Mid-Career Mentor

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Mid-Career Mentor

A resource for faculty to maintain momentum, increase productivity, explore leadership, and discover new career pathways with weekly, bite-sized insights.

How It Works

  • Each month will have its own theme, so that each lesson builds upon the next.
  • You will receive an email once a week with all of the week’s lessons and training suggestions.
  • Miss a lesson? Not a problem! Return here at the end of the month to find them in our archive.

Writing Best Practices

Faculty commonly struggle with research at mid-career. Some may struggle with a stagnant research agenda and reduced scholarly productivity, while others may question their commitment to the research agenda that led them to tenure. In our course Research & Scholarship at Mid-Career: Reboot, Reset, Reimagine, Assistant Director of Coaching, Dr. Corinne Nicolas offers three pathways to reinvigorate your research at mid-career.

Three Pathways to Research at Mid-Career

  1. Perhaps you have experienced a lull or decline in your research productivity at this stage, but still find purpose in the research that launched your academic career? In this case, you need a way to continue being productive as a scholar while adjusting to the new realities of mid-career life by rebooting your research and leveling up as a researcher.
  2. Or perhaps the research that established your academic career no longer holds resonates with you and new interests have emerged? In this case, you need to reset your research by changing course as a researcher in a way that allows you to pivot to a new research topic without jeopardizing your chances for advancement.
  3. Or perhaps, over the years, you have found greater purpose in the learning and the development of students? In this case, reimagining your research to engage in the scholarship of teaching and learning allows you to leverage your research skills and support your discipline in a way that can directly impact student lives.

To determine which of these pathways suits you best and how you can design a research plan that aligns with them, see the course.

You may want to write an academic book for a variety of reasons from: you must do it for promotion and tenure to wanting your research to reach a wider audience. In our asynchronous course, Planning and Completing Your Academic Book: A Guide to Process and Motivation, Dr. Daryl Van Tongeren will help you determine why and when you should write your book. Having published four books for academic and non-academic audiences, Dr. Van Tongeren will walk you through the entire book writing process from ideating and writing a proposal to finding an agent, negotiating, and marketing. If you’re ready to get started, then consider the following questions.

When is the best time to write your academic book?
Writing a book is a big undertaking that demands a lot of time and energy. Before you start, consider the following:

  1. Your career arc. Where does writing a book fit into it? Consider your field's norms, your institution's expectations, and your bandwidth at your career stage when deciding if now is the time to start writing your book.
  2. Your personal and professional commitments. For example, if you are currently working on more prestigious and time-sensitive projects, then you might want to delay writing your book until after these are complete. However, if your current projects demand less energy and focus, then now might be the time!

Research and scholarship rarely involve just writing alone by yourself. Whether in dialogue with your field via writing, running a research team, or navigating peer review, there’s a lot more than just writing. For this week’s Mid-Career Mentor, we have compiled our best resources for grant writing and even a few for after you get that grant (or in those cases, when you don’t).

Trying to get an NSF grant for the first time? We have a training for that.
In our virtual training, Simplifying the NSF Grant Proposal Process and Setting Yourself up for Success, Dr. Zaryab Iqbal will introduce you to the NSF, if it’s a good match for your research, what makes a good proposal, and what to expect after submission.

Meet the NSF’s Updated Responsible and Ethical Conduct
If you are submitting grant applications through the NSF, our 3-hour asynchronous course Responsible and Ethical Conduct of Research for National Science Foundation Grants meets the NSF RECR requirement.

Dealing with Rejection
On average, it takes three submissions before a faculty member will get their proposal for funding accepted by a grant agency. After a declined proposal, how do you make the best decision to move your research and career forward? For some guidance, we have two resources you can explore:

  1. Short on time? Read this short article by Dr. Rick Nadar who will you through considerations for next steps, including interpreting your ratings, examining reviewer weaknesses, and deciding to resubmit.
  2. Or dive deeper into these steps with Dr. Nadar’s 1-hour virtual training Declined Grant Proposals: Analyze Reviews and Create a Plan for Resubmission.

One of the challenges that we hear most from faculty is the struggle to prioritize their writing time. Whether they work for a research-intensive institution or not, most faculty encounter constant obstacles to writing. During March, we will focus on scholarship, research, and writing by sharing tips from some of our most popular research and writing resources.

