In today’s post I talk about sexual harassment in the academy, the #MeTooPhD hashtag I created, and the Sexual Harassment in the Academy Crowdsource Survey that I launched two years ago that has 2500 entries. This post is prompted by my conversation with a Washington Post reporter yesterday, who asked for an interview for a new breaking case that he’s covering. He’s the same reporter I spoke to when the survey was going viral and getting lots of media coverage, and I decided it might be a good time to share with you all just what it is I tell reporters when they ask me why sexual harassment is so endemic to academic settings.
I apologize that the video is in two parts. The learning curve to switching to video format is steep, and unfortunately today I learned that my iphone storage was totally full, and so my videos kept quitting midway. I did delete a ton of stuff, and now things seem fine. Thanks for bearing with me while I master the technology!
I get a lot of questions about the Academic Conference from junior academics. Conferences are daunting! Even for more senior people. But they are an essential part of your academic career, so the sooner you get comfortable, the better – and honestly the only way to do so is just to jump in and go. And the thing is, the task here is to do the conference without acting like a grad student! This post gives you tips on how. And, check this medium post for a few more tips (not from the academic world, but useful nonetheless, inc.: don’t stare at your phone!)
Just to be clear: conference participation is one of the core elements of the competitive academic record – both giving papers and organizing panels. Later in your career serving as discussant also shows seniority and stature. On the other hand, posters are, for most disciplines, the “kids’ table” of the academic conference, and count far less on the CV (although please note that this does not hold for a lot of STEM fields where posters are highly regarded, so please confirm with your field advisors).
Giving a paper doesn’t just get your research out to the scholarly community, it also gives you experience with handling live Q and A, which has a major learning curve. Meanwhile, organizing a panel (assuming your association allows students or junior folks to do this) is one of the very best networking strategies there is – by inviting people slightly senior to you to serve on the panel, you guarantee a larger audience (who will come to see them rather than you) and better time slot than you’d likely merit on your own; you also get the chance to engage with the senior person you invite as discussant, and further, you can probably organize a panel lunch or dinner that allows for deeper conversation, more lasting connections, and maybe even future collaborations.
Lastly, conferences give you the chance for participating in the life of your discipline, by going to business meetings, or open bars, or other subgroup events, where you might even take on an administrative role (within limits, and never if it interferes with your writing!) that gives you access to a wide network of like minded scholars.
In short, conferences show that you are a serious scholar and are an ideal time to maximize opportunities for networking, self-promotion, professional skills training, and building a public intellectual identity.
This is all in addition to the basic function of presenting your work, and maybe interviewing for jobs – stressful!
To avoid the wallflower experience, plan ahead. Like, way ahead–by a month or more, but even a couple days will do in a pinch.
Check the program and schedule out the panels you want to attend. Give yourself a couple hour block at the book exhibit. Then, with that done, plot out your breakfasts, lunches and dinners, as well as coffees and cocktails, and consider whom to invite to share those with you. Rather than standing listlessly about in the lobby at 5:30 while everyone around you rushes off to their evening plans looking fabulous, make sure you have planned stuff for yourself to do. If you invite people ahead of time, especially senior people, you have a much greater chance of getting time with them than if you tried to spring something on them at the last minute.
Once there, be sure and follow conference Twitter using the main conference hashtag, as well as other thematic conference hashtags relevant to your interests. Don’t forget that panels often have their own hashtags, especially when they are around higher profile or controversial topics. As you follow the live-tweeting of the event from various attendees, you’ll not only enrich your own understanding of it, but you’ll get an instant insight into the communities of scholars active in the discussion. You now know who to follow, based on what they say. And not only that, you can tweet your own thoughts! Some of the very best real-time commentary and critique happens on hashtagged conference twitter, and these convos are so dynamic and in the moment, that they often catalyze spontaneous face to face meetups.
Also check if there are field-specific events to attend. Back in the day when I was just getting started, I learned that the Japan anthropologists would always meet up for a dinner at the Asian Studies meetings; once I figured this out (just by keeping my ear to the ground at Japan-related panels and by lurking near Japan-related books at the major press booths (U of California Press for example, at the book exhibit) I knew to expect and plan for that event every year.
Another tactic, check in with your advisor and other faculty members from your department. If you know they’ll be attending, and they’re generous sorts, and open to the idea, ask to tag along to a meal or drinks that they have planned. Not all advisors are willing, but some are.
Some departments or campuses host events or open bars, so be sure to ask grad students and faculty if there is plan for a meet-up. On the subject of which: free food and wine can often be found at some of the high profile book launch receptions at the book exhibit! Be sure to look for signs on the first day, so you can plan ahead!
