometimes accompanies serious grief. You’re not a bad person for grieving and nothing is wrong with you. You aren’t broken, even though your heart is. You’re a human being getting through traumatic loss.
  • Practice lots of self-care, most especially when it feels like work. If you’re deep in grief, you sometimes need to remind yourself that you actually care about you. Grief is a good time to practice mindfulness, being fully present to your experience, and honoring your own process. Self-care is sometimes the last thing you want to do, but it does make a difference. At a minimum, try for good sleep, exercising, and eating adult meals. We have no grieving ritual for the kind of loss that comes with leaving academia, but you might create one. Rituals make intangible loss into a physical experience and provide an emotional space for the amorphous nature of grief.

Finally, even though you can do things to help yourself through the grief process, grief is much less about doing and much more about being and feeling. Grief absolutely feels awful and most people will do almost anything to avoid it. You can’t. Lean into it and be with it. Things might feel this way for a while. Let yourself grieve. It’s okay.


*Lisa’s Bio:  I graduated from the University of Arizona in 2015 with a PhD in Latin American history. I’ve got a long list of non-academic jobs, including being a Peace Corps volunteer (Guatemala, 2004-2006), a veterinary technician, a medical receptionist in a bilingual hospital office, a teacher, a study abroad assistant, and most recently, a crime victim advocate. I’ve lived in Guatemala and Mexico and am currently figuring out how to engineer my life so I can return there. I co-host the biweekly #withaphd chat on Twitter, where academics of all stripes can network and share with each other about life outside of academia. I’m passionate about writing about Latin America, history, archaeology, science and pseudoscience, neoliberalism, critical thinking, the writing process, adoption and child welfare, trauma, memoir, and my post-PhD life.

Blog link:

Twitter link:


Productivity Tuesday: Why Would You Trust a Liar?

By Kellee Weinhold, TPII Productivity Coach

Welcome to the Productivity Post!
Each(ish) Tuesday, I share some of the ideas and strategies that inform my coaching in UNSTUCK: The Art of Productivity*.

Sometimes, I even record a coaching session! (This is not one of those weeks.)

This week’s post is adapted from the Introduction to Step Two coaching video in the UNSTUCK: The Art of Productivity program. Step Two is all about committing to a daily (M-F) writing practice. If you have been struggling to kick start your writing, this is a great place to start.

Welcome to Step Two.
I hope you took the opportunity to take the weekend off.  If you were unable to overcome your anxiety and feeling like you JUST HAD to work all weekend, I want to encourage you to keep pushing back on that, to keep reclaiming your time until you are no longer working on weekends.

If you are feeling burned out and exhausted by the whole process, you are simply doing too much. And the solution is not working more to do less. It is doing less so you have the energy to do more! So take the weekend off! You don’t have to explain it to anybody. You don’t have to tell your department chair or your advisor or anybody. Just do it!  Show up for your life.

Remember, we’re working on balance.

Now that we have that out of the way, the goal this is the week is to set aside a little time each day and begin to chip away at your project.

In preparation for that commitment, I want to revisit the three core values of UNSTUCK:

1) Honesty.  Tell the truth about what you’re doing, being really precise in your language so you’re training your brain that what you say is what you do.  In other words, “Write my Book” is not honest. First of all, you can’t write a book in one sitting. Second, there is no way to mark off what you have done. Be HONEST: You are going to work in the introductory paragraph to chapter two.

2) Realistic Expectations. Set goals based on the life you have — the pressures, the other influences on your schedule, on your well-being, on your psyche.  Set up realistic expectations for yourself for each day based on the life you have, not the one your advisor has or your colleague has. YOUR Life!

3) Set Small, Measurable Goals. Within the context of your actual life, honestly set small goals that you can repeatedly achieve. I cannot stress how important it is that you set goals that you can and will meet.

If you have not been writing, or more precisely, if you have been saying that you’re going to write only to not write, you have laid down wiring over and over and over again that tells your brain you are not going to show up. You have become someone you don’t trust.

By way of example: Let’s say you have a friend who agreed to meet you at a coffee shop to work on a project. When the time comes, you show up but that friend doesn’t.  Or you both show up but that friend does everything but work on the project.  And let’s say you are naive enough to make that arrangement more than a few times and get the same outcome. Chances are at this point you show up with no real expectation of progress, or you don’t show up at all.

That’s pretty what’s happened with your writing over time.  You didn’t show up when you said you would and now there is not expectation that you will. You have lost trust in yourself.

So, what we want to do is rebuild your integrity of self,  and we do it in the same way. Repeated, slow replacing of that no-show wiring with a neural pathway that says “When I say I’m going to write, I show up to write.”

The critical, CRITICAL component of this week is to show up when you say you will!  It’s why you set your goals so small at the beginning. Because the most important thing is not what you write but that you do exactly what you say you’re going to do.

Mark you calendar every day for a 15-minute block. Show up. Write some words, any words, on the page. Keep your word to yourself for one whole week. Then do it again. And again. Do it until you begin to trust yourself again.

*If you would like to learn more about UNSTUCK: The Art of Productivity or join the program, click HERE