Going on the job market is stressful and confusing. I have been working on a new course here at OSU called The PhD Job Market – the syllabus draft can be seen here. It is going up through the levels in terms of approvals; it should be offered in Spring 2014. But with all of the recent controversy about W and the rescinded job offer (see Inside Higher Ed, Slate, and the original post), I decided to post my suggested Job Market reading list here. Check it out – and let me know if you have any suggestions.
Books referred to below:
- The Academic Job Search Handbook (AJSH), 4th Edition by Julia Miller Vick and Jennifer S. Furlong
- “So What Are You Going to Do with That?”: Finding Careers Outside Academia (SW) by Susan Basalla and Maggie Debelius
I also include presentations from the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity library. You need to join NCFDD to access these resources. It is free to join if you are at a place with an institutional membership. Go to: https://facultydiversity.site-ym.com/general/register_member_type.asp and chose “Institutional Sub Account Membership”.
Reflect on what you really want for a future career
Academic jobs; Jobs at different kinds of institutions; Postdocs
When I took our university’s Course Design Institute [which I highly recommend], I learned to think about my teaching in a new way. One of the first questions I was asked was “What do your student need to know to move from novice to expert?” As we reflected on this question, we were supposed to think over what our students needed to know that were content-related and skill-related. I was designing my research methods course at the time, so I reflected on what my students would need to know to successfully conduct research not only from a content standpoint, but also from a skill standpoint. The most important skill that I could think of was writing well. A researcher can be phenomenal, but if she or he cannot clearly explain their research, she or he will not be successful.
Writing is a particularly salient skill for me because when I first started submitting my papers, I regularly received negative feedback on my writing. My pattern of thinking then, which I think is common to many young scientists, was that if I do high-quality, methodologically sophisticated research, reviewers will see the value in my research and will react favorably. Papers from scholars with this mindset tend to have longer result sections and shorter literature reviews. What I quickly learned in submitting my research was that nothing could replace good writing. Reviewers do not like to read poorly written work, even if the data and methods are good. So, I would get comments from reviewers that commented on the poor quality of my writing and typos. I was tired of these comments, and the possibility that my papers were being penalized because of them.
I know there has been a lot written about academia and work-life balance – this recent post in Inside Higher Ed tries to get at why academics work so much. In general, the meme about academics working constantly doesn’t really resonate with me [I should also mention that the meme about professors never working also does not resonate with me]. College professor has been ranked as one of the best jobs in America and the least stressful, though both of these rankings have been debated. In general, I have found it possible to have work-life balance as an academic. Part of my strategy has been to try to make my time at work as productive as possible, so my time at home can be as fun and relaxing as possible.
So, my next post in my “how do I do it” series is my strategy of “one night a week”. While on the tenure track, I often found that it was difficult to find time to focus on my research and writing during the day when I was meeting with students, going to meetings, teaching, etcetera. So, I started staying at work one night a week, and working late, often until 10 or 11. I would shut my door, order in some food, and work on my research and writing for several hours. This really worked for me, and I got a lot done. I tried not to let teaching or service creep into this time, and I would just work on analyses, coding, and writing. I should also mention that there were very few distractions after 5! Note it doesn’t always have to be at night – I have a friend who worked every Saturday morning on the tenure track.
As the mother of four (2 sons born in grad school, 2 sons born on the tenure track), people are always asking me “how do you do it?” [Note, my husband never gets asked this question, which is a whole other blog post on gender attitudes.] My go to answer is always “high quality husband, high quality childcare”. This is true. But, I have also been interested in productivity for a while. I have read several books on the subject, including books designed for academics like Advice for New Faculty by Robert Boice and How to Write a Lot by Paul Silva, and those designed for a general audience like Leave the Office Earlier by Laura Stack. I also participated in the National Center for Faculty Diversity and Development’s Faculty Success Program with Kerry Ann Roquemore, which I really enjoyed.
Recently a friend posted on Facebook that he and his wife, who are both on the tenure track, were going to need some tips for success with multiple children. So, my friend Dave’s comment is inspiring my next series of posts. I am going to post a few tips that I have found have helped me be productive. Most I have implemented in the past five years or so, and I really think they have helped up my productivity.
The first tip I want to share is on my writing group. After reading How to Write a Lot, my colleague Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan and I started a writing group with our graduate students. We started out simply; I remember that our first semester one of our tasks was to read How to Write a Lot. We devised a schedule for the quarter (though Ohio State is now on semesters, so we now devise our schedule by semesters), and each person in the group took a week to share a piece of writing with the group. We usually distribute a draft of a paper, though sometimes it might just be an idea for a paper, or a conference proposal. Sarah and I both take turns in addition to the graduate students. The group helped boost our productivity by creating deadlines for the students, and for us. For instance, if a student presented a paper at a conference in the fall, we would encourage the student to put the paper on our schedule to read in the spring. This is very important because publishing is key for both tenure, and what I call the “first tenure track” – grad school. The job market is so competitive, and to stand out at all, students need to make sure they are submitting their work for publication early and often. We found that writing group was successful and resulted in several submissions.
One of the best things about being in an interdisciplinary department is that you can publish where you want – there is not a group of “top journals” that you have to push your papers in. My colleagues in Sociology are trying to get papers in the American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, and Social Forces. My colleagues in developmental psychology are going for Developmental Psychology and Child Development. In my interdisciplinary department, the only guideline we have used is that the journal have an impact factor over 1 if possible (though this is not a hard and fast rule).
Therefore, I can send my papers where I think they best fit and get a readership. Family and intimate relationship research is particularly interdisciplinary, and as such, I have a lot of options. I have submitted papers to Demography, American Sociological Review, Journal of Family Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Journal of Marriage and Family, Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, etcetera. Of course, I do not have papers published in all of these journals, but I have tried them all at one point or another! What is different for interdisciplinary researchers is that after a paper is rejected at one journal, such as Demography, you might want to resubmit it to another journal in a different field, such as the Journal of Family Psychology. That is the story of this paper.