Missing Mentors: Why Young Academics Feel Lost in the Ivory Tower, and How Experienced Faculty Can Help – WOC Guest Post

I am delighted to offer another guest post in my series of contributed posts by black women and other women of color.

If you’d like to submit a post or an idea for a post for consideration, email me at gettenure@gmail.com. I pay $150 for accepted posts. The posts can be anonymous or not, as you prefer and can be about your experiences of racism/microaggressions in grad school or the career, about your post-academic musings, hard-won advice for other students/faculty of color coming up, intersectional practices in teaching or research that you have found valuable, and also of course, MAKEUP and clothes, or even tech gear you’ve found that helps in your work. More information can be found here. Today’s post is by a writer who wishes to remain anonymous for now. She is an assistant professor at a small, teaching focused HBCU. I appreciate how this posts builds on last week’s post about the need for community, mentorship, and acceptance.

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Imagine this: You’re the chair of a department at a small, teaching focused HBCU. You are having a casual conversation with one of your junior faculty members. It’s her first week.

She tells you she plans to enroll in a loan forgiveness program because she’s drowning in debt. You’re confused. You know of at least three fellowships she could have applied for and gotten. Why did she need to borrow money?

“Why would you take out loans when you could have gotten a fellowship to pay for your doctorate?” you ask.

It’s a fair question.

Nevertheless, when my chair asked me the very same thing two years ago, I wasn’t sure how to answer.

The truth was, I didn’t even know what a fellowship was until the last year of my graduate program. As a first generation college student, everything I knew about college and graduate school was self-taught. Consequently, I thought the “rules” of paying for graduate school were the same as the rules of paying for undergrad. I applied for a scholarship to cover some of the cost, I received some tuition reimbursement from my job, and after that, I found the rest of the money any way I could. That meant taking out loans.

The availability of fellowships is common knowledge in the academic world, but for me, it felt like insider information. That feeling, the awareness that others were privy to essential information that somehow eluded me, was a common thread throughout my academic journey.

It wasn’t that I didn’t ask questions. I was always asking questions. The problem was that I didn’t know what I didn’t know- so I never knew which questions to ask.

When I became junior faculty, the knowledge gaps became more apparent. I didn’t know how to get funding, how to find the right journals for my work, or a myriad of other things that, despite never having been taught, I was expected to know. I asked anyone I could find. Senior faculty, junior faculty, and even the professors of Reddit all responded the same way. They answered the question, but then, in a snide, flippant, condescending tone, they would say, “You know, you really should know this stuff already. Your advisor/mentor/fairy godmother should have taught you.” That response stung every time.

Eventually, I found a few people who I could talk to. But by then, I was playing a serious game of catch-up.

Senior faculty sometimes don’t realize how much graduate students and junior faculty struggle to find guidance. In my case, as a graduate student, I had been a woman of color in a predominantly white, male, program. It was rough. I wasn’t discriminated against, mind you. My professors taught me exactly what they should’ve.  I know all of the right theories and methodologies for my field. There are things, though, that aren’t taught in class. There are tips and strategies that get passed on from one generation of scholars to the next through office chats, research collaborations, and independent study arrangements. Those things always evaded me.  Over and over I saw relationships develop between my professors and my white male peers, but that sort of connection remained unattainable for me. I never became anyone’s protégé. (Before you ask, I’ll answer. Yes, I approached them. Repeatedly. Nothing ever materialized).

In the absence of the guidance I needed, I searched online. That’s when I stumbled on The Professor Is In blog. Suddenly, the answers I had been looking for we’re right there, peering back at me from my laptop screen. I devoured every post.  Through the blog, Karen taught me how to reformat my job documents, buy the right suit for my interview, and act like a colleague, not a grad student. When Karen’s book came out, you better believe I bought it. I meticulously studied those pages, and I attribute getting my TT job to Karen. The virtual mentorship I received from her, someone I had never met, was greater than anything I had ever gotten from people I had known in real life.

It’s been two years since I started my position and I’ve decided to go for a TT job at another school.  I landed a phone interview and immediately knew I wanted to talk to my “mentor.” I had learned much of what I needed from her book, but now I messaged her to ask her about salary negotiation. It was the one thing I didn’t do the first time around.

She suggested I schedule an interview intervention with Kel Weinhold before even thinking about negotiation. I took her advice, scheduled the intervention, and I’m so glad I did. It was phenomenal. Kel was patient but direct. She went through every question she thought I might encounter- it turns out she accurately predicted each one. I’m sure I would have completely bombed the interview without the intervention. Instead, I received a campus invite.

I appreciate the services offered by TPII, but I’m most grateful that Karen and Kel understood, instinctively, that what I needed was guidance without judgment. Unlike people in my past, Kel never made me feel foolish for lacking knowledge. And she really could have. In that short 50 minute window, I made several blunders:

I never, ever, in the whole 50 minutes, was able to answer one mock interview question coherently. (Thankfully the actual interview went much more smoothly!)

I pronounced pedagogy incorrectly.

We discovered part of my process for collecting data in my dissertation was incorrect (Yep, you read that right. My advisors never even caught it).

My “any questions for us?” question was about travel funding. (Big no no).

And the biggest one… When Kel asked me why HBCUs are important, I unwittingly characterized HBCUs as helpful to first generation and low income students of color, which, in a way, perpetuates stereotypes of HBCUs and minorities. Yes, some HBCUs are primarily comprised of students in that demographic. In fact, my current university serves exactly this type of student. However, that doesn’t mean all of them do. As someone who studied exclusively at PWIs, I hadn’t thought about the distinction.

These are all things that I was able to learn from Kel without feeling small or foolish. She never once said, “Well duh, you should know that,” like so many academics from my past. She corrected me and moved on. That means the world to me and I will never forget it.

One final note:

If you are an academic, especially on the tenure track, you might come from an environment where your students received quality, comprehensive guidance from people who share their racial and economic background. Maybe, where you come from, faculty take extra care to foster students’ holistic development into competent scholars and professionals. That would explain why, when you come across grad students and junior faculty who lack fundamental knowledge about academia and the way it works, you don’t understand.  You might be tempted to belittle them, brush them off, or worse, ignore them all together. I encourage you not to do that.

Instead, answer their question respectfully and without judgment. If you’re really feeling generous, hand them your business card and tell them, like you tell your students, that your door is always open. It will mean more to them than you know.


Losing and Finding a Sense of Belonging in Academia – WOC Guest Post

I am delighted to offer another guest post in my series of contributed posts by black women and other women of color.

If you’d like to submit a post or an idea for a post for consideration, email me at gettenure@gmail.com. I pay $150 for accepted posts. The posts can be anonymous or not, as you prefer and can be about your experiences of racism/microaggressions in grad school or the career, your post-academic musings, hard-won advice for other students/faculty of color coming up, intersectional practices in teaching or research that you have found valuable, and also of course, makeup and clothes, or even tech gear you’ve found that helps in your work. More information can be found here. Today’s post is by Dr. Jessica Owens-Young.

Dr. Owens-Young is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Studies at American University. Her work broadly focuses on social and economic inequities and its impacts on health among Black communities. Prior to American University, Dr. Owens-Young worked as a Program Associate at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Dr. Owens-Young completed her PhD in Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, specializing in Health and Public Policy. When she is not teaching, Dr. Owens-Young is at the gym or at home painting, cooking, spending time with her wife or scrolling for pictures of houseplants on Instagram.

