Mentoring

My goal in mentoring, as in teaching, is to (1) help you with your career goals (see Career Advice below), (2) make you into a responsible, professional, altruistic, and thus generally worthy citizen - much of which may be outside my control, but I am putting more and more emphasis on our responsibilities towards the society we live in, which, in science, particularly means becoming an advocate for science and truth, and (3) to support you as a person and keep you mentally healthy (see Mental Health Advice below) - I intend to link more information below but for now feel free to have personal discussions with me about this at any time, and see the entries linked below for specifics on what I do or do not expect at different stages. 

CAREER ADVICE

I've divided this into sections, as below; however I actually recommend you have a quick look at all the sections, to get a feeling for what's coming or what you should already know.

UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS

GRADUATE STUDENTS

POSTDOCS

A CAREER IN ACADEMIA

Find out what salaries you can expect at institutions/jobs you are interested in. For all public universities and government jobs, this information is public record, i.e. you have a right to it, but it may be hard to find. For the UA, the budget book has all the information, but there are easier ways to search for salaries described on the library website.   

Life as a professor: So I knew I wanted to be a biology professor at least since I was in 5th grade, and I never really considered any other career. And, it is in every way the right choice for me: I find it to be fun, rewarding, flexible, well-paid, and interesting. This is to say I work fewer hours than I would in a management-type job or if I had founded my own company, but I have more freedom both in when and what to do for my work than most jobs. This job is more compatible with family life than any other job that pays equally well, and allows me more time to learn, read, and pursue my interests than pretty much any career job does, while still being incredibly secure.

I say all this because you may hear others say that being a professor is extremely stressful and competitive. Now in my experience getting a tenure-track job, and tenure, is indeed those things, particularly because of the uncertainties involved, the short-term contracts, the two-body problem, etc. But, this is all the case for many well-paid jobs, and I think most people who argue this are not using the correct comparison group. Talk to some of your friends or relatives who have jobs in the >$70K range (a typical junior-mid-level salary at R1 universities these days). How many vacation days do they have? Can they just come hours late on a given workday to run errands or tend sick kids? How often do they get reviewed by their boss, how much job security do they have, and how likely is their company to hire their spouse?

Once you manage to clear the tenure hurdle, you really should not assume that life is all work and no play for professors. [SMBC has this to say about 'Publish or Perish'.] One person's assessment of how much professors work (by Chris Buddle) is here. Personally, I will say that I have a hard time believing the total hours cited here, at least for professors in biology at the UA. I think there is a culture of overreporting, and focusing on those weeks of the year that are most busy. Tellingly, the author of this particular blog does not want to tell us what his total actually is.

Another blog on this and how to stop worrying about tenure (AND manage family life) by Radhika Nagpal. And more on managing family life as a professor. More on women in the sciences here and here. Advice from an 'old' prof looking back. 

Check the blog by Joan Strassman to see the views of a senior professor on what matters in managing a research career with some life balance, finding good research topics, writing and presentation skills, etc. For example: choosing long-term research goals (to get tenure).

Terry McGlynn has a blog more focused on 'small', i.e. teaching-focused, institutions. For example, I like 'Bandwagons are for big labs', 'Startups at teaching-focused institutions'. 

MENTAL HEALTH ADVICE

Strategies for stress.

 

Disclaimer :)

You (or I) may not agree with every single point made here or by the linked pages listed, and indeed some may not apply to your situation. But take them seriously nonetheless - all of them are based on real experiences by people who have been in this business for a while.