Lastly, show up for interest groups. If you’re queer, you can likely find a “LBTQIA Reception” happening at some point or another, and usually this will actually be on the formal program. Same for events for scholars of color, and so on.
Some might advise you to get a Conference Buddy, so that you don’t end up staring forlornly at your online program while eating lunch alone in the hotel restaurant. However, as tempting as this is, I don’t recommend it. You need to use the conference to meet NEW people. That’s the point of networking. So, it’s ok to have your buddy on call for an evening if you both find yourselves at loose ends, or for a breakfast perhaps, but the bulk of your days really should be used to push yourself out of your comfort zone, meet new people, make new connections. And remember, nobody is likely to approach YOU if you are deeply ensconced in conversation with a good friend. So as hard as it is, keep yourself open to fresh encounters.
And this brings up the issue of the Elevator Pitch. You really do need this, and not just for elevators. The bread and butter of academic conference conversation is, “oh and what do you work on?” You absolutely need a 2-3 minute version of your research.
Sentence 1: Broadly speaking, my work examines…
Sentence 2: Specifically, my dissertation looks at….
Sentence 3: So, I study this specific STUFF (these novels, these chemicals, these populations, these historical documents, etc.) and I study it in this specific WAY (theory, method).
This is the basic Elevator Pitch. THEN, assuming the person’s eyes have not glazed over, and/or they have made polite “Oh, really?” noises, you then continue with:
Sentence 4: I am finding that… and I basically argue XXX.
Sentence 5: this actually changes the way we view XX; the field tends to see it as X, whereas my work shows that it’s really Y.
And that’s it. These sentences are all very short!
And one last sure fire conference technique. If you find yourself standing next to someone, and your mind freezes from panic, remember: the default politesse of the academic conference is this: “Are you having a good conference?” The level of enthusiasm in the response signals whether you have the go ahead to keep chatting, or if you’re about to be ghosted. Take both with as good a grace as you can muster, and move on. Remember, you have places to be! (because you already planned them!)
Kel and I discuss the 7 ways that the academy resembles a cult in its policing of insider/outsider status boundaries and shaming of those who do not conform, whether it be through pedigree, background, identity, topic of study, or levels of obsessive productivity. The PhD training apparatus is our indoctrination mechanism, and the outcome is Imposter Syndrome and a culture of shame and fear.
Find the episode link here, give it a listen on the Himalaya app if you can (it’s the best platform!), and share with your circles!
And, please consider becoming a Himalaya Plus Premium member for $7.99 a month. The podcast will always be free, but Premium membership brings a host of excellent perks that Kel and I have put a lot of thought into, to be as useful to you as possible. We also have a promo code for the first month free: TPII. Sign up by Jan 10 for Early Bird perks (see below)
In particular we’ll be offering live and real-time interactions on the Himalaya Community page; this will replace a lot of Facebook engagement as we attempt to slowly migrate the business away from that platform.
Early Bird Members (ie who sign up by Jan 10) get the following:
*Introductory price of $7.99 *Your name entered in drawing for a document review of your choice with Karen. (First 50 subscribers) *Your name entered in a drawing for a one-to-one coaching session with Kel. (First 50 subscribers) *Karen’s 7 day CV Rehab [7 days of advice on building a competitive CV for the career you want]. *Kel’s 7 day Productivity Kickstart [7 days of support on overcoming roadblocks to writing]. *A special Karen video post: “YOU can shape your experience of academia.”
After Jan 10, our Professor Is In Premium community will always give you:
*A monthly live AMA academic career coaching session with Karen *A monthly live AMA academic productivity coaching session with Kel. *A monthly Member’s Only podcast with special guests: experts on the the post-ac transition, publishing, tenure, scholar-activism, and more. *Access to ALL of our Facebook Live recordings from the last three years!** *Access to all of Kel’s past productivity webinar recordings.** *An interactive community page for follow up comments and questions.
Really hope you like the podcast and can’t wait to see you over on Himalaya! Send us your suggestions, comments, questions!
**Webinar recordings added on a daily basis until complete
From Karen: I invited Jennie to submit this post after getting to know her and her work because we both think book coaching is an excellent #postac #realac option for PhDs to consider, and I’m always on the lookout for small business/entrepreneurial ideas for academics.