I’m feeling an unprecedented sense of loss these days. Sure, the semester is ending. That always makes me feel a bit untethered. I am beyond ecstatic that summer is coming; days of writing and reading are somewhat promised to me as a faculty member on the tenure track. But I always grieve a little at the close of classes. I’ll never have this group of students in a classroom meeting every week again and that makes me a bit sad.

My grief is different this time. This semester, I’ve also lost the sense of a collective, a family of sorts whose members are facing the same challenges and doubts the tenure track, and academia more broadly, throws at me. Since I transitioned into academia from philanthropy in 2016, I’ve been a part of a network called New Connections made of underrepresented and marginalized scholars like myself. Rolling along the tenure track as a Black, queer woman whose work centers people like me is not easy. Having a group of people who look like me, speak like me, and sees the world, and its potential and challenges, like me is a lifesaver in academia.


Voice and representation matter in academia. Being able to commiserate with other people who face the same issues and navigate similar waters is a gift. But it is more than just a gift. I did not realize how much I rely on connecting with other scholars like me and how much this connection, this sense of belonging somewhere, is necessary to survive and thrive in academia. I am learning that now.

The network I was a part of is evolving. It’s no longer going to be a separate program, but is being absorbed throughout the large foundation that supported this program for 11 years. The logic behind this decision is sound. It makes sense to integrate the principles of supporting underrepresented scholars throughout an entire organization’s practice rather than placing the responsibility for diversity and inclusion on only one program. But it also makes sense to keep and maintain a sacred space for scholars who may not have such spaces on their own campuses to tell them that yes you are valued and that you do belong here.

The need to belong is critical for underrepresented scholars. Many of us on our journey to becoming academics have trained in places where faculty members, institutions, and even syllabi did not reflect us or our experiences. We’ve become uncomfortably accustomed to being one of the few, or the only one, of us in our classrooms, school events, or professional conferences. And this trend becomes even more acute in making the transition to academia.

Constantly feeling like an “other” is not healthy. It takes its toll. This feeling can lead to imposter syndrome, manifesting itself in self-doubt every time you place your hands on the keyboard to write or stand up in front of a classroom. It comes as anxiety when you’re getting ready to go to campus or feelings of guilt when you’re spending time for self-care and not writing. It is a barrier to doing what needs to be done to earn tenure. It can be difficult to share these feelings with other faculty members who are also building a career but do not face similar challenges in the academy.

Networks like New Connections matter to faculty like me. It is a sacred space where I can be seen, heard, and validated. I can share my struggles related to my multiple identities with no sense of shame or judgment and learn about how other faculty members are working through and managing similar challenges. At events, we are reminded that we are not alone and that there are ways we can navigate the academy and work through its unwritten rules and expectations. So, when I learned last year that New Connections will no longer exist in its current form, I was, understandably, saddened.

New Connections held its final symposium, an event where network members gather to discuss professional development, work on grants, and connect with other scholars, last month. I think that everyone, including the New Connections staff, felt the heaviness that was behind our smiles as we reconnected with old friends and met new scholars during the symposium. We talked about how to keep the feelings of belonging that we found in New Connections as we move forward. I savored each moment I had in the presence of other scholars like me, and, in a way, am still running on that energy as I wrap up another semester and academic year and move closer to tenure.

I hope another network like New Connections emerges. These spaces matter. The energy in networks like New Connections is often an underrepresented faculty member’s lifeline. It was definitely mine.

Like the semester coming to an end, I will never experience having all of the same scholars in the same place at once again. I will grieve the network as it was. But I will take what I’ve learned to help students and junior scholars coming after me find how they belong in academia. In that sense, the space created by New Connections will live on.

How to Prepare for a #RealAc Career Shift to Academic Editing – Guest Post

By Laura Portwood-Stacer, Ph.D.

Laura Portwood-Stacer runs Manuscript Works, an editing and consulting business whose mission is to help academic authors achieve clarity and confidence in their published work. I invited her to submit this post.

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If you’re a scholar who spends any time on Twitter, you have plenty of evidence that this can be a tough time of year for academics. For those on the job market, a select few will be signing contracts on new positions that will allow them to stay on the teaching/research path for another few years. But most will be coming to terms with the fact that they are facing another year in contingent, precarious, or non- employment. Some will be deciding, finally, to seek another career path entirely.

Seeing various tweets documenting all three of these experiences over the past few weeks reminded me that my decision to become a freelance developmental editor and publishing consultant came around this time of year, in 2015. I had finished a visiting assistant professorship 6 months prior and was doing one more semester as an adjunct in the same department (which had predictably declined to short-list me for a tenure-track position and couldn’t renew the temporary contract either). After 5 years on the market, I had already decided I wouldn’t be applying to any other academic positions. My VAP had afforded me the privilege of living in the same city as my partner for three years, and we’d just gotten married and were trying to have a kid, so I had no interest in moving anywhere or putting myself through the stress of the academic job hunt for another year.

Fortunately, I was able to use my time as a VAP and adjunct to lay the groundwork for my career shift, even if I didn’t have a master plan to do that all along. I wanted to write this #RealAc post to share some ideas with you if you too are considering a pivot to the field of academic editing. The general principles also apply no matter what field you may be interested in pursuing outside or alongside academia.

Connect with people who are where you want to be.

When I was a PhD candidate, my advisor organized a visit from a university press acquisitions editor. We were supposed to be learning how to publish books when we graduated, but I remember hearing him talk about his job and thinking “I wish I was doing that instead of this.” This was a very quiet thought in my head at the time, because I wasn’t ready to admit that academia wasn’t quite the right place for me. I wish I’d asked more questions about how to get into his line of work. As a PhD student, I might have even been able to do an internship at an academic press to learn more about careers in that field and gain in-house experience.

Although I didn’t do those things at the time, I did eventually make connections with other freelance and in-house editors, who served as role models and sources of information. I also joined multiple Facebook groups for editors, which have been invaluable sites of professional community and support over the past 4 years. It’s never too early to start lurking in places like that and testing what it feels like to try on a new professional identity for yourself. The earlier you start looking for these connections, the easier it will be to make a transition if and when you decide being a professor is not for you.

Pursue opportunities to gain experience that you may draw on later.

I’ve always enjoyed editing scholarly work, which has made it easy to say yes when I’ve been presented chances to do it formally. For instance, when I was a VAP, a senior colleague in my department invited me to come on board as an associate editor at a journal in my field, co-editing the section of each issue devoted to short essays and book reviews. The job was of course absurdly underpaid for the work involved, but it gave me excellent experience working with academic authors to improve their writing. In that position, my co-editor and I had to formulate original calls for papers, field dozens of submissions and then provide actionable feedback that would get the selected pieces into shape that met our standards of publishability. We had to do all that in the span of a couple months, and we had to do it 6 times per year. It was a crash course in understanding what makes academic writing effective for readers and how to efficiently communicate with authors in a way that makes them want to improve their work in the ways suggested, which are skills that I use every day in my current work.

Other means of getting this kind of experience as an editor might include editing special journal issues or multi-author anthologies or serving as a managing editor on a scholarly journal (these positions are often filled by graduate students). Teaching writing-intensive courses or working at your university’s writing center might help as well. Again, the earlier you decide you’ll pursue opportunities to gain alternative career skills, the more chances you’ll have to apply for and say yes to things that could get you further down that path.

