On Mentorship

It’s early October, which for most people means that the semester is about halfway over. In some regards, it feels like the last 7-8 weeks flew by…but at the same time the next 7-8 weeks feel like an insurmountable hurdle.

A quick note on mental-state: I’m finding that this is the point at which I finally feel like I can come up for air, so to speak. My routine is established, my students feel familiar, I’ve reincorporated writing time back into my week, and the courses I’m teaching no longer feel haphazardly put together. That being said, the sentiment is coupled with what feels a lot like the end of the honeymoon phase in a new relationship. I’m becoming more aware of the tensions among colleagues that prevent things from getting done. I’m realizing that I don’t necessarily agree with the way faculty get evaluated across campus. My students are starting to get restless and bored with the material. So, I find myself wondering, how can I reboot the semester and make sure the second-half doesn’t feel lackluster compared to the first?

PRO-TIP: When the honeymoon phase ends, seek new connections on campus that can spark added enthusiasm. Find a mentor.

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Impostor Syndrome 102: It’s back!

The research and writing on what we know as impostor syndrome abounds, and with good reason. People from every walk of life experience it and it’s nearly impossible to get through grad school without the myriad of questions inspired by self-doubt: what happens if my advisor realizes I’m way less experienced and/or well-read than everyone else in my cohort?; am I going to disappoint my advisor with my lack of abilities?; I can’t believe everyone can have such informed opinions on Roland Barthes…why am I just now hearing of him?

Most of those questions are prompted by a lack of self-confidence brought on by comparing oneself to a host of high-achieving, accomplished peers. I think most graduate students are reticent to tackle impostor syndrome head on, because they’re hopeful that it will just slowly dissipate. (At least, that’s how I felt.) I know I was DEFINITELY hopeful that it was a sensation that would stay contained within my graduate school career. But recently I had an experience that caused it to come roaring back. My first thought upon realizing it was back… “Great, now I get to deal with the assistant professor version of this arduous mental health challenge.” Continue reading

How to Write a Book Proposal

This whole post could probably be distilled into one single PRO-TIP.

PRO-TIP: Start thinking about your book proposal way before you think you need to. An significant number of presses will expect to see projects that already have a fair amount of momentum behind them.

More and more these days, presses (university or otherwise) are asking for supplemental information along with book proposals. The basics are all the same, but many presses  would now like for you to be well-connected socially. In other words, they want to see evidence of an audience, marketability, or of your book’s momentum. We’ll return to this quandary in a moment. Continue reading

How to Review a Book

When looking for a strong way to expand your professional network and get the most visibility from your prospective publishers, a book review is an excellent solution. By reviewing a recently published work in your field, you:

  • Pair your name with the names of other academics who you want to be associated with. Meaning, people will begin mentally categorizing you as part of the same field as the person whose work you are reviewing…not to mention the author of the book will likely read it.
  • Snatch a quick line for the non-peer reviewed publications section of your CV.
  • Get the attention of the review editor of a scholarly journal that aligns with your interests.

So, you’re asking, “well what’s a good way to go about that, anyway?” Continue reading

How to Spend the Summer Before Your TT Appointment Begins

It’s August 1stand the summer is basically over. As summers tend to, it flew by. That being said, I was able to make the most of it and I believe I’m in a good position to start the school year. I really struggled to know how to use my time the last few months and thought you might benefit from a few amateur dos and don’ts.

Before launching into my ideas, let me establish some ground rules:

  • I don’t mean to sound like your committee chair, but it should go without saying that if you got a tenure track job as an ABD candidate and you have not yet finished your dissertation, THAT’S WHAT YOU SHOULD DO OVER THE SUMMER.
  • Another important consideration is rest. Only you can decide what that looks like for you. For me it was fleeing the country for a few weeks and finding a place where I had no responsibilities to anyone but myself.
  • There are also financial considerations. My PhD-granting institution funded my summer even though I was no longer enrolled or planning to enroll ever again. That’s not a reality for everyone, so some of you might need to teach or seek some kind of employment over the summer.

If you’re in a position where you can afford (both literally and metaphorically) to do something else between school years, I would highly-recommend what my partner recently referred to as academic cross-training. In other words, you no longer need to prep for the job market, and you have time to take a break from your primary scholarly goals and find complementary ones. I advocate for this plan for two primary reasons: 1. it got me excited about my work again because it stimulated my curiosity, and 2. it has allowed me to look back over my summer and feel a sense of pride that I did something (at least semi-) productive with it. Continue reading

Who is the Junior Prof? or, Welcome!

Hello and welcome!

I’ll begin by introducing myself. I finished my Humanities PhD in the spring of 2018 and was lucky enough to land a tenure-track job while finishing my dissertation. (My use of “lucky” is not a sign of false humility. After enduring two years on the job market and applying to over 100 jobs, I’ve become a firm believer that luck is a necessary ingredient in obtaining the oh-so-desired tenure line.)

Seven years ago, I applied to ten different PhD programs across the country and held my breath, hopeful that I would get in to at least one. To be honest, I was unaware that my degree was unlikely to produce gainful employment. No one told me and I didn’t do the research. If I had realized how dire the situation is for academics seeking full-time employment, I probably would’ve chosen a radically different path. Or perhaps my youthful idealism would have taken me in the same direction I chose…no way to know. I was, and still am to a certain degree, a preacher of doing what you love and figuring the rest out later.

Now, I’m on the other side of the coursework, preliminary exams, prospectus, and dissertation-writing process. I don’t regret a single moment of the arduous process but to say it wasn’t easy would be such an understatement. Getting a PhD allowed me to stretch the bounds of my creativity only to have my thinking roped back in by my advisor. I met a unicorn group of friends who have since turned into family. Where some people’s grad school experience is lonely, mine consisted of too much wine and too many late nights debating issues no one in the real world pays attention to. And I loved it for that. But I hated it for other things. I, and so many of the people I love, suffered from crippling anxiety and constant imposter syndrome through the whole process. We learned that in our advisor-speak, a compliment is actually just the absence of a critique…meaning no one ever pays real compliments…no matter how solid your work is. Continue reading