To get a deeper sense of what book coaching is all about, check out Jennie’s Author Accelerator free online Book Coaching summit on January 20, 2020. She interviews 15 experts in the field to discuss everything from making a career shift to setting prices to marketing your work, and more. If you are reading this after the summit, the videos are all still available at that link (for a small fee), or you can sign up for her free Introduction to Book Coaching course. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I became a book coach because I was frustrated with the way writing is taught. After publishing six books and figuring out how to navigate the constantly changing publishing landscape, I wanted to teach others what I had learned. For ten years I taught a memoir course at UCLA’s Writer’s Program, but I could never give my students what they needed to make meaningful progress. Like graduate students embarking on original research, book writers are hungry for someone to be immersed in their idea with them – to be down in the heat of the creative process where ideas spring to life, structure is hammered out, and voice and confidence are forged – but a classroom does not allow for that kind of intensive attention.
When one of my colleagues asked if I would guide her in writing a book about story and brain science, I saw the opportunity to develop a framework for giving a writer everything a classroom course never could, including accountability, ongoing editorial feedback, and emotional support. Lisa Cron worked with me for more than a year as she organized, wrote, and revised her book, and then we developed a book proposal and a plan for approaching agents. She ended up with a two-book deal at Random House. Her books, Wired for Story and Story Genius, have become very popular in the writing world and she is currently writing her third.
Our experiment gave me an entirely new career as a book coach and then as an entrepreneur. After honing my framework for helping writers, I launched a company called Author Accelerator and began training book coaches. My target audience was other writers who were seeking a way to earn extra income to bolster their writing careers, but we also attract a large number of academics – MFA graduates, creative writing professors, English professors, and even people who work in development and communication at universities.
Academics bring skill, talent, and passion to the work of book coaching and often become giddy to have found a career where they can immerse themselves in the world of ideas, guide others to produce meaningful work, and make money doing something they love. It would be as if someone gave them permission to let go of the parts of academia they found frustrating (students taking courses just to meet requirements, too many meetings and committees, not enough time to truly help the students who want it, not being paid commensurate with their experience) and keep the parts that felt most pure and most inspiring.
Here are the top 8 reasons why book coaching might be a good choice for an academic:
Book coaching is teaching. It is giving writers the tools and resources they need to hone their words and ideas, giving them the framework for doing complex intellectual work, and helping them claim their identity as a writer. Ira Glass says that what is most difficult about doing creative work is that, in the beginning, our ability to perceive greatness is far more advanced than our ability to produce it. There is no more satisfying feeling than helping a writer bridge that gap.
Book coaching is mentorship. The writers who seek book coaching will be among the most highly motivated students you will ever encounter. These are adults who are seeking out the help of a professional and paying directly for their services. They have no requirements to fulfill or any other reason to learn other than straight-up desire. One of my favorite clients is a woman who retired after a distinguished career on Capitol Hill. Her goals in retirement were to learn how to play the cello and learn how to write a novel. I have been working with her for three years. The first novel she wrote was good – but not good enough. The novel she is working on now frequently keeps me up turning the pages to find out what is going to happen – even though I know exactly what is going to happen. It is a joy to guide her.
Book coaching is research. It’s the ultimate way to persist with one idea – to go as far and wide and deep with it as the writer needs to go, and this is as true when coaching fiction as it is when coaching nonfiction. I recently found myself in conversation with a middle grade writer who thought she was writing a book about a child flying alone for the first time because of her family’s divorce. We spent an hour talking about the idea of faith as it relates to being Jewish, and how these ideas could best be expressed in a scene in which the young girl is stranded at an airport on the first night of Hanukkah. I learned something about Judaism I never knew, and the writer figured out that her book was not really about being brave, but about finding one’s identity in a changing world. It was a very satisfying afternoon.
Book coaching is learning. By helping an eager student understand the way to use words to engage a reader, you can’t help but improve you own ability to read, to discern, to write, and to articulate difficult concepts. When someone asks me to explain what an agent means when she said the writing is flat, or what exactly it takes for a reader to feel the same emotion as the protagonist, I can do it. I also find that the more I coach, the more I come to understand and appreciate creativity in all its forms. I love talking to artists and photographers and filmmakers and other creative entrepreneurs to hear how they approach idea generation, doubt, failure, and the concept of perfectionism because it usually helps me figure out one more piece of the puzzle of what it takes to produce creative work.
Book coaching is an introverts’ dream. You don’t have to leave your house, go to any conferences or meetings, speak in front of an audience, or give a Power Point presentation (although if you want to do those things, you can. I do all those things in the course of my work.) You often work in silence with people who also work in silence, and there is something sacred about working in this way without being interrupted by anything extraneous to the work itself.
