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Women In Academia

Women in Academia: “No Duh” Advice

Some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten could be classified as “no duh” advice. You know, that advice that just makes so much sense and is so easy but for some reason, you’ve never actually done it. Like, “if you hang up your towels, then maybe your clothes won’t be damp” type of advice. My biggest “no duh” advice for graduate school is definitely “read your emails.”

“Well duh,” you might say, “who doesn’t read their emails? That’s the most common form of communication now! You can’t not read them.” To which I would respond, “True, but who reads ALL of their email?”

I guess that’s misleading, too. I don’t advocate wasting hours perusing the fine print of mass mailings from Old Navy, but taking the time to read every bit of the departmental emails or forwards is crucial. Again, I know this seems like serious “no duh” advice, but I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve talked to who say that they don’t bother reading those announcements and emails. I completely understand ““ there are a lot of them, they’re long, and up to 100% of the information provided could be totally useless to you.

But usually, something very good can come from actually reading those damn emails. I got started in some of my outreach work through those emails. I’ve attended seminars on topics that are right up my academic alley and other topics that are my intellectual oases, my happy places where thoughts run free and the pressure to produce publications is squelched. I get updates about my health plan and the counseling/stress management services offered. I get information about family fun days (which I don’t need) and writing seminars (which I do).

As the new semester or quarter starts, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the resources available on campus. It could significantly improve your academic experience. I’ve tapped in to whole new networks, opened up exciting collaborations and opportunities, and felt good about my academic trajectory while doing so, and all it took was reading those damn emails.

Do you, gentle readers, have any “no duh” advice that you’d like to share? What are you glad that you do? What do you wish you’d known earlier?

5 replies on “Women in Academia: “No Duh” Advice”

1. Apply for grants and submit articles for publication. Often women talk themselves out of submitting materials (for awards or to journals) thinking they will not be as good as other applicants. Even if you don’t get the award or article, you will be better off for having a packet/manuscript in working order for the next opportunity.

2. Follow directions. Grants, journal guidelines, syllabus/department/college rules. So many awards, articles and students flame out because they dont do the basic things asked for in written instructions.

3. Don’t confuse collegial relationships with friendships. Students usually have no idea how much of their personal business their mentor/advisor shares with other faculty. Students think they are BFF with faculty, but that is not true, it is not a relationship of equals. Prof X may be well intended, but don’t be confused about the fact that Prof X wants what is good for Prof X and students are a means to that end.

Be NICE to your fellow grad students, do not be a stuck up, passive agressive jerk. I am not saying you have to love everyone, but at least be kind, because you never know who’s going to be on your hiring committee/tenure committee 5-10 years down the road. So if you want to work in your field, be kind.

On a related note, keep your mouth shut about money/funding especially if you are not sure if everyone in your department is receiving funding at the same level. A lot of awkwardness can be avoided if you just keep quiet.

Do not spread gossip, even if the department faculty does. My field is very small in the area I live (and plan to get a job in), and it has been said by many that it is better just to keep your mouth shut, even if you agree when other people (faculty, people in the field, etc) say it. There are other/better ways of dealing with it until you are out of the program, like counseling or commiserating with close/trustworthy grad school friends.

The email thing is actually pertinent…and a MAJOR problem.  I still encounter professors who either don’t check their email regularly (which can screw students over) or who use their age as an excuse to act like they don’t know how to do it.

My obvious advice is to follow the directions you’re given, even if you think doing what you want will result in a higher-quality project.

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