Thursday, June 21, 2012


I went off and talked to some folks in different stages of their academic careers recently, and it struck me how much I changed in the first couple years teaching (after my phud) and what a difference that made for me in getting a second job.

One of the folks, let's call her Betty, was talking about her work.  She was excited, and the work sounds interesting, but there was something that I can't quite put my finger on that stood out to me as telling: she's still in grad school mode.  (She finished a couple years ago.)

I don't know what exactly it was, though.  And I know for me, teaching as a lecturer helped me learn to talk about my teaching AND my research in much more effective ways.  And during my first tt job, I somehow learned to have totally different conversations about my work and other peoples' work.  The thing is, I wouldn't have believed when I was a grad student, how very much I didn't sound ready.  I couldn't have recognized it until I hit it myself, though retrospectively, I'm pretty sure a couple of my friends were already there in grad school.  (So it's not just a grad school or not thing, or an age thing, but there's some change that happens to most people, and they're in a different mode and it shows.)

I was talking with another old hand later, and separately, and we talked about Betty a bit, and the other old hand had the same impression.

The sad thing is that in a super competitive market, Betty doesn't stand much chance against the people who have made it to the different mode already.  But I wouldn't know how to help Betty change modes, or even how to explain to Betty about the modes.

Have you noticed this phenomenon?  Can you explain it better?


  1. Anonymous2:39 AM

    It's a very common thing, check this post:

    And this whole series of posts that are meant to help students get over that:

  2. I definitely have seen this in myself. There was a reason I didn't get a job for four years -- I was still being a grad student. So it was good for me to be an adjunct for five years (one year I wasn't on the job market, but the rest I was). I became a more seasoned teacher in those years, and gained a lot of confidence.

    Now, as for research, I find myself still sort of flailing in the grad-student mode. I think it's just that my focus has been on teaching for so long (because I didn't have the support/time to do research) that I haven't established myself in a scholarly way yet. The only thing I can do about that is to practice. I just hope I don't make myself look foolish in the process. :)

    I don't think that anyone could tell Betty what you're talking about, though. I know that I wouldn't have been able to process it five years ago. Or do anything about it.