Book coaching is valued labor. You can earn a fair wage for your work because you set the parameters and the pricing. If you can offer a service that is of value to writers – and there are many needed services at many points in the development of a book – you can earn money that feels aligned with your experience and your effort. Too often, creative work is devalued. In my work training and certifying book coaches, I have become an evangelist for people understanding the value they are bringing to their clients and setting their rates accordingly.
Book coaching gives you independence. You can be in control of how much and how often you work, the kinds of work that you do, and the types of writers you serve. You can create a side gig that boosts your income or a full-time career that supports your family. All the decisions are under your control. Of course, you need to learn how to manage your business and you must adopt the mindset of an entrepreneur, but I have found these challenges to be invigorating – part of the ongoing learning process. In managing my book coaching business, I am also learning skills that my writers need to master in order to manage their own writing careers, because writers need to be entrepreneurs, as well.
Book coaching allows you to make an impact. Through your work, you can help middle school reader fall in love with reading; young adult readers feel comfortable in their own skin; sci-fi and fantasy readers engage with the most pressing issues of our time; nonfiction readers learn everything from what life was like in ancient Greece to the principles of leadership to how to better manage your money; and memoir readers feel less alone in the rawness of their humanity. Sometimes the writers I work with impact just a few people and other times they impact a great many, but regardless of the numbers, the work feels meaningful – both to them and to me.
If you are an academic who is interested in becoming a book coach, I can promise that you already have many of the skills you need to be an effective one. The work you did researching and writing your own thesis and dissertation, and the work you do writing papers, collaborating on projects, and teaching your students to clearly and effectively communicate their ideas, will give you a strong foundation to build upon. You may need to learn about the elements of story, how the publishing industry works, how to set up a sustainable business, and how to manage projects and clients, but these are learnable skills.
Since the day we started The Professor is In, we have been dedicated to telling you the truth. We want you to understand the unwritten rules of the academy, and we do our best to prepare you for and support you in what is most definitely an increasingly challenging academic environment.
To continue and grow that mission in 2020, we are starting a new column called “Dispatches from the Frontlines.”
This time around we are taking up questions from readers that we think will benefit from the experiences and insights of a broad range of scholars. In other words, we are asking for you to share your viewpoints and advice, and we’ll collect it and make it available to the community.
Here is how it will work. Each Monday, we will crowdsource a question we get from a reader on Facebook and Twitter with a link to a google form. If you have any experience, insight or advice from your own career that you would like to share, fill out the google form. You can find the google form HERE.
Like everything we do, the process is entirely confidential. The only information we want from you is: Status/Position (ie, grad student, assistant professor, tenured, post-ac, etc.). Area (Social Sciences, Stem, Humanities, Professional, Arts/Music/Theater) and if relevant, type of institution (R1, R2, Regional, SLAC, CC)–this info gives essential context for any advice. We hope you will also include your age, race, gender, sexual orientation, marital status and any other identifiers you think influence your experience, but these are optional. You can find the google form HERE.
On the following Monday, we will publish the Dispatches from the Front column combining your advice and insights along with our own never-in-short-supply opinions.
Find us with the hashtag: #AcademicDispatches
Next Question: I am an international scholar as are many of the people in my department so it is challenging to prepare for job market interviews. I know you recommend not memorizing answers to avoid sounding like a robot. I would love to know how other non-native English speakers prepare to not sound too rehearsed for standard questions or to handle unexpected questions, which can be quite challenging.
Happy New Year, everyone! It’s the start of 2020. And, it’s also the midpoint of the academic year. That means…. a lot of people are coming back from winter break facing the stark realization that they didn’t get shortlisted for the jobs they hoped for this year.
Other folks are looking ahead to going on the academic job market for the first time next Fall.
For everyone who’s already turning their minds ahead to the applications they’re going to need to send out in Fall 2020, this video is for you. It’s a quick sketch of what to do with the next 8 months to make yourself as competitive as possible for the academic job market next year.
And just to anticipate one predictable reaction: my focus on peer reviewed achievements is most responsive to R1 and elite SLAC hiring, but is absolutely also relevant to lower tiered teaching institutions as well. Those institutions have become increasingly “aspirational”, and frankly, greedy for research outputs even though they don’t support the work with funding or research leave time. And the wretched job market means they can demand high research productivity from their new hires as well. So please BANISH the thought “I just want to work at a teaching oriented school, so I can skip the peer reviewed publishing imperative.” NO. Those days are gone.