Align Your Writing to Your Energy Level
One of the ways you can optimize your writing time is to align the type of writing to your energy level. In Time Management for Scholarly Writing, our Director of Coaching, Dr. Moira Killoran, identifies three types of writing:

  1. Writing new sentences – involves generating new ideas and/or adding your unique voice to the scholarship of your field or discipline, or to put another way “leading with your ideas.” This requires the most focus and energy. For many people, the best time to do this may be first thing in the morning before checking emails and other tasks; while others may find that evenings allow them the deeper focus they require.
  2. Fueling the writing – involves researching, writing literature reviews, and exploring existing ideas in your field or discipline. This type of writing is more passive than writing new sentences but requires more energy than editing.
  3. Editing – involves, well, editing, generating citations, etc. This type of writing should be done when your energy is at its lowest. Sometimes, we may put the most energy into this type of writing to procrastinate and avoid the harder and more demanding work of writing new sentences.

Drawing from academic writing research and her years of experience coaching faculty, Moira overviews mindset and task-based strategies for developing a sustainable writing practice to help you meet your short- and long-term publication goals in the rest of this 45-minute asynchronous course.

Upcoming Events

Another way to build a sustainable writing practice is with a writing community. Bring together early-career faculty at your institution to build confidence as academic writers, advance their scholarly writing, and get published with one of our group coaching packages, Strategies and Support for Early-Career Success in Academic Writing and Publication.

 

Explore On Your Own Time

If you are a chair or administrator, returning to a faculty role after time away in leadership, see our virtual training, Returning to Research: Preparing Your Transition from Chair to Faculty. Dr. Rod Runyan overviews four key steps to help you prepare for making this transition.

For a broader overview of publishing in academia from peer reviewed journals to book publishers to professional newsletters to society websites for blogs, see our training The Ins and Outs of Publishing Your Scholarly Work: A Training for Faculty Researchers.

Navigate the “soft skills” of effective research and scholarship in our asynchronous course, Leading Your Research Group with Clear Communication and Intentionality. As a leader of research integrity, Dr. Tracy Wilson-Holden notes that the issues most research teams face are a direct result of poor communication and underdeveloped leadership skills across the team.

In addition to Time Management for Scholarly Writing, you can build on your unique scholarly voice with Increasing Scholarly Productivity by Leading with Your Voice. Faculty coach and journal editor, Allison DiBianca Fasoli, will show you ways to craft a stronger argument and target academic journals more efficiently.

 

Get Individualized Support

Interested in seeing how coaching can help you change how you work to achieve your desired impact? Sign up for Faculty and Leadership Coaching to get professional development that meets you where you are

 

A Faculty Coaching Testimonial

Here is a real-world example of how Faculty Coaching can help to provide give the accountability you need to complete a big project:

"I started working with Allison DiBianca because I desperately wanted to finish writing a long-overdue book. Given too many other commitments and a hands-off editor, I had a hard time making the book a priority. I needed to find a way to fit the project into my daily routine and create a plan for completing my goal. This is where Allison came in. She was always warmly encouraging and genuinely curious about my work; she also helped me to hold myself to a high standard and a productive pace. I finished the book, but just as important, I regained my enthusiasm for the project."

— Mark Katz, PhD, John P. Barker Distinguished Professor of Music and Director of Graduate Studies, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

We want to hear from you!

What do you think of our Mid-Career Mentor newsletter? Please share your thoughts, feedback, and topic requests.

Well-Being & Impact

In her interactions coaching faculty, Maria LaMonaca Wisdom, Director of Faculty Mentoring and Coaching Programs at Duke University noticed that many faculty spoke less of burnout (defined as being unable to do their work) and more of feeling like the work they are doing is not having the impact they desire. In her article for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Wisdom suggests that rather than focusing solely on faculty burnout, we should shift our focus to impact. For February, the Mid-Career Mentor will focus on sharing the resources and tools we have for faculty well-being and impact.

Establishing Your Values & Success Criteria
A values exercise is an initial step in evaluating whether you are having the impact you desire. In our workshop series, Actualize Your Purpose: A Workshop Series on Improving Your Well-Being, faculty coach, Jennifer Askey, prompts participants to list their top values because impact “takes shape at the intersection of what you value about your work and what your community values about your work.” Look over the list below of ten value clusters and rank them according to their importance for you. You might want to start by ranking the top two and bottom two, then filling in the middle as best you can. (For more on values, see Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead List of Values.)
 
Value grid image
 
Click Here to Download the Worksheet

Last week, we shared a value ranking exercise as an initial step in determining if you are having the impact you desire. Another common exercise that faculty coaches assign to their clients is a vision statement. Vision statements are a tool that helps you identify your desired impact. Usually, a concise statement of 1-2 sentences, a vision statement articulates the why of your career and the impact you hope to have. It is not meant to be shared with others, and it will likely evolve with time. You are the primary audience for it as you use it as a guide to how you spend your time, energy, and resources.