Get training in your new field.

Interest and relevant experience are important for success as a freelance editor, but don’t sleep on formal training too. Courses, workshops, and other professional development opportunities are not hard to come by in the editing field, and many can be done remotely. For example, in June the Editorial Freelancers Association is offering a webinar on acadmic developmental editing, plus a 6-week online course in the fall (full disclosure: I’m teaching both). When I’ve enrolled in such activities in the past, I’ve found them helpful for three key reasons: 1) they teach you things that help you do your job better; 2) they show you what you don’t know well enough (yet); and 3) they build your confidence in the services you do offer.

During my last semester as an adjunct, I took an evening course in publishing at my university’s school for professional studies. While it wasn’t targeted specifically at academic editing, it did let me practice different kinds of services that freelance editors commonly offer and, most importantly, allowed me to get feedback from a working editor. Hearing “you’re good at this!” was huge for giving me the guts to launch my business at the end of the semester. Accepting invitations to subcontract for other experienced academic editors also gave me helpful insight into my work and the confidence to keep going (and raise my rates!). On the flip side, taking continuing education courses in copyediting and indexing taught me that, actually, I have a lot more to learn in those areas and can run my business more effectively if I just refer or subcontract out those kinds of jobs and focus on the developmental and consulting work I’m best at.

Nearly 4 years after going freelance, I feel like this is what I was always meant to do. I have to acknowledge that a savings cushion and a supportive partner have made this move possible for me. But the forms of preparation above have also been key to my thriving in this new field. I hope they will help you find something equally fulfilling for yourself if you’re ready to get off the academic job market merry-go-round.


#MakeupMonday: My New Colors

3 Updates Added!

About a year ago I found a Marc Jacobs Kiss Pop for $6 at TJMaxx in the color “Headliner” and I fell completely and totally in love. I fell in love with it even though it is utterly impossible to apply (being shaped like a toddler crayon) and has no staying power whatsoever. It is truly a stupid product, except that… except that… the color is unbelievable.

I mean, look at it! It’s like a raspberry…. but also a rose. It’s not too purple, not too pink, not too magenta, not too berry … Which turns out, is basically unheard of. I’ve spent the last year trying to match it in a product that will actually stay on, to no avail. Every time I get close, and think I’ve found it, I discover, when I put them side by side, that alas, no. The products that look like it in the tube come out … just wrong. Mostly, too fuscia.

In despair, I figured out that if I paint it on with a lip brush, and line it with a Clinique Quickliner Intense lipliner, I can at least solve the application problem, and by layering and blotting patiently, I can coax a tiny bit of wear out of it. Here it is after dance class.

But finally, I decided…. if I love this raspberry-rose shade so much, why not just make it my new go-to color palette? Ie, just start buying in the color family, and see what happens. I have adored my go-to Beauty Bakerie Lip Whip in Syruptitious, but it’s a really cool rose-neutral and I’m tired of neutrals! I want to break out! I want to wear something that stands out, that’s more of a statement. I want to be vivid! And while I adore Beauty Bakerie Take Me To Pomegranate and Cranberry Stiletto – those are strong reds, not this family of berry/rose.

By the way, this is very much a rage against the machine moment for me. I am 54 years old and the fact is, at this age, I *should* be invisible. I should just be fading into the scenery and not making a spectacle of myself. And I say, in 2019, fuck that. I will not go quietly into that good night. I will be loud and flamboyant, and queer and femme, and sexy and large–in all senses of the word. And for me, this is all encapsulated in a brilliant berry-colored lipstick.

So I took advantage of Ulta’s 20% off coupon this week (ends April 18!), and went to my local Ulta and tried some options.

<— In this pic left to right are my original Marc Jacobs KissPop, Stila Stay-All-Day in Bacca, Maybelline SuperStay Matte Ink in Artist, Ruler, and (a seasonal shade) Fearless, and Nars PowerMatte Lip Pigment in American Woman. Full disclosure, I’ve been wearing the Nars for a few months now–i just finally sprang for a full size (I had a deluxe sample!) As you can see, it’s very much a cool neutral like Syruptitious, so as much as I love it, it’s not really part of the new direction.

And then in a huge departure, I strayed from my liquid lipcolors, and also got Smashbox Ultimate Lipstick in Jam On It and Fig!

Since then I’ve worn one a day and so far I adore them all! It’s giving me life to wear these vivid standout colors, and reactions have been awesome. I wore one to dance class and my teacher stopped in the middle of a step to peer at me and say “damn, you look hot today!” Mission accomplished, I say. That was Smashbox Jam day.

Blotchy Jam

The Smashbox Fig, sadly, is absolutely gorgeous (actually a terrific match) but no real staying power. Better than the Marc Jacobs, but just not the level I like and need. You can see it starting to fade unevenly in this pic, for example–and that’s just after running a few errands.

But the Maybelline? OMG. They STICK. And, they have just a tad more sheen and give to them than the ultra-matte, ultra-opaque Beauty Bakerie LipWhips. Here I am yesterday in Ruler, feeling very pleased.

Today’s experiment: Maybelline Fearless. It’s definitely a bit more brown than I want, but with its deep purpley mauve undertone, it’s still pretty cool!


Spectacular staying power through dance—->


<——And here’s a bit more long-wear evidence — about 24 hours after the first pic, as you can see the Marc Jacobs is nearly gone. The Stila is half-gone (I’ve never been a huge fan of this *supposedly but not really long-wear* product but I wanted to try the color), the Nars is decent, and and the Maybellines are still going strong.

Tomorrow, Maybelline Artist. I will continue to report back!

Update: Reporting back with Maybelline Artist!

I like it!!! It’s not exactly the Marc Jacobs – once again it is missing that particular rose cast – but dayummmm, it’s nice!

Update 2: Smashbox Jam On It! Kel likes this one a tad better than yesterday’s Maybelline. I like it a lot but as you can see below, it is missing the lovely sheen (it IS a matte product tho). (Also using a fuscia-toned lip pencil which i do NOT like but ignore that).


Update 3: Today on FB Live I had on the Stila Stay-All-Day in Bacca. I liked it but it was pretty fuscia, and more problematically, it wore off after ONE CUP OF COFFEE. UGH this product drives me nuts because they claim it’s long-wear and it simply IS NOT.

Grrrrrrr
Next: Trying what y’all suggested on FB! Pat McGrath and Givenchy (plus two awesome samples–YSL and Laura Mercier!)

I’m pleased to announce that we have a winner of last week’s Sample Pack giveaway, Megan Von Bergen, a PhD student in English at UT Knoxville (name shared with permission)! To enter this week’s, please just comment on the Facebook thread with some substantive comment related to lipcolor, makeup in general, skincare, or any other related topic. I’ll choose one commenter at random, using the online Random Number Generator.


The Adjunct Underclass: An Interview with Author Dr. Herb Childress

It is my pleasure to host this interview with Dr. Herb Childress, author of the new book The Adjunct Underclass: How America’s Colleges Betrayed Their Faculty, Their Students, and Their Mission

KK: First, tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to academia.

