Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Faculty job descriptions

Wanted: For immediate opening, 1 person to guide 130+ learners through 4+ courses each semester while participating in 4+ committees, writing 2+ research journals, writing 1+ grant, and presenting original research at 2+ conferences each year. Applicants should be energetic, eager to embrace continuing education, willing to advise student organizations, collegial (and willing to work for several years before ever knowing if your work is of the quality to achieve tenure).

Some days this type of paragraph may describe faculty life! I love the variability of faculty job descriptions, the ability to denote specific time to certain projects, the way we can switch from one area of tasks to another when we are tired or need a boost. Sometimes, though, it can be overwhelming.

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My advice after a VERY hectic couple of days: set your own priorities and avoid adding others' jobs to your description if/when you can help it.

Personally, it is very easy for me to fall into the "helping" mode where I offer to help with items: I review a student's application before she submits it for a new job, I offer to do a task item to help a committee member, I note I could teach a mini-session for faculty on a technology issue, I perk up at an idea and offer to spearhead a task, eagerly, I state that I would happily help write, research, edit, etc...because I'm excited by the work or because I feel obligated (pressured).

It is also easy for junior faculty members like myself to be pushed into that helping mode...Less nicely stated, it is very easy for work to go to the junior faculty members. Perhaps the people around us want us to get more experience. Perhaps they simply don't want to do the work. Perhaps we are the most qualified for a certain task. I get "nominated" or "drafted" an awful lot for a variety of tasks that ultimately make me feel like I am doing the work of three people. 

Maybe it just feels that way because what we do covers so many different (and sometimes competing) types of work.

Whatever the reason, it is easy for your job description to quickly feel like it includes the jobs of others.

For junior faculty, we may not always have the choice or the ability to speak up and use that all-powerful "no" word. But, we can work to manage our tasks, prioritize, and focus on a well-rounded packet come tenure time. I am a sucker for all things organizational. From calendars to apps, I embrace prioritized task lists and scheduling to help with the overwhelming feelings that can come up in these pre-tenure years. Institutions vary in expectations, but here are a few resources to explore your workload, your tasks, and your ability to cope:

REMEMBER: Visit your faculty handbook and institutional documents noting expectations for faculty members, workload, and policies.

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