How to Get Started Writing a Vision Statement
For this week’s activity, we have a series of questions to reflect on that can help you begin to craft a vision statement:

  1. Thinking about the work you do, what do you desire to create? What difference/impact do you want to make in your career/world?
  2. Why do you want this?
  3. How does it align with your values and who you are?
  4. Who will benefit from your advancing your vision?
  5. What would the cost of not advancing your vision be? To you? To others?

So far this month, you have reflected on how to establish what your values are and write a vision statement aligned with those values. Having a firm grasp on your values and vision are key to helping you set and maintain boundaries around your work, so that you do not spend too much of your time on work that is not meaningful to you. As you think about what to say “yes” and “no” to, consider how to respond to new requests with empathy.

Two Models for Setting Boundaries
As you consider requests where you will need to set a boundary, respond either with a focus on taking a collaborative approach or stating a firm “no.” Either way, start by acknowledging the request and expressing empathy for the situation your requester may be in. Let them know what your situation is – are you overloaded with other requests or focusing on a specific aspect of your career at the moment? Then respond by either:

  1. Offering to collaborate on solving the problem and clearly stating what you are and aren’t willing to do, or
  2. State a clear “no” and use a broken record technique if needed to reinforce your answer.

For this week’s activity, reflect on a situation where you know you will need to set or maintain a current boundary. Imagine how the person or group will respond to you keeping this boundary and write out a sample script for how you will respond. Then consider the following questions:

  1. How is your boundary connected to your values and vision statement?
  2. In writing out this conversation, what barriers to setting boundaries did you observe? How will you plan to work through those barriers?
  3. What internal and external supports do you have in place to help you maintain your boundary in this situation?
  4. Do you think your chosen model (collaboration or saying no) of setting boundaries is right for your scenario? Why or why not?

Thus far, you have reflected on your values, written a vision statement that aligns your values with your career goals, and practiced setting boundaries so that you can meet your goals. For the final week of our February Mid-Career Mentor theme on Well-Being & Impact, we turn towards mindfulness as a tool for promoting your overall well-being and reminding yourself of your worth beyond the articles you publish, lectures you deliver, etc.

In our asynchronous course, Using Mindfulness to Improve Overall Well-Being and Productivity: A Video Course for Faculty, faculty and leadership coach, Jennifer Askey provides a variety of exercises you can use to increase mindfulness in your day-to-day life, including a “to-be” list.

Your “To-Be” List
Practicing internal awareness and practicing getting in touch with your intentions is key to your mindfulness journey. Think of it as getting in touch NOT with your “to-do” list, but with your “to-be” list. Your to-be list contains the qualities and values that guide you toward your personal and professional north star, the most important elements of who you want to be. To get started with a to-be list:

  1. Jot down 3 significant goals.
  2. Then, fill in the reason why you want to achieve these goals.
  3. Finally, connect the goals and their “why” to your “to-be’s.” Your “to-be’s” are who you need to be in order to reach these goals and who you will become in the process of reaching these goals.

Like your vision statement, your to-be list is an important reminder to come back to as you continue your focus on achieving the impact you want through your work.

Upcoming Events

If this exercise resonates with you, join us for the September cohort of Now What? Navigating the Mid-Career Journey to further define a strategic pathway for your work. The next cohort starts September 23, 2024.

If this exercise resonates with you, take it a step further and sign up for the Actualize Your Purpose workshop series, a live series on integrating your well-being and impact in your work. We have a March and September offering.

 

Explore On Your Own Time

Interested in building mindfulness into your daily life, but not sure how? Start with the mini version of Jennifer’s course, Practicing Mindfulness. You will receive bite-sized mindfulness lessons and activities daily for 9 business days.

This lesson is included in our training, Setting and Maintaining Boundaries as Faculty to Develop Professional Well-being and Success, designed by psychologist and professor emerita Jackie Leibsohn. This asynchronous resource can be completed in under 2 hours and will guide you through the two models of setting boundaries.

This lesson is pulled from our member-exclusive course, Women in STEM: Creating a Space Where You Can Thrive, designed by our Assistant Director of Coaching, Corinne Nicolas. This asynchronous resource can be completed in under 2 hours and includes a workbook to guide you through setting boundaries and intentionally building a support system to help you thrive in your career.

Our member-exclusive course, Using Mindfulness to Improve Overall Well-Being and Productivity: A Video Course for Faculty, also designed by Jennifer Askey, will guide you in how to integrate mindfulness moments into your day.

 

Inclusive Leadership for Faculty

Faculty lead in multiple ways through formal leadership roles as administrators, directors of institutes, programs, and committees; as teachers and educators in the classroom and campus community; and as leaders of their fields running research teams and labs. This leadership occurs among diverse and globally connected groups who may have differing and even conflicting perspectives and expectations around communication, authority, and professionalism. Navigating these perspectives and expectations requires self-awareness, cultural acumen, and grace for others and yourself.