HC: My mom was a high school grad, and my dad had dropped out of school somewhere around seventh or eighth grade, when his family left Arkansas for California in the 1930s. I did fine in high school, but when it came time for college, no one in my family had any knowledge or experience about what that meant. So I picked one and went. I did what people told me, went where people pointed, got my bland three point something, and dropped out after two years. I did fine, but there was no larger narrative to tie anything to.

I got married, spent five years on the quest to become a professional bowler, and then worked in retail for a few years after it became clear that I was an awfully good bowler but never going to be good enough. By that point, we were living in Oakland, and I was bored, so I went back to Laney College. California community colleges in the 1980s charged about five dollars per credit, so it was a low-risk decision.

And I learned that I was really interested in architecture, Tom Turman of their architecture department was a terrific teacher, and I was able to transfer to Berkeley, where my love of architecture was crushed. But I got something better: architectural history. That really fed my interest in the material culture aspects of design, seeing buildings and cities as records of decisions, of power, of aspirations. All the stuff I’d been drawn to in the first place now had a home. Paul Groth, who taught American vernacular design history, showed me that it was meaningful to ask questions about things as mundane as silos and streetsigns. He showed me a life in which curiosity was valued.So I got my bachelor’s at 31, worked for a couple of years, and then started a PhD at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, where they had an architecture program in what was called environment-behavior studies.

I loved it. I loved every minute of it. I got my PhD in 1996 at age 38; SUNY Press published my dissertation pretty shortly after. But by that point, it was clear that the wheels had already come off the wagon. I was interdisciplinary, I was old, I’d come from a less prestigious university, and I still didn’t understand white-collar culture well enough to know the right moves. I didn’t even know that there were right moves.

KK: What are you doing now, and how do you like it?

HC: I’m a writer. My wife and I do some consulting work, I do professional development work and accreditation work with a few colleges here and there, but fundamentally, I’ve written full time since 2013 when I left higher ed. Fiction, mostly, though it’s the higher-ed nonfiction that’s gotten the traction. But really, the fiction and nonfiction both stem from the same motive: trying to tell stories of people who have to figure out the world when the rules changed beneath them. I can’t imagine better work, though I can imagine lots of ways to make more money.

KK: What made you initially decide to get a PhD and want to become a professor?

HC: Paul Groth, Heather Clendenen, and David Littlejohn at Berkeley. Full stop. They took joy in their teaching, and they were great at it. They took joy in their intellectual lives, and they were great at it. And they believed in me enough to give me opportunities and guidance I’d never had before.

I didn’t know what it meant to be a professor. I didn’t know what it meant to be an academic. I wanted to be a college teacher, and that’s the way I framed it. I wanted to be the kind and generous guide that Paul and Heather and David were, and I wanted to live forever in that place of rigorous curiosity.

KK: What has been your experience of the academic job market?

HC: Complete random confusion. For instance, I didn’t know how insular architecture is as a discipline, so I didn’t know that their academic postings were most often in the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture newsletter; I relied on the Chronicle of Higher Ed as my sole source of job ads, and probably missed some interesting possibilities. And being interdisciplinary,

When I finished my PhD, I needed to work, and I was living in California after doing my dissertation research there. So I was selling furniture, distant from any daily academic conversations, and from my former faculty. But really, I’d never had any meaningful conversations with any of them about the blunt facts of getting work anyway. So I sold furniture, kept publishing journal articles, and went absolutely nowhere.

Gabrielle Foreman of U. Delaware once said that “For first generation students and students of color, asking for help feels like begging. For more privileged students, asking feels like networking.” And as a forty-year-old working-class guy, I didn’t want to beg, didn’t want to admit that I was confused and scared, didn’t even know how confused I was. I wouldn’t have known what to ask. So I did it all on my own, wandering in the wilderness, and remained perpetually lost.

KK: How would you describe the experience of being an adjunct, both professionally and personally?

HC: It was surprisingly similar to the job market, now that I think about it. I had loads of intellectual freedom and no guidance. I wasn’t connected to the larger curricula that I taught within, wasn’t connected to any colleagues. Just as with my failed foray into the faculty job market, I was really isolated from any institutional structures.

Like all adjuncts, I got hired at the last minute, and I lost courses at the last minute. That happened even after the shoe was on the other foot. My very first semester as an administrator, one of the adjunct faculty I’d hired called me two hours before his second week of class and told me that his immigration lawyer said he couldn’t teach, that teaching was outside his work visa. So I picked up that class myself with 90 minutes notice. That kind of stuff is invisible, and normal, and it’s wrenching to be inside it.

KK: In the book you talk about PhD job seekers being in an unhealthy and manipulative relationship with academia. How?

Erving Goffman wrote a wonderful early essay called “On Cooling the Mark Out,” about how con men ease people through the experience of being swindled so that they don’t go to the cops. He identifies two common ways of cooling the mark. The first is to offer “a status which differs from the one he has lost or failed to gain but which provides at least a something or a somebody for him to become.” The second is to offer “another chance to qualify for the role at which he has failed.” In both cases, the victim is allowed a new way to keep participating in his own demise.

In academia, the first strategy is called adjunct faculty or visiting scholar or professor of the practice, and the second is called postdoctoral fellow. The adjunct instructor is not the status that was hoped for, but at least it provides a role to play in our desired community. The postdoc is also not the status that was hoped for, but the promise is that it represents merely a hold against payment sure to come.

We were all recruited by flattery. We were all separated from the herd, told we were special. We were given Greek terms like summa cum laude, mathematically demonstrated to approach or meet the 4.0 limit. We were welcomed to office hours, given special tasks. We were told by the undergraduate community that we were worthy, and that worth was affirmed as we were recruited by the doctoral community.

In grad school, we got straight A’s in the core, we killed the qualifying exams, we taught the intro courses and got the strong evals, we defended the proposal that allowed us to work independently, and then we defended the work we’d done. All five committee members agreed that we’d crushed it, they took us to dinner, told us we were the best ever. There’s never been another one like you…?

And the phone never rang again. We were ghosted. We freaked out, asked our friends if we had spinach in our teeth or B.O. Or we went silent ourselves, hiding in shame, convinced of our failure. Or we got all needy at conferences, asking about job openings during the Q&A after the keynote, buttonholing a senior scholar over a drink as they desperately scanned the horizon for rescue.

And then we were offered a chance to be cooled: to adjunct, to be a postdoc. Our love for that former life, for that validation and reconnection, makes us all vulnerable to any murmured affection, no matter how impermanent.

KK: What ultimately led you to write this book?

HC: I’d published a previous book with University of Chicago Press, The PhDictionary: A Glossary of Things You Don’t Know (but Should) about Doctoral and Faculty Life. It was an attempt to explain academic culture through its language, for people who didn’t natively speak that language. After that book came out in 2016, my editor, the remarkable and heroic Elizabeth Branch Dyson, said that she wanted a general-readership book about the adjunct phenomenon, and thought that I had the right writing voice for it. I made it clear that I wanted to avoid what I called the “combat narratives” of evil administrators versus beleaguered faculty, or philistine state legislators undermining intellectual life. I wanted to write an ecology, a systemic study of the changes both within and beyond higher ed that have led us to this disaster.

There are plenty of stories about the plight of individual adjuncts, like the horrific and heartwrenching story of Dr. Thea Hunter just published last week in The Atlantic. What I wanted to do was to place those individual tragedies within a larger frame, to help us see the systemic loss of what higher ed could be, and sometimes is.