Purchase the CV Strategizing Service that I mention in the video here (Special January Reduced Rate just for video post viewers!):
Get the Spring Special 3-Doc Package ($430 instead of $540 for full review of three academic job documents) here; as I mention in the video, Jan-April is THE time to get on our schedule and knock out those job docs like the CV, Cover Letter, Teaching Statement, Research Statement, etc.:
Second installment in the new video blog post series! Please, please forgive me for the leaf blower in the background! I thought using earbuds would prevent it being heard, but… no. I even went peak #Karen before starting and asked them if they would EVER finish blowing leaves, but it’s my deeply, disturbingly neurotic neighbor who demands nightmarish levels of leaflessness and the poor 5-man team was just doing their best to follow orders. So, alas. It does stop about halfway through.
Citations to follow of the various posts and things I reference.
Kel and I had a mini work-retreat this past week, and recorded the trailer and 5 episodes of our new Professor Is In podcast! We’re also finalizing music (I love that part! Want to hear a clip? Here’s Two Sides, by Martin Klem. Great title, right? right?)
The first episode drops early January.
We’re also busy planning all the goodies we’ll be offering members who sign up for the Professor Is In Plus membership option, available starting early January!
Remember: the podcast is FREE, but membership brings lots of perks, like an exclusive members-only podcast episode per month, ad-free content, and also academic career/productivity-related items that aren’t available anywhere else like Dr. Karen’s 30-Day CV Rehab, Kel’s 5 Steps to Productivity, a monthly call-in with Karen and Kel, with the chance for live on-air individual coaching!
Stay tuned next week when we announce a limited-time incentive for early Professor is In Plus sign-ups. And be sure to download the Himalaya app and find us there [Reminder: you’ll be able to find us on Himalaya from next week; we’re not quite live yet!]
While you can hear the free episodes on all the regular platforms, Himalaya is the only place Professor Is In Plus will be available.
Here’s the podcast description: The Professor Is In has been the world’s leading source of academic career advice for a decade, and in this new podcast academic career coach and author Dr. Karen Kelsky and productivity coach Kel Weinhold, with their trademark combination of candor, humor, and compassion (and a healthy dose of critique), tell you the truth about how the academy works, with strategies for reaching your goals while prioritizing your emotional well being. We go where others don’t, breaking down the unspoken rules of academic cultures, including all the ways they center white folks and marginalize everyone else. Our mission: whether you’re in grad school, on the job market, on the tenure track, adjuncting, or deciding to leave the academy and do something else, we are here to support you with insights, advice, and real talk.
Episode 1: Why the Academy Is Like a Cult Episode 2: Publishing and Toxic Comparison Episode 3: The Culture of Overwork Episode 4: Why You Need a 5-Year Plan Episode 5: Dealing with Rejection
And remember: to be the first to hear when the member site opens and the podcast goes live, sign up here:
An intercepted email from a dean at Boston University to faculty and staff reveals that the administration is responding to poverty-like conditions among its grad students by sending out links to food pantries and short-term loans.
The stipend that many graduate students at the university receive is ~$23,000 per year, about 1/3 the median income of Boston, and the terms of the stipend forbid employment outside the department; additional income through the university is limited to $3,000 per year. Considering the exorbitant living costs of the Boston area, PhD students struggle to make ends meet, with some facing the euphemistic issue of “food insecurity” if they struggle to afford food.
Although Boston University is a wealthy private institution charging $70,000/year per undergraduate student (for tuition and room and board), they are unwilling to pay their graduate workers a living wage.
In a move analogous to Wal-Marts holding food drives for their employees, this administrator’s solutions for students experiencing “food insecurity” are to seek external assistance or take on debt, rather than increasing graduate wages so that workers can afford to know where their next meal is coming from.
“Date: Tuesday, November 19, 2019 at 10:39 AM Subject: Resources for Graduate Students Facing Financial Challenges and Food Insecurity
A number of graduate programs have brought concerns to me about their graduate students’ financial challenges and experience of food insecurity. Even with the best of budgeting, the amount of our stipend (which will continue to increase slowly over the next few years) and the cost of living in Boston means that there are times when it is difficult for our PhD students to make ends meet.
In response, and with thanks to the Graduate Program in Religion, I wanted to share resources that are available to our graduate students.
Graduate students may reach out for support and emergency financial assistance at Boston University in one of two ways.
GRS provides emergency loans to all graduate students and advances on stipends to qualified PhD students. The stipend advance may be of particular use to PhD students receiving a non-service fellowship, where the fellowship is paid out monthly. PhD programs are encouraged to let incoming PhD students know in a timely manner (ideally at the start of the summer) that they can receive a mid-September advance on their stipend, in order to bridge the gap between the start-up costs of moving to Boston and their first stipend payment at the end of September. See http://www.bu.edu/cas/emergency-funding-for-graduate-students/ for more information.