Learning to be a more inclusive leader is an ongoing, lifelong process that necessitates vulnerability and a willingness to make mistakes and learn from them. To get started on this journey (or to pick up where you left off), we have curated some of our resources based on levels of experience.

Start Where You Are
If you feel like a beginner to the ongoing inclusivity conversation, start with our program: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion 101: A 10-Day Foundational Program. This program will introduce you to our most popular DEI resources by delivering short daily lessons to your inbox that you can complete in two weeks.

Maybe you feel more comfortable in these types of conversations but are always looking for ways to increase your self-awareness? Try this 2-part training series Cultural Humility: A Framework to Mitigate Personal Bias and Techniques to Build Greater Cultural Humility for practical techniques.

Are you a leader at your institution who regularly interacts with a variety of groups and individuals to promote institutional change and belonging? Watch our training Cultural Intelligence: A Training for Higher Ed Leaders.

Students bring their whole selves to the classroom which includes their identity, cultures, and life experiences which filter how and what they learn. As an educator, this requires navigating a lot of variables in the classroom, which is why Dr. China Jenkins likes to remind educators that: “Inclusive teaching is not something that is delivered by experts who have already conquered it.”

Instead, she describes inclusive teaching as a practice and a mindset. In our on-demand training, Inclusive Pedagogy in Higher Education: A Mindset and Continual Practice, Dr. Jenkins describes three focus areas of inclusive teaching: student, content, and instructor:

Three Focus Areas of Inclusive Teaching

  1. Student: Make communication guidelines explicit and invite students to participate in shaping these guidelines. For example, instead of going over the syllabus on Day 1 and reminding students to be respectful, ask them what kind of behaviors signal respectful in the classroom.
  2. Content: Ask yourself who is represented in your course content. If these creators and representatives represent a cultural monolith, consider how you might diversify these representations. What are 1-2 things you could change for next semester? For example, if you are a scientist, how can you help students envision themselves as scientists?
  3. Teacher: We often teach the way we like to learn. A simple, but powerful exercise can be to reflect on how you like to learn and how that shows up in your teaching.

Watch Dr. Jenkins’ course for more activities and exercises you can do to make your teaching more inclusive.

A key responsibility for faculty involves serving on hiring and P&T committees. Further, faculty aid in the retention of their colleagues, as well. So, for the final Mid-Career Mentor for November, we are sharing resources that address each of these three areas from the perspective of inclusive leadership.

Hiring
In our on-demand training, Create a More Equitable Academic Search Process Using an Inclusion Advocates Program, Drs. Leah Cox and Shaunna Payne Gold overview a model for equitable faculty search processes that ensures greater accountability while reducing the load on BIPOC faculty to lead all diversity and inclusion efforts at an institution.

Promotion
Historically, women and faculty of color carry a larger service load that, while serving the institution, does not serve them when it comes time for promotion and tenure. Listen to our short-form podcast series Rethinking the Role of Service in Promotion & Tenure: Defining It, Measuring It, and Addressing Inequities to hear innovative and evolving thinking and practices around service as it relates to promotion and tenure.

Retention
Finally, affinity spaces for faculty from marginalized and underrepresented backgrounds create safe spaces for them to gather and build community. Watch this on-demand training Design Faculty of Color Affinity Spaces to Improve Retention for a model for designing, budgeting, and developing policies and procedures for creating affinity efforts at your institution.

Upcoming Events

Want to dive deeper into how you can lead inclusively? Sign up for our Inclusive Leadership Certificate Program: Build Your Skills and Self-Awareness. The next cohort starts June 3, 2024.

 

Explore On Your Own Time

Are you or someone you know preparing for promotion and tenure? Watch Dr. Magdalena Barrera’s member-exclusive course, Reclaiming Your Power in the Tenure Process for Faculty of Color, to uncover the hidden curriculum of the academy and how you can frame your accomplishments in terms the institution can understand.

We can’t talk about inclusive leadership in the classroom without acknowledging academic freedom, especially right now when faculty in parts of the United States are facing legislative restrictions on what they teach. Watch Dr. Sandra Miles’ Freedom of Speech, Academic Freedom, and DEI: A Complicated Relationship for an overview of the first amendment, academic freedom, and protections and limitations.

Our member-exclusive DEI Foundations courses are some of our most popular with faculty because they allow you to explore these issues on your own time. We recommend starting with DEI Foundations: Intersectionality in Higher Education.