KK: What do you hope readers get from the book?

HC: There are about twenty million people involved in higher ed at any moment, as students and teachers and staff; ten times as many people as all of the branches of military service, for instance. It just seems like part of our culture that we should all understand better.

So for that general audience, I hope that they understand better what their kids will encounter—or what they’ll encounter themselves, now that college students are increasingly “non-traditional,” a term that I hope will soon be a historical artifact like “co-ed.” I hope they’ll understand, in a way my own family didn’t, that the word “college” is like the word “restaurant,” a category that covers a range of experiences from The French Laundry to Denny’s. I hope it’ll help give some context to the flurry of college closures, and to stories of Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin buying admission for their kids. And I hope it’ll help people see that colleges aren’t some remote culture—they’re expressions of who we are and what we collectively value.

For the internal audience, I want to bring more precision to understanding how and where adjuncts are deployed, and what that implies for the whole enterprise. I also want to bring more precision to the idea of “administrator,” a category that shouldn’t include relatively powerless people working in financial aid or student affairs or IT. But more broadly, I hope that the higher ed community can understand that the adjunct crisis is not upon us because of any single causal variable; it’s an ecological collapse, with faculty as the species die-off that marks even larger turmoil.

KK: Are you surprised by the strong response to the book so far?

HC: I am. I’ve gotten used to working in isolation, so being part of a larger conversation has been a real blessing. The folks at Chicago have been marvelous about helping this argument reach a broad community; the fact of a review in the New Yorker is a treat because, you know, it’s the New Yorker, but more importantly, it’s a sign that the book can do the larger work of speaking to a civilian as well as a professional audience.

KK: What do you want to say to Ph.D. job seekers?

HC: First, it’s not an individual sport. Don’t be afraid to ask your committee members for advice and for support, and remember that every conference you go to is part of the recruitment and networking system. When you make friends with faculty members at other schools, ask them what they’re hearing about who might have positions open, and keep in contact with them about what they’re up to as well. This is a networking project, not an isolated test of how good your own work is.

Second, be aware of the numbers. We’re putting 50,000 new PhDs every year into a market that might absorb 10,000. You can do everything right and still not have it pan out. The job market is an impersonal phenomenon, not a reflection on your merit. It’ll feel like you’re failing, but you aren’t, the structure is.

And finally, try to remember exactly why you went into this in the first place. We want a place to exercise our curiosity, we want ways to mentor young people and get them excited about a body of ideas. We want to have our moment to influence some larger body of thought. Academia is one place where we can do that, but perhaps there are others. The work of generosity and mentorship can take many forms.

KK: What do you want to say to tenured professors?

HC: Congratulations. You’ve made it through a narrow passage; good on you. Now that you’re there, do your work to its utmost; don’t be the person that the rest of us look at and say “Really? Him? Her? Really?

Recognize that your ability to work with upper division students and with grad students is supported by an invisible workforce who take care of the first- and second-year students, the undeclared, the students struggling to find their footing. Let adjuncts and term faculty know their work is valued, that their presence is valued. Ask them for advice about the early stages of the curriculum, which they know far better than you. And find ways to advocate for them, to express their value to the chair and the dean, to bring them into greater security and greater membership.

KK: What do you want to say to administrators?

HC: I know you’re struggling with the same fluidity and uncertainty as everyone else in higher ed. I get that. But you need to be a counterforce to that. People surrender in the face of “market forces,” but if we took the same attitude toward the force of gravity, we’d all be in one-story buildings and never have invented skyscrapers or airplanes or ladders. We are not helpless in the face of market forces; we can invent ways for people to rise up and be secure above the ground.

Invest in your first and second year undergrads. Don’t take 25% first-year attrition as the norm, don’t abandon those incoming students to the least supported faculty. Your early-career undergrads are trying to enter an unfamiliar culture, and you need to provide secure membership to the teachers who will lead them through that wilderness so that they can better mentor those students into membership themselves. What happens inside the classroom is not enough.

KK: What would you say to someone who says they want to get a Ph.D.?

HC: It’s not the same as being a good student, working on your own projects in isolation. It’s not just getting more individual A’s. You’re entering a community that creates rather than absorbs knowledge; the real core of doctoral education comes after you’ve passed your dissertation proposal, when you become a nascent scholar. You need to be evangelical about some way of understanding the world, and commit yourself to never understanding it as well as you want to. You always want to be confused, you always want to be over your head, you always want to figure out the unfamiliar, building temporarily secure platforms from which you can explore even further.

When you’re choosing from among doctoral programs, remember that there are about 4,800 departments in the US that offer the PhD, and that only about a quarter of them will gain you access to the right conversations in the right community. The others might give you a wonderful intellectual experience, but they won’t carry much weight once your CV is being read in a batch of 200. Aim for the uppermost tier of programs, and be prepared to be way over your head for quite a while. The alternative is being the best house in a bad neighborhood, which never sells.

Make friends. Make friends among your cohort, make friends among your faculty, make friends with people in your discipline all over. Be known not merely through your writing, but as a person. (Tough gig for an introvert like me, but I think it’s accurate.)

If you’re married or partnered, remember that your family is more important than anything else. Discuss everything as a team, make your choices together. Your job is only part of your life, and your life is what matters.

KK: Final thoughts.

HC: I’ve been lucky, and privileged. I’ve never had to worry about where food will come from, I’ve always had some other job. I’m older, and white, and cismale, and straight, and childless. I am not the face of the adjunct nation, which is more than half women and increasingly scholars of color and increasingly desperate, supporting not just themselves but their families by piecework. But if I can use my luck and my privilege to draw attention to this wholesale abandonment of two generations of scholars, I hope my contributions will be useful.

#MakeupMonday: Boots Edition

Anyone who has attended one of my job market-related webinars knows that I always mention La Canadienne boots as an awesome option for cold-weather campus visits. Insulated for warmth, they are totally waterproof (“guaranteed waterproof for a period of six months”), have a highly grippable rubber sole for snow and ice, rounded toe for comfort in a lot of styles, and stable block or wedge heels. But the styling is so sleek, you’d never guess how functional they are. And they come in so many styles and heel heights.

They are, of course, impossibly expensive if bought right off the rack ($300-500). However, I’ve discovered it’s possible to find them at a deep discount second-hand on Poshmark and ThredUp. Quality second hand La Canadiennes can be had at places like this for $50-$150. Also, at 6PM.com, right about now, you can find previous year’s styles new [albeit in limited sizes] for about 1/3 of their usual price–like this pair for $149:

How do I know all this? Because this month I just bought my first pair in about a decade, and spent a solid week on the interwebz searching for a decent price. And… they’re as wonderful as they were back when I was an assistant professor looking for a sleek high heeled boot that could stand up to rainy Eugene, Oregon.

These days, at age 54, and running a business from my house where I pad around barefoot for most of every day, I’ve had to scale down my heel height a bit, and exchange my beloved pointed toes for rounded or square options, but I do still love a sleek black boot. The style I got is Jiji, and I found a great deal on them.

And I am here to tell you that I can once again vouch for the functionality of La Canadiennes. I wore my new pair for two solid very cold days of marching around the University of Vermont campus with my son last weekend, on his Admitted Student Visit, with almost no foot pain at all (which is saying something at my age), and staying warm and dry.


