Advice to My Past Self: Second Year on the Tenure Track

November 2017: 1.5 year old Ellie and 33 year old Mama

November 2017: 1.5 year old Ellie and 33 year old Mama

Similar to my advice for year one on the tenure track post, this week I’m sharing some thoughts about the advice I might give myself during year two, if I was going to do it all over again.

Here they are, in no particular order.

  • Remember, it is a j.o.b. And it’s not worth sacrificing your health/mental health in order to succeed. 

    • This is a repeat from year 1, because I think it’s so important, especially for pre-tenure people.

  • Family first.

    • Another important repeat

  • Experiment to find what feels good in terms of your teaching, research, and service.

    • I noticed that weekly teaching left me feeling really drained my first year, so during my second year I tried out the other teaching methods that were available in our program. I taught in a condensed format, with four 8 hour classes spread out across the 10 week term. I also taught online. I liked both of these options way better than teaching weekly in the face-to-face format. However, I never would have known if I hadn’t tried them. You can apply the same experimentation mentality to your other work to help you figure out what feels good.

  • Focus on funding.

    • Obviously this depends on the type of school you’re at and how far your startup package gets you in terms of buyouts. For me, I knew that the buyouts from my startup would be up at the end of the second year, so I needed to think about getting funds for the 3rd year (and beyond) in order to reduce my teaching/advising load (and make the job more manageable). If your university has some sort of faculty development funds, apply for them!

  • Re-evaluate where you want to go (long term) with your research, teaching, and service. Determine the things you can do now to set yourself up for reaching these goals in the future.

    • The first year is a blur! Make sure to take some time during year 2 to re-think your path moving forward (because plans often change after you’ve had time to get comfortable).

  • Re-evaluate (or start) your writing routine to create something that works for you so that you can keep up momentum on publications/funding applications.

  • Re-evaluate what you think you want to use your startup funds for.

    • I used some of my startup funds during my first year (they were good for 3 years). At that point, I really had no idea what I wanted to do with them. In hindsight, the first year is such a blur that I think using them for some sort of professional development activity is helpful, but hold off on research related uses until you have a better idea of what it is you’ll be involved in. I had a much clearer grasp of what I wanted to use my funds for after spending a year at my institution.

  • Don’t beat yourself up if you’re still spending a lot of time on course prep.

    • For me, course prep was still a big time investment during the second year, largely because I was trying out different teaching formats. I was expecting this and mentally prepared myself for it. I was also actively thinking about year 3 and beyond, and how the work I was doing now would help set me up for success in the future.

  • Continue to build relationships with local collaborators, and remember, they don’t need to be within your university (depending on your field, of course!).

  • If you have collaborative projects stemming from your doctoral studies, consider how you could extend that work into your local community (so that it’s not an entirely long distance relationship!).

  • Be welcoming and supportive of any new people coming in.

    • While you will most certainly still feel brand new (and even now, as I’m writing this at the end of my 3rd year, I still feel new!), make sure you work to create a supportive environment for the people who come after you.

  • Have fun!

    • As you start feeling more and more comfortable in your new position, make sure you’re enjoying yourself. Once I started to think of the classroom, or my research, or my committee work, as spaces where it’s okay to have fun, I loosened up a lot and had a more enjoyable experience.

What advice would you give yourself during your second year on the tenure track?

Advice for your Second Year on the Tenure Track