 

Communicating Across Situations & Audiences

The relative autonomy of faculty roles, plus the deep knowledge being an expert in a discipline requires, places the responsibility of describing their work squarely on the shoulders of faculty. Further, speaking to a group of students about your work versus a group of your peers requires vastly different communication strategies. For this month’s Midcareer Mentor, we will focus on communicating across situations and audiences beginning with telling the story of your work for promotion.

While your initial response may be to open a blank document or pull up an old document for revision, Dr. Heather Martin recommends pre-writing as an initial time-saving strategy for the process of telling the story of your work for promotion.

4 Steps of Pre-Writing

  1. Values Audit – Review institutional and departmental materials for phrases that will help you make the case for yourself and align your work with your workplace.
  2. Audience Analysis – Consider the backgrounds of your audience so you can speak to what they do know about your work and what they don’t know.
  3. Artifact Review – Look for themes across your teaching, scholarship, and service and leadership to tell your larger story.
  4. Audience Analysis – Consider the backgrounds of your audience so you can speak to what they do know about your work and what they don’t know.
  5. Identity Mapping – Explore how you can tie these themes to your identity as a teacher, scholar, and faculty member.

To follow along with this course for your next tenure, promotion, and reappointment, sign up for our 7-day program to receive quick daily lessons on how to present a strong, cohesive case for promotion.

In the previous Mid-Career Mentor, we shared how you can use “pre-writing” techniques to help you craft your professional story for promotion and tenure. This week, we are going to switch contexts to address communicating through public speaking.

Many faculty are called on to communicate something about their work in a public forum – whether at a conference or in a classroom. When structuring a presentation, consider the classic essay formula: introduction, body, and conclusion. This familiar formula helps guide your listener from point A to point B in a concise manner. Further, for a public speech, keep in mind the following three tips for effectively communicating your message:

How to Effectively Communicate Your Message

  1. First grab your audience’s attention by beginning with a story, quote, or statistic.
  2. Then, “tell them what you are going to tell them,” in language that is accessible to the demographics of your audience.
  3. Finally, pay careful attention to creating transitions that help your audience follow along. Use explicit language such as: “for my next point...”

These tips are adapted from Dr. Phillip’s training, Finding Your Authentic Voice: Building Public Speaking Confidence. Watch the training for more tips on public speaking including tailoring your message to your audience, leveraging non-verbal communication, and adapting to virtual environments.

Next week, we will look at communication on a more interpersonal level: giving and receiving feedback.

Using the SBID Model for Feedback
Think of all the scenarios, whether formal or informal, in which you provide feedback or receive feedback as a faculty member:

  • Evaluating students’ performance and work
  • The promotion and tenure process
  • Mentoring post-docs and early-career faculty
  • Collaborating with colleagues on a committee
  • Leading a grant-funded research team

Despite the commonality of this task in academic workplaces, you may find yourself avoiding it, particularly in face-to-face scenarios. This is where a model such as SBID, (Situation, Behavior, Impact, Desired Outcomes), can help make the feedback process more objective and constructive for all involved.

The SBID Model

  1. Describe the situation.
  2. Describe the behavior you observed.
  3. Explain the impact.
  4. Identify desired outcomes and agreements.

Watch the entire training, The Art and Practice of Giving and Receiving Feedback, for specific language and scripts using the SBID model, so you can more effectively engage in impactful conversations around job performance and career development in higher education settings.

Next week, we will conclude our series on Communicating Across Situations & Audiences by looking more closely at interpersonal communication in the context of running a research team.

Communicating Shared Guidelines & Expectations
As a leader of research integrity, Dr. Tracy Wilson-Holden has handled cases of ethical violations and clear research misconduct. However, the issues she sees most research teams face are misunderstandings, bad relationships, mistakes, and poor behavior. These issues are rarely a result of malicious behavior by individuals, but instead are a direct result of poor communication and underdeveloped leadership skills across the team.

According to the Center for Creative Leadership, 70% of leadership is learned on the job, through the direct experiences and challenges you will face as a person working with others. The remaining 30% of learning leadership involves: reflection and feedback.

For this week’s Mid-Career Mentor, we have two suggestions for how you can reflect on your role as a research leader.

Creating a Safe Research Environment
The foundation of an effective research team is a safe and healthy research environment. In our course, Leading Your Research Group with Clear Communication and Intentionality, Dr. Holden overviews practical strategies for creating a sense of belonging and inclusion for a research team by beginning with the following reflection activity:

  • Spend some time thinking about your past experiences as a trainee and how you’ve interacted with your team since you became an independent researcher. What is your philosophy for how your research group should function? How might you create a safe research environment?

Reflect on Your Leadership Style
Next, consider your preferences as a leader and how they impact your interactions with others. You can start by taking our Five Paths to Leadership℠ Assessment.