And because I know the brand from years back, I can say with confidence that, well cared for, they’ll hold their shape, comfort, and waterproof function for years. I wore my last pair for almost a decade.

I know that every time I give a webinar, and mention La Canadiennes, at least one person follows up to ask, “what was that brand again?” Comfortable, functional footwear for the campus visit – especially on snowy northern campuses – is a serious struggle. I’ve always felt anxious about recommending a brand that is so expensive, even though I always take pains to tell people to shop 6PM.com first. I’m just really glad that internet secondhand stores have brought this brand closer to an academic budget. I was just browsing ThredUp for this post, and saw these wedge style – on sale for about $100 (size 8).

and these in brown, for just $47 (size 8)

So cute!

La Canadiennes are worth taking time to search for. They’re really worth whatever price you pay, and I’m glad to have a pair in my wardrobe again.

Giveaway: OK, so this post is definitely not about makeup! But I have a ton of new makeup and skincare samples to give away. So, comment on FB about boots or anything else related to makeup, skincare, or fashion and the academic life, and once again I’ll do a random giveaway for a collection of 5-6 unused or barely used samples – usually prestige brands!

Announcing Our Newest Program – Art of the Article! Deadline TOMORROW

We here at The Professor Is In are pleased to introduce our newest program: Art of the Academic Article


Art of the Academic Article is an online course designed to get you from zero to a complete draft of an academic article in 10 weeks.

Led by Dr. Jane Jones of Up In Consulting and Kel Weinhold, the course breaks down not just the parts of an academic article, and how to organize and write them, but also how to evaluate and target the optimal journals for your work.

This brand new course launches MONDAY April 1st, and registration for the first cohort is open, closing TOMORROW March 30.  Best of all, your access to the content does not expire, ever.

Curious to know more? Watch a recording of Jane and Kel’s recent webinar for a preview of Art of the Article content.

Here is the story of how Art of the Article came to be. Kel Weinhold came on board at TPII as the Interview Intervention coach. As she worked, year after year, with anxious job candidates, she came to recognize the crushing Imposter Syndrome that was epidemic among this population. As a result, she created Unstuck: The Art of Productivity. Which is technically about productivity and getting your writing done for jobs and tenure, but is actually about (shhhh!) reclaiming your personal autonomy vis-a-vis an abusive system.

Unstuck: The Art of Productivity (which is still running, to great acclaim!) brought Kel into contact with hundreds of academics learning to overcome their writers block and get that “shitty first draft” of an article written in twelve weeks.

But lo, as Kel worked with them, she came to understand that a lot of clients actually didn’t know what an “article” actually is, or entails!

Things the Unstuck clients didn’t know included: how long should an article be? What elements are always included? How is one optimally organized? What are conventions for your particular field? How do you choose a target journal? How much time should I budget for each part? What are some tricks to doing some of the predictable basic parts like the methods section or lit review, or intro, or conclusion?

Kel realized there was a great need out there in academia-land for some instructions. So, she contacted Dr. Jane Jones of Up In Consulting, and together they made Art of the Article. The program gives you 10 weeks of posts and models and coaching videos to walk you step by step through the conceptualization and execution of an academic article. Even if the article you’re working on is far from your first, the program is still helpful in helping you stay focused, and avoid unproductive writing tangents.

To clarify: What’s the difference between Art of the Academic Article and Unstuck, you ask? Very good question. They are made to be synergistic. You can absolutely do both.

Unstuck helps you identify and overcome barriers to all of your writing, and produce a messy first draft of a piece you want to work on by the end of the program. Art of the Academic Article , meanwhile, shows you exactly WHAT that article is supposed to look like: what an article must include, how it should be organized, and where it should be placed.

Also below, advice on how to ask your department to pay for your registration. Yes, it’s true:  Departments will sometimes cover the costs for their faculty and graduate students to participate in programs like these

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How To Get Your Department to Pay for the Course(s)

Your department might pay for your enrollment in this course, and the only you will find out is to ask. Don’t be afraid. Department heads get requests for funding all of the time. There is nothing shameful about it. In fact, learning how to ask is great practice for the rest of your career.

The best way to loosen the departmental purse strings is to show the money is going to solve a problem the department head considers worth solving.

So what problem does the course solve?

  • Maybe your department is worried about your pace of publication.
  • Maybe your department is focused on raising its profile.
  • Maybe your department has a stated desire to support underrepresented faculty.

You also have to show the stakes of not solving the problem.

  • You may not progress to tenure
  • The department’s output might lag.
  • You and the department might miss out on involvement in high profile projects and collaborations.
  • You may miss out on funding opportunities.

Stating the problem and stakes is not enough. You also have to show why this particular thing you are asking to be funded will solve the problem.

  • Why this course?
  • Why these people?

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Here is an example email that you can use to approach your dean, department head or PI to make the request that the course be funded.

NOTE: PLEASE! DO NOT USE THESE EXAMPLES VERBATIM! WE HAVE THOUSANDS OF READERS AND CLIENTS, MANY IN THE SAME DEPARTMENTS. REPHRASE THE MODELS BELOW IN YOUR OWN WORDS!

Dear <administrator>

I have an opportunity to enroll in a program designed for academics to produce a full draft of journal article in 10 weeks and I am requesting departmental support. The course is being offered by The Professor is In and Up In Consulting, two career services organizations with well-documented success in assisting academics in all phases of their careers.

The benefit of The Art of the Academic Article, over other programs, is not only the extensive experience of the two coaches offering guidance but also the ongoing access to the online material. I will be able to use the course material for not just this article, but all future ones as well.


As we have discussed, I have XX articles in progress that are necessary/would improve my third year review/tenure review/post doc production/chances of success on the job market. This course would assure that I produce xx articles in the next year. It also increases my chances of publication in the mostly highly ranked journals because it includes instruction on positioning both in terms of discipline and journal rank.


OR


As we have discussed, one of the critical components of raising the profile of our department is to increase faculty publications and the quality of those publications. This course would assure that I produce xx articles in the next year. It also increases my chances of publication in the mostly highly ranked journals because it includes instruction on positioning both in terms of discipline and journal rank.


It is no secret that balancing research, service and teaching is a challenge for all junior faculty here at xx. With this course, I will have the resources to achieve the balance required for success. With your support, I will be able to avoid common problems like false starts, writer’s block, and perfectionism, while assuring I choose the best journals to target, and submit a draft to a strong journal in an efficient time frame.
The next session of the course starts April 1st. Please let me know if you are willing to support this effort and I will purchase and submit the receipt for reimbursement/contact accounting to complete the registration/ xxx

Trailer Park Professor: On R1 Success and Learning to Value Yourself (A Guest Post)

I got the chance to meet a client-turned-R1 assistant professor at the AAA meetings, and I asked her what she found most helpful about the work with me.  She took the time to write it out. This is what she wrote.

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I finished my PhD in Anthropology in 2012, and after a year as a postdoc, got my dream tenure-track job at a private R1, in a city that I have always loved, with colleagues that I adore. About 80% of the people I went to school with have not been so lucky and lack permanent employment.  I haven’t quite gotten over how ‘lucky’ I am to be’ let’ into the small and selective club of decently paid tenure-track professors, especially given the trailer park in which I started.

