Take Ownership and Build Your Tribe: Overcoming the Myth of Guaranteed Acceptance in your Career Path

“Some days, doing ‘the best we can’ may still fall short of what we would like to be able to do, but life isn’t perfect on any front and doing what we can with what we have is the most we should expect of ourselves or anyone else.” – Fred Rogers

Since I can remember, I have been surrounded by people who encouraged my academic and career pursuits. Often, encouragement came in the form of well wishes that offered hope without any true knowledge of what lay ahead. Being the child of immigrant parents and one of the first in my family to pursue graduate degrees, my family knew enough to say “you’ve got this, keep going” and “the world is yours, follow your dreams.” However, when it came to giving advice on career choices, pushing through barriers, and building my network – that was a different story. Continue reading

Stress Management During Application Season

(Originally published here on Inside Higher Ed.)

It is no secret that both the academic job search and the process of submitting grant proposals are grueling and challenging to manage emotionally. At this point in my career, I am no expert in getting jobs or securing grants. But the number of applications I’ve submitted is in the hundreds, and I have navigated the stress they produce recently and frequently. I’ve developed a few strategies for making the process a bit more bearable and outlined them below. Continue reading

Life as a Postdoc: Avoiding Invisibility in a Liminal Position

As a graduate student, I wasn’t initially sure that a postdoc would be the right decision for me.  I had entered my program 10 years after completing my undergraduate degree and was pursuing a second career, moving from evaluation research to academia.  It seemed more appropriate to dive right into the road to tenure at my age given that the Assistant Professors in my department were younger than I was. When I told my mentor this, she nipped that thought in the bud with something to the effect of “why wouldn’t you take time off the clock to push forward your research?”  (For the record, she was right.) So during my year on the job market, I applied to 12 postdocs and got lucky enough to land one, a diversity postdoc at New York University, along with a tenure-track position. I negotiated a delayed start with my job (yes, this is possible) and in August of 2018, I filed my dissertation at UC Berkeley, moved my family across the country, and started as a postdoctoral fellow for the year.  But what I experienced as a postdoc was not at all like my past as a grad student nor my future as an Assistant Professor. Being a postdoc was isolating, as the position itself is liminal by definition. As I describe below, it took effort on my part to feel a sense of integration and belonging.   Continue reading

Asking the Editors: Part 3

(Originally published here on Inside Higher Ed.)

This essay is the third in a three-part series dedicated to answering the question “What do university press editors have to say about the mystery surrounding first-time book authorship?” In this series, I’ve shared information and insights from two seasoned book editors, Elizabeth Ault, editor at Duke University Press, and Jim Burr, senior editor at the University of Texas Press.

In the first piece, the editors and I went over what you should know and do leading up to your book’s submission. In the second one, we talked specifically about networking and meeting with editors. This final article is dedicated to the tough stuff. It highlights the role of social media in book publishing, the fears that faculty members often have when it comes to institutional prestige and their ability to secure a contract, and how to avoid being dropped by a press once you’ve agreed to work together. Continue reading

Asking the Editors: Part 2

(Originally published here on Inside Higher Ed.)

Last week, I wrote about an interview I recently conducted with two university press editors — Elizabeth Ault, an editor at Duke University Press, and Jim Burr, senior editor at the University of Texas Press — about first-time book authorship. They shared with me what you should do to prepare your book for submission, including how to know when you are ready to start searching for an editor. In this second essay in a three-part series, I’ll provide Elizabeth and Jim’s perspective on networking and meeting with editors. Continue reading

Asking the Editors: Part 1

(Originally published here on Inside Higher Ed.)

About 18 months ago, I defended my humanities dissertation and took a tenure-track job. Since then, I’ve done a fair amount of soul-searching about my first book project and have also spent a lot of time talking with other junior faculty about publishing.

For almost every one of us, the formula for successfully drafting and editing a book, and then landing a contract, is mysterious. That’s perhaps due to a variety of factors, including the general irrelevance of the advice of our well-established grad school advisers — who already seem to have many relationships in publishing — and the general lack of attention to this concern until after landing a job.

So I set out to find out if there is a formula for publishing one’s first academic book in the humanities. The simple answer seems to be no. Yet two university press editors — Elizabeth Ault, editor at Duke University Press, and Jim Burr, senior editor at the University of Texas Press — whom I interviewed on their experiences working with first-time book authors helped me develop a longer, more comprehensive and insightful answer that I’d like to share. Continue reading