Upcoming Events

To dive deeper into your results, register for our upcoming debrief session, held monthly. Watch the page for new dates.

 

Often what gets in the way of effectively communicating a message about work, whether in writing or a public speaking forum, is doubt. In many cases, this doubt results from imposter syndrome. More dates are coming in 2024 for Recognizing & Resisting Imposter Syndrome: A Discussion Series to gain strategies for resisting imposter syndrome, so you can further hone your authentic voice and confidently communicate your contributions as a faculty member.

 

 

Explore On Your Own Time

We also recommend checking out Dr. Holden’s entire course, Leading Your Research Group with Clear Communication and Intentionality, for practical, real-world tactics you can implement to help your research team do its best work.

Dive deeper into best communication practices for mentoring relationships in our member-exclusive asynchronous course, Make the Most of Mentoring: Best Practices and Core Principles for Mentors and Mentees.

If you suspect imposter syndrome might be interfering with your ability to communicate effectively and with confidence, check out our member-exclusive course, Imposter Syndrome in Higher Ed: Examining the Self, the System, and Opportunities for Change, to examine how you can change the narrative for yourself and others.

Feedback is crucial to the mentoring relationship and establishing and communicating shared expectations can provide structure and support to the mentoring relationship. Watch anytime to learn how. Click here to register!

Check out  Preparing for Difficult Conversations for Faculty where we will guide you through how to respond in specific scenarios and pre-plan for potentially difficult conversations. 

Crafting a Meaningful Career

The post-tenure blues describe the phenomenon where many faculty express feelings of disappointment in the years after tenure or early career. These feelings could range from severe burnout to a general sense of malaise. The post-tenure blues parallel the mid-career stage of workers in other industries, but the specific conditions of academia can make answering the question: what’s next? a particularly challenging endeavor.

But before you can dive into that question, give yourself the time to pause and take stock of where you are and how far you’ve come. The turbulence of this period offers opportunities for reflection and growth that the busyness of faculty lives often prevents. Use this time now to incorporate the following reflection activity into your day or week:

Reflection Activity: Rose/Bud/Thorn

  1. Identify a rose: a recent highlight or success – something you are working on that you enjoy.
  2. Identify a bud: a new idea or project – something you want to start, but never seem to have the time.
  3. Identify a thorn: A challenge or stress – a work-related assignment you are not enjoying.

Doing this activity will help you pause and start to see what patterns emerge for you. What work is draining you and what is fueling you? How has this changed over the course of time from early-career to mid-career? This reflection will help you gain a better understanding of where you are at in your mid-career, so you can create a plan for where you want to go that builds on your strengths and interests.

Something our faculty coaches talk about at Academic Impressions is not time management, but “priority management.” What is the difference? Let’s start with an example:

Padma, a professor at an elite university, reached out to a faculty coach because her to-do list was overwhelming her, and although she was crossing things off her list, the list just kept growing and she never felt a sense of accomplishment. She would end each semester feeling more behind than when she started.

Sound familiar? Instead of priority management, Padma was wading through seemingly urgent, time-dependent tasks with the hope of making space for her goals only for that space to never open. This is a time management mindset where the purpose is to get everything done, but the purpose of priority management is to make sure what really matters (to you) gets done.

Drafting Your Professional Vision
One of the ways you can start to shift your focus from time management to priority management is by writing a professional vision statement. A professional vision statement is a 1-2 sentence, big picture description of what you want to do with your career. It’s a working tool designed to articulate a desired destination for your career, to stay focused, and to make decisions that support your career advancement. You can use the following template as a guide:

  • I want my work to _____________________________________.
  • My vision is to ________________________________________.
  • I want to be known for ________________________________.

Here are some examples for your reference:

  • I want my work to inform how clinicians can best support patients with dementia.
  • My vision is to change the educational landscape for neurodiverse students.
  • I want to be known for supporting and mentoring women faculty to become higher education leaders.

Then post your statement somewhere you frequently look, such as a post-it note stuck to your computer screen. This will be particularly helpful when you got those emails that start with “Hey, can you...?”