What I’ve come to realize is that my success was not just because of luck—there was a lot of hard work and strategy along the way. I grew up a mile away from a prestigious private R1, but we lived very much on the other side of the tracks. When I was in third grade, I knew I wanted to be an anthropologist, and tried to dress in field clothes for career day. My dad—then working a third shift factory job—told me to dress up as a nuclear physicist instead, because there was no such thing as getting a job as an anthropologist (I probably should have listened!).

While in high school I worked 20-30 hours a week in fast food, actively cultivating the reference letters from one fast food place to the next, in order to climb the ranks and get a better job (which generally involved less grease!). Thanks to those letters, I landed a volunteer and then paid position on an anthropologically focused project in the summers. I loved it. After that there was no turning back.

I chose a public university that excelled in my subject and was far away from my friends and family (on purpose—I was also in the process of coming out—but that is another story). Like a lot of first generation college students, I did not understand the ins-and-outs of university scholarships, grants, and loans, so I chose the school with the lowest sticker price. Despite financial hardship (5 maxed out credit cards, cash advancing rent when my loans paid out late, etc.), I really bloomed when I was there. I loved my subject, my professors, and my life.

One of my favorite memories is sitting in the office of one professor, who had just informed me that I had the top mark in his class and would I be interested in coming with him to the field? Another professor popped her head in and said, oh, she got the top mark in my class too! This was the first moment I ever really felt special.  It was then that I started thriving on the dangerous drug of external validation, a slippery and addictive slope that Karen has described in many posts.

My excitement to go on to graduate school was tempered by my poor performance on the GREs. I didn’t have money to take a prep class, or to retake the test, which cost about as much as my rent for a month. This probably prevented me from getting into my top choices for graduate school.

After a Master’s at a second rate institution with one of the top people in my field, I got into all of the PhD programs that I applied for (I saved all of the acceptance letters and looked at them later, in moments of self-doubt). I chose a full funding, top-ranked program, but unfortunately my new advisor was not what I expected. We did not get along, I found many of his methods unethical, and after spending my first summer at his field site, I knew that I could not work in the same region.

Fortunately, around this time, a famous professor at one of the PhD programs I had applied to contacted me. Working with her proved to be a breath of fresh air—air so fresh that my conservative department didn’t want me breathing it. But she and I got along well, she challenged me, and my gut told me to continue working with her. I ended up with a much sexier PhD topic as a result of her savviness. Granting agencies loved it, and I was able to secure major awards (a critical thing to show to R1 jobs), despite a lack of intellectual support from most of my department.

I finished my PhD program quickly (this pace proved important to prospective employers, as it shows tenurability). I wrote the dissertation in nine terrible months in which my health suffered and my long-term relationship ended. The dissertation was more important. It was all consuming. I gave it more value than I gave myself. Professionally, I was well-rewarded for this psychosis–I got a major dissertation award and even a postdoc at the last minute.

The first thing I did with my new paycheck was to hire Karen to look over my documents. I had just discovered her blog. My cover letter was embarrassingly bad. I might as well have been fois gras packaged as generic cat food. Why?

Because I completely undervalued myself and my record, and undersold them in my letter.

Many of Karen’s posts helped me see that I had been doing the ‘right’ things all along. I had NOT gotten my CV at Costco (http://theprofessorisin.com/2012/05/29/dont-get-your-career-at-costco/); I had focused on peer reviewed publications and on doing activities that would expose me to top people in my field. In short, I had actively built my CV with high value items (http://theprofessorisin.com/2012/07/19/howtobuildyourcv/). This started very early, with my first fast food job. It was the part of my path that was not due to luck but due to strategy, drive, and several strong mentors.

Karen’s posts gave me the tools to package and sell myself in a confident manner. My record had what it takes—but I didn’t know that—and I certainly didn’t know how to sell it. I have always felt like a faker, as if one day, someone was going to figure out that I was just a skinny, scab-kneed kid from the trailer park and banish me from the ivory tower. This leads to a certain undervaluing of your skills and the tremendous effort that the transformation from trailer park to professor takes. Working with Karen helped me develop my professional voice and composure that both owned and sold my abilities.

As a result, I was short-listed at several institutions in my first real year on the market. I was offered the job at the first and second places I interviewed. Building on advice from Karen’s posts on negotiating, I used these competing offers to obtain what I wanted, which included a salary that will enable me to someday pay off the debt I generated during my undergraduate degree.

Very few people get the kind of job that I just got, and I was certainly lucky that my dream job opened up at the right time. In the last year I have went through some major transformations, the most important of which has been learning to value myself. This is very much a work in progress, despite my fancy job. And this is the second major thing that I have learned from Karen’s advice—success is a kind of psychosis that thrives on external validation. Being on the other side of the looking glass, it is terrifying to look back through it.

My advice: learn how to own, package, and practice your value. Show that value and your most awesome self in your cover letter.* Read that letter when you are feeling down and remind yourself that you are deserving, whatever your state of employment. Invest in your professional development and yourself by reading everything you can on the topic. Don’t sacrifice your happiness or personal life. You will regret it, no matter what kind of job you get. Don’t continue to sell your labor for pennies in the hope that you will someday be let into the club. You deserve basic human rights and dignity, and need to seek them in order to not end up like Mary Vojtko. The first step is learning to value yourself.

*Karen:  but without any hint of bragging or cheap, grandiose adjectives, or begging.

Five Article-Writing Mistakes and How to Fix Them – Guest Post

By Jane Jones, Ph.D.

Jane Jones, PhD is the founder of Up In Consulting, an editing and consulting business. She works with academic writers as well as writers of serious nonfiction to develop systems to sustain effective writing routines and habits. In her capacity as an editor, she provides developmental editing services to writers of articles, book proposals, and book manuscripts.Jane earned her PhD in Sociology from New York University in 2010. She worked as a tenure-track assistant professor for three years, then was a fellow at the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS). She started her business in 2014.

Jane is spearheading our new Art of the Article program, along with TPII Productivity Coach Kel Weinhold. AoA is our new 10-week course designed to walk you step-by-step through a full draft of an academic article. See the links at the bottom of this post to learn more, and register for the free webinar Jane and Kel are offering March 21, 1 PM EST.

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When preparing an article for submission, there’s much to think about. From selecting a journal to writing the article to actually submitting the article, there are a lot of steps in the process. Unfortunately, many authors tend to ignore or rush through some of these steps, hurting their chances of a successful submission (which in most cases is a revise and resubmit).

In this post, I’m going to discuss some of the mistakes that authors commonly make when writing and submitting their articles. Although these errors are common, they’re completely avoidable. With good planning and research, you can avoid these mistakes and take some of the guesswork out of the submission process.

Here are five mistakes that most authors make:

You don’t put thought into where you’re submitting.

Many writers submit their article to a journal because their advisor told them to, or because it’s a journal they “have to” submit to in order to land a job, get promoted, etc. To be sure, there are plenty of factors that can influence your choice of journal. What that doesn’t give you permission to do, however, is skip out on your due diligence in researching the journal. When I say due diligence, I mean things like:

  • Reading recently published articles (“recently” meaning under the current editor)
  • Talking to colleagues or peers who have published in the journal
  • Checking to see if the editor has posted any information about their preferences for the journal (You’ll sometimes see editors posting on social media about their journals. They also write articles in outlets such as the Chronicle or even in their own journals!).

