7 things I’ve learnt courting the Academy

So it’s the beginning of 2017 and that means 12 months until my youngest daughter starts school. It has always been the plan to put serious effort into seeking a more stable academic appointment for 2018, and I am really excited (and nervous) about this.

I think the beginning of 2017 is a good time to remind myself of some mantras I’ve learnt from my many mentors and cheerleaders on this journey. Recently, I found out that mentoring programs were initiated in universities to offset the “boys clubs” which held the secret squirrel information of academia. As women chipped away at the higher education glass ceiling they passed the knowledge on to those on their way up. The intention of those programs has been passed through into the digital world with blogs like Helen Kara, Patter and Thesis Whisperer.  The generosity of many academics has shown me it is possible to make decisions that help build the Academy I want to be in.


So in that spirit, I am going to share seven things I have learnt while I’ve been working on my research career.

  1. Don’t wait for someone to offer to mentor you. Be creative and “appoint” someone you would like to sit down with. Support can be inter-institutional and interdisciplinary. Finding that support comes from the weirdest places but it also comes from asking. Most people are flattered to be asked and it doesn’t have to be onerous. Coffee once every three to six months to discuss your progress is often enough. Also, mentors are seasonal. Sometimes they are there for a long time, sometimes a month. Glean what you can.
  2. Don’t solicit too much advice. It gets confusing.
  3. Choose an area of research that excites you that makes you happy to get up to every day. Recently Deborah Netolicky wrote a blog on making 2017 about nourishment. It’s a wonderful concept. Make decisions about writing and research that feed your soul. That nourish you.
  4. Don’t take rejection or failure too seriously. I’ve even been advised to not hide it. Tell everyone! The feeling gets bigger and harder to surmount if you hide it. Also, nearly everyone has been there. To talk about it is more likely to unite than divide.
  5. Beware of false deadlines.
  6. Plan. A good application takes a long time and can’t be done overnight. Even leaving it to the final week will take a good chunk of time away from other responsibilities. I have started breaking my writing down into small chunks and planning how much I have to write to achieve a set (or one of my constructed – see point 5) deadlines.
  7. While quality is always better than quantity, it takes quantity to get quality. Writing takes practice. It’s like exercise and if it isn’t done regularly fitness is lost. I’ve started an Instagram account to try and write a few sentences every day.

So these are my seven for 2017. What can you add?


5 thoughts on “7 things I’ve learnt courting the Academy

      • Life in the accelerated academy challenges our any attempt to not set ourselves goals and things to do even of they seem far out of reach.


      • I find myself doing lists of things to do and achieve by x time and being bogged down because they are generally unrealistic castle in the sky sorta things. Awareness of forces that contributes to this state of mind is critical. I surely agree


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