So far this month, we have talked about post-tenure blues and vision-driven prioritization. While mid-career dissatisfaction and vision-driven prioritization certainly apply to non-tenure track faculty, career faculty (the term we will use from here on) face a different set of challenges from their tenure-track peers. Despite comprising most of the professoriate, they often have access to fewer resources and fewer opportunities for leadership. Oftentimes, these barriers are holdovers from when faculty demographics were vastly different from what they are now. For example, let’s share a story and a word of advice from Dr. Gypsy Denzine, a former Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs:

“I had the opportunity to hire Provost Faculty Fellows. I wanted to hire someone to work with me on adjunct faculty issues and services. I posted the Faculty Fellows position and an adjunct faculty member reached out to me and asked if he was qualified. I had dusted off the shelf the years old Faculty Fellow job description and position announcement that stated the Fellow must be full-time. This did not make sense for what I needed, so I quickly changed the qualifications for the position. Then I bumped into another barrier regarding how I could pay him as a Fellow. My university had a policy that adjunct faculty could not receive stipends, honorariums, or supplemental pay. Again, an outdated policy. I first tackled changing the policy so I could pay the adjunct faculty member and then I hired him. I am pleased to share he did a bang-up job, and I learned a great deal about the needs of adjunct faculty members. Don’t be shy about asking if you qualify for an opportunity. Look for opportunities in your Provost’s office and/or Teaching and Learning Center.”

Ask if you qualify for opportunities.
Increasingly, institutional leaders are hard-pressed to find the right people to fill director and leadership positions, so seize the opportunity by asking. For one, you never know until you ask, but perhaps more importantly, asking will help you find who your advocates and allies are at your institution – as in who is interested in working to change institutional policy, practice, and culture for the advancement of all faculty.

While there are many paths to leadership for faculty, the more common perception is there is only one path: administrative leadership. A faculty member becomes chair, maybe moves up to dean or vice-dean, and so on. However, faculty end up leading in numerous ways: in classrooms, running labs and research teams, as program directors, as institutional change agents whether in faculty senate or on committees, and so on.

Many faculty take on these types of roles at mid-career, but without the chance to intentionally develop their skills as leaders. Instead, you learn on the job, often at breakneck speed, with little opportunity for reflection. This is why it’s important to slow down and consider what you want to achieve with your work (see Week 2), build on your existing strengths, and intentionally develop the skills you need to achieve the work that aligns with your vision.

If you aren’t sure where to begin, start with our Five Paths to Leadership℠.

Five Paths to Leadership℠ will help you:

  1. Identify your leadership style and gifts.
  2. See areas of growth and how your leadership changes under stress.
  3. Better understand where others lead from and how this intersects with your style.

Upcoming Events

  • Early-career non-tenure track faculty benefit from the insights of more experienced career faculty who have navigated institutional ins and outs and established professional longevity. Join us December 12-13, 2023 to learn how you can become a mentor to less experienced career faculty at our virtual conference, Faculty Mentorship: Incorporating Inclusive Practices to Foster Faculty Success. Click here to register!

 

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  • Dive deeper into job crafting with our training, Crafting Your Mid-Career and Beyond, where Dr. Paula Thompson overviews the literature on the mid-career stage and walks you through a series of activities that will help you intentionally craft a mid-career plan for your career advancement.
  • Take a deep dive into refocusing your time, energy, and work towards your professional goals with faculty coach, Dr. Jennifer Askey’s Actualize Your Purpose: A Workshop on Improving Your Well-Being. Click here to register!
  • To learn more about vision statements and priority management, check out Research & Scholarship at Mid-Career: Reboot, Reset, Reimagine. In this member-exclusive course, faculty coach and Assistant Director of Coaching Dr. Corinne Nicolas guides you through how to apply vision-driven prioritization to your scholarship (and the rest of your academic life).
  • Get more of Dr. Denzine’s tips in our member-exclusive course, Becoming Part of the Great Aspiration: A Career Development Workshop for Alt-ac Faculty, where she will guide you through proactively designing your academic career as a career faculty member, including leveraging your strengths and planning for professional longevity.
  • After you have taken the 5 Paths assessment, watch Leading Change From Where You Are: Strategies for Faculty, where faculty coach, Dr. Heather Fryer, will guide you through aligning your leaderships strengths and finding your agency as a faculty leader in our complex higher education institutions.

 

Get Individualized Support

A coach can help you assess where you are at, begin to identify where you want to go, and hold you accountable to your plan. Find out how Faculty and Leadership Coaching can provide the guidance and accountability you need to advance your career.

Mid-Career Faculty- Key Skills

Signs of Imposter Syndrome & How to Respond
The competitiveness, individualism, and emphasis on expertise in higher education creates an environment ripe for imposter syndrome, where people across roles and responsibilities feel as if they are not “enough” or ever “doing enough.” For example, in the race to publish your research, you experience numerous rejections. While rejection is part of the experience of publishing one’s work, you internalize this rejection as indicative that something is wrong with you. But it’s not you. The academy reinforces imposter syndrome through policies and practices, which often manifest as specific behaviors and mindsets in ourselves, students, and colleagues.