The good news is that researching a journal is easy. All you have to do is read, and you’re already an expert at reading!

You don’t review the guidelines

This is one of the easiest ways to frustrate an editor. Imagine being an editor, sifting through hundreds of articles, and coming across an article by an author who, in your estimation, couldn’t even be bothered to read your guidelines. Or, you receive a manuscript a few thousand words longer than it should be. You’d likely be irritated, right? It’s not the best first impression.

Formatting and word count might seem like minor, annoying requirements to you, but editors are constrained. It’s easy to forget that length is important because we read everything online, but journals normally have total page counts they must abide by. These aren’t negotiable. Following the guidelines makes the editor’s job easier and also makes your life easier, in that if you do make it through peer review, you’ll have less to fix later on in the process.

You don’t give yourself enough time to write your manuscript.

Good writing takes time, but in our publish or perish culture time isn’t always on our side. Unfortunately, writing and submitting quickly doesn’t give us an advantage. If anything, writing too fast leads to underdeveloped ideas and careless mistakes – neither of which makes our manuscript a strong candidate for publication.

I’ve worked with many clients who have told me, for instance, that they must submit at least 4 articles a year for publication if they hope to have a chance at getting tenure. What they don’t do, however, is make a writing plan to figure out if it’s realistic for them to achieve that goal. This normally has one of two consequences. First, they submit something they’re not proud of. Second, they spend so much longer than they planned on the article that they get discouraged, lose momentum, and let the manuscript languish on their desk with no end in sight. They end up with a headache instead of a submission. Sound familiar?

You don’t seek adequate feedback pre-submission.

It’s easy to get lost in your head while writing and believe that your manuscript makes perfect sense. Combine that with being pressed for time and you might believe that you either don’t need feedback or can’t afford to wait for it. In addition, you might believe your colleagues don’t have time to read your work. No matter the reason, the end result is you writing in isolation, without the type of critical feedback necessary to sharpen your writing.

It’s imperative to seek feedback on your writing before you submit. The journal reviewers should not be the first people to see your manuscript. Whether you present your ideas at a workshop, ask a colleague to read your draft, or work with an editor, a thoughtful, objective review of your work is essential and invaluable.

You don’t have a plan B.

The harsh truth of academic publishing is that rejection is common. Whether it’s a desk rejection or a rejection after you’ve spent time responding to peer-reviewers, knowing that you have to start over again can be awful. You might feel like there’s little hope for your article to ever get published.

Just because your article was rejected somewhere doesn’t mean it will be rejected everywhere. Peer-review is subjective and your article may not have been a good fit for that journal (especially if you made the first mistake I discussed!). Or, your article may not be ready for publication. In these cases, it really pays to have a backup plan.

Making a backup plan before you submit your article puts you in a strong position. If you do get a rejection, you’ll already have some of your next steps planned, and you won’t have to make tough decisions when you’re feeling the emotional toll of a rejection. You’ll be able to get your article under review at a second journal much faster.

In closing, the mistakes I discuss here are common, but also completely avoidable. But in order to avoid them, you must remember one thing: there’s more to a successful journal article than just writing.

Want to learn more? Join me, along with TPII productivity coach Kel Weinhold, for a Free Webinar on the Art of the Academic Article, March 21st at 1 p.m. Eastern. Register here.

Can’t make the time? No problem. Everyone who registers will get a recording of the webinar. Register here.

Want to learn more about Art of the Article, our new 10-week course designed to walk you step-by-step through a full draft of an academic article? Read more about Art of the Article here.

#MakeupMonday: Resort Edition

Some of you may know that Kel Weinhold and I decided to give ourselves a real, actual vacation for the first time since starting The Professor Is In, and we have spent the last week in Maui. Other than a few urgent tasks that can’t be avoided when one runs ones own business, we have truly vacationed.

And naturally, I have experimented with various products. Today, I report back to you. And no, this isn’t “working.” Because, I simply love writing about makeup. It’s actually entertainment!

First, just a few of the delights of West Maui and the nearby island of Lana’i (reachable by public ferry).

View of Moloka’i from Ka’anapali
Napili Beach in Ka’anapali, West Maui
One of countless turtles we saw and swam with, here at Pohaku Beach
The highlight of the trip was Hulopo’e Beach, Lanai
Hulopo’e Beach after a few cocktails


Snorkeling is our great love–we snorkeled 7 out of 8 days! This is at Lana’i.

I think Hawai’i agrees with us!

Sunset hour cocktails
Whale watching–we saw about 30 whales!


OK, so what are the products?

First, Eyeko Beach Waterproof Mascara. Wow they are not kidding, this mascara stood up to an entire day on the beach including hours of snorkeling! While I don’t have great before and after pics, here’s an attempt.

Before
After 2 hours snorkeling

Second, my fake tanner. Yes, I fake tan when I’m at the beach. I have fake tanned since the 1980s!! Ie, since the time of the bright orange tan in a can. I have the freckled Irish coloring of my mother’s side and I am paaaale! So I know these products and I know how bad and impossible they can be and all the ways they can go wrong–streakiness, bad color, or intolerably gross smell.

However, fake tan technology has undergone a revolution in recent years, and the products are now almost unbelievably a) easy and b) natural looking. There are so many options out there, and I suspect many of the high-end ones are fantastic, but I adore Tan-Luxe: The Water.

It looks exactly like water, goes on clear, never stains clothes or sheets, has no discernible smell, and a few hours after application develops into the most natural looking and long-lasting, streak-free tan I’ve ever had from a fake-tanner. Again, I don’t have great pics, because beach lighting is impossible, but here is one; toes show my natural color.




Pro-Tip: Must apply with a mitt. Don’t even think about skipping that. You don’t need a fancy one–just get some basic $6 or $8 one, but you just won’t get smooth streak-free application without it.

Pro-Tip 2: ALWAYS WASH YOUR HANDS AFTER APPLICATION

Pro-Tip 3: The Water is not ideal for face; they make Self-Tan Drops that work better.

Pro-Tip 4: As you can see from my photo above, I transfer it into a travel size spray bottle to take with me on beach trips!

Third: This astonishing Peter Thomas Roth powder sunscreen that I only bought because I found it super cheap at TJ Maxx, but which has made me a believer. I’m never going to use anything else on my face! It’s entirely mineral, meaning it’s completely reef-safe (a non-negotiable for me), and also because it’s mineral: I HAVE NO ALLERGIC REACTION TO IT, HALLELUJIAH! This means I can swim with no eye-sting! And the sunscreen effectiveness is off the charts. Also, it goes on in a little poof that is fun, AND it has a slight brown tint that just boosts your color a tad. They also make one for oily skin.

Pro-Tip: PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE always use only reef-safe mineral sunscreen (ie ONLY zinc oxide or titanium oxide–nothing else). Please save our dying reefs!

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GIVEAWAY UPDATE: Thanks to all who commented on the last #MakeupMonday! We have our winner: Dr. Catherine Girard, Asst Prof of Art History at Eastern Washington (shared with permission). Catherine says: “Wow!! This is such great news! Thank you! Self-care is my resolution for this year.” She will get a package of about 5 unused or barely used samples from my stash!

Let’s continue–comment on Facebook on this post when I share it, and I’ll do another giveaway next week!