Becoming a successful academic takes more than intelligence.
Self-awareness, savvy strategies and practical skills make the difference between tenure and failure. Even small changes may produce big effects over time. I hope that some of the tips and tactics on these pages will move you closer to your goals.
The Salad Bar Approach
Most authors of self-help manuals suggest that the reader follow a specific plan of action. The recommendations are presented as a one-size-fits-all model. However, the many people I work with describe a range of problems that couldn’t possibly cured with the same poultice. Just as each dissertation and research question is different, every academic is faced with a different constellation of challenges. The particular combination of talents and skills you bring to your work are unique. Therefore, some tips on this web site may help you utilize your strengths to the best advantage, while others may shore up your weaknesses.
Feel free to sample the tips on this site according to your needs and interests. I call this the “salad bar approach.” Just as you would approach a well-stocked restaurant buffet, try the offerings on these pages that appeal to you. I’ve tried to present a variety of choices so that even picky eaters will find something to their liking. There are some basic, leafy pieces of advice that will probably form the core program for most people who step up to this salad bar. But a lettuce-free niçoise salad can be delectable on occasion.
Although there is no one way to sample my tips, I have some tentative suggestions for filling your platter:
- Start anywhere. Even if you are coming up for tenure soon, there may be tips about writing, or time management, or social support that help you send off a final paper before the deadline for submitting your tenure portfolio. Even if you are just starting your doctoral program, you may want to think about future career options now. Feel free to start with any dish on the salad bar.
- Approach this site with your personal inclinations in mind. Some people need order and regularity. They are best suited to find a pattern that works and stick to it. Many of us, however, can’t seem to stick to routines for long. If your style tends towards the mercurial, you may use the salad bar approach to introduce variety and challenge to your routines. You may want to try a tip for a month and then allow yourself to develop a new regime before your motivation wanes from boredom.
- Go slowly. Don’t try everything at once. You have the option for unlimited refills and the restaurant is always open, so put less on your platter rather than more. The changes you make will probably be most effective and long-lasting if you pace yourself.
- Try a variety of dishes. In general, if a suggestion for improving your work habits sounds appealing, please try it out. But pay special attention to those tips that you respond to with quick and vehement distaste. You may get the greatest benefits from sampling something completely uncharacteristic.
To summarize, approach this Web site the way you would an all-you-can-eat salad bar: sample the offerings that seem appealing; satisfy your need for stability or diversity; try a few unusual items, go slowly; and return for more whenever you’re ready.