Imposter syndrome can look like feeling like a fraud, fear of failure, doubting your qualifications and skills, downplaying barriers to your success, and setting impossible standards. Imposter syndrome may manifest as procrastination or overpreparation, or when you experience success and dismiss it as a fluke or luck.

How to Respond to Imposter Syndrome

  1. Recall a past success and the praise you received. Write down the praise as you remember it and the reasons you discounted it. Now give yourself back that praise and celebrate how far you have come.
  2. Try to talk to yourself in the same way you would a colleague, student, mentee, and/or advisee. If they dismissed praise from you, what would you say to them?
  3. Recognize that you are not alone. You are part of a larger system with deep roots in interlocking systems of oppression. Working to change these systems benefits you individually and collectively. More on this in our next newsletter in the imposter syndrome series.

Upcoming Events | Included in Your Membership
During these 1-hour discussions, our academic and faculty coach, Jennifer Askey, will guide you through recent research on imposter syndrome and a focused reflection to help you see through your own imposter syndrome.  More Dates coming in 2024!

Explore On Your Own Time | Included in Your Membership
“Acknowledging that someone has imposter syndrome is not a solution to the foundational issues that often undergird the true feelings of why someone feels inadequate.”

In our member-exclusive course, Imposter Syndrome in Higher Education: Examining the Self, the System, and the Opportunities for Change, Drs. Delma Ramos and Raquel Wright-Mair look at imposter syndrome at the systemic and individual level and how we can change the narrative.

Successful mid-career faculty need a network of colleagues and peers from within and outside their institutions to provide feedback and support. Earlier in their careers, you are often assigned a formal mentor to help provide the support necessary for you to navigate career advancement or the tenure process. But mid-career faculty often lose access to formal mentoring opportunities and must be intentional about building and sustaining their own networks.

As mid-career faculty, you may no longer need a traditional mentor. But if you are well-connected and maintain a diverse network of support, you are better able to navigate career advancement. The consultative model of mentoring allows for just that – you can ask for short-term mentorship within a specific area in order to learn a new skill or navigate a challenge without placing a heavy service burden on another faculty member. Consultative mentoring can help you sustain a network overall, and it serves as an important resource for faculty from historically marginalized communities who may need to seek support outside their institutions.

Consultative Mentorship: Making the Ask
Asking someone to be your mentor can feel like a big commitment, and you may be hesitant to place this burden on someone else. The consultative model of mentorship allows for more specificity and flexibility in your mentoring relationships. It can help you develop a network that is diverse and extends in all directions – you can connect with faculty and academic leaders at all levels and across fields and institutions. But when you’ve identified someone you’d like to serve as a mentor for you for a specific issue, how do you make the ask?

How to Make the Ask
Start by reminding yourself that you are only asking for a small amount of this person’s time and effort. Next, create a script for the ask. Within the script, you should:

  • Identify yourself.
  • Share the specific skill or experience you believe the consultative mentor has.
  • Express appreciation for their knowledge in that area.
  • Invite them for a brief conversation.

Here is a sample script to get you started:

“Hi, I’m Sarah, and I’m a faculty member at Academic Impressions University. I’m reaching out to you because you’re someone I respect in terms of your skill at student engagement in your courses. I’ve also heard from others that this is something you’re really good at, and I’m trying to get better at this, too. I’m wondering if you would be willing to meet with me to talk about it, maybe over coffee one day next week?”

Explore On Your Own Time | Included in Your Membership
To dive deeper into what the consultative model of mentorship is and how you can use it, check out The Consultative Approach to Mentoring: Building a Network of Support. In this course, you’ll learn how to create a mentoring network that is supportive and adaptive to your needs.

To focus broadly on setting up mentoring relationships, check out Make the Most of Mentoring: Best Practices and Core Principles for Mentors and Mentees. This video course will help you navigate the process of selecting and working with mentors, as well as any challenges that may arise.

“In an environment where every person is a subject matter expert, emotional intelligence enables us as individuals and institutions to advance critical initiatives, to adapt to institutional and career changes, and to create a teaching and working environment that brings out the best in ourselves and in others.”

- Jennifer Askey, Ph.D., PCC

Effectively interacting with other people requires emotional intelligence. Whether navigating difficult classroom conversations with students, running a lab with peers and research assistants, mentoring a colleague, persuading an administrator to increase your resources, or initiating change through a committee, you must:

  1. Notice your emotions, preferences, inner resources, and biases (i.e., self-awareness);
  2. Regulate your internal state and impulses (i.e., self-management);
  3. Maintain relationships and develop awareness of other’s feelings, needs, and concerns (i.e., social awareness); and
  4. Work towards desirable results with others (i.e., relationship management).

These four interrelated skills (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management) build the foundation of emotional intelligence. Let’s begin with self-awