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I’ve attended a good number of panel discussions, workshops and other events based on the topic of career advice for women in mathematics. The advisors usually consist of tenured women in math, tenured women with a joint position in both math and some other STEM field, women professors emeritus (retired) in a STEM field, and/or women in academic administrative positions of various types.

The advisees [among which I sit] are usually female junior faculty and grad students, but the advice is good for all genders!

One too many times I thought to myself, “Someone should write a blog about that.”, so here it is. I will start by posting some advice from these sessions that I keep hearing repeated by numerous women wiser than myself. It caught my attention that so many people give the same advice — and it remains poignant every time I hear it. 🙂

Eventually I’ll include posts about job advice or other topics related to getting or holding a job in academia!

faculty orientation: 3 categories

I wrote a blog post. Then I realized I was making assumptions about the reader’s knowledge of the realm of academics — by this I mean higher education: college or university. I speak only from my knowledge in mathematics although I imagine much is applicable to other fields, especially STEM fields.

In this strange and wondrous realm, tenured and tenure-track faculty are usually evaluated based on the following three criteria. Continue reading

Learn to say NO … diplomatically

As I said in my blog intro, I will post about advice that I’ve heard from numerous wise and tenured women in mathematics. Here we’ll talk about the most frequent piece of advice I have heard: learning to say NO.

In the previous post we talked about the realm of academics where, in order to put oneself on track for a favorable review, faculty must manage the holy trifecta of academic work: research, teaching, and service. If you take on every possible task you will become overloaded quickly. The most frequent piece of advice I have heard is to learn to say NO.

Prof A: “I started a club.”
Prof B: “What’s the club?”
Prof A: “It’s called the Learn to Say NO Club.”
Prof B: “I need to learn more about that, can I join?”
Prof A: “NO.”
Continue reading

Value and promote your contributions

The most recent advice panel I attended was at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Jan. 2015, organized by the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) . That panel had a name similar to this post. Two questions arose from the audience which I will morph together and paraphrase below. Similar to many issues that I want to post about, what may appear to be “advice for women in mathematics” is truly generalizable to everyone in academics. It is my hope that by advertising this, more men will appear seeking out the advice of the all-female panel sessions organized by AWM — I have found them to be really excellent. 🙂
Continue reading

Be assertive not aggresive

We live in a society that values confidence, charisma and vocality of ideas. A workable but well verbalized idea at times has a better chance of seeing the light of day than an expertly crafted plan that is sheepishly presented. When it comes to policy-making, curriculum structure, syllabus details, etc., effectively implementing pretty much anything in the realm of academics involves interacting with others and selling your ideas to students and other faculty.

When I studied for my math Ph.D. I was trained in the arts of thinking deeply and writing technical documents. I wasn’t trained in communicating effectively, standing up for myself, or facing strong opinions about academic policy that could influence the future of faculty members like me or the future of the college/university at large. At times, faculty dynamics can fall into this latter category (don’t be scared, not all the time!).

No matter how educated the academic crowd (terminal degrees!) we are still at risk of falling into personal or cultural traps when it comes to interpersonal dynamics.

Here are some tips that I have heard repeated by various women about acclimating to the realm of academics. I have been lucky to work in environments welcoming towards women, but I still find the advice here to be pretty valuable. As usual, “advice for women” is really advice for all. 🙂 Continue reading

THE JOB MARKET: Seek advice & trust yourself

The concept of “success” is NOT formulaic; it is highly subjective!  Maybe your job is prestigious but you end up unappreciated and overworked.  Maybe your job is otherwise amazing and supportive but you don’t feel challenged.  What “success” means to you depends on your personal interests, your background, your goals, your family situation, and much more.

That being said, the most frightening thing about the job market is the uncertainty! (eek!)  Especially in desperate times we look towards a smart advisor or a friend who can give THE PERFECT advice!  Maybe THE PERFECT advice will save me?  Problem is, advice is wide and varied and contradictory!

My personal advice is:

Seek out AS MUCH advice as you can find (or as much as you can handle), but don’t treat it as gospel.  Trust yourself and understand your own unique situation in order to parse the advice. 

Here is a list of memorable and contradictory pieces of advice that I received when I was in the job market, together with my experiences and observations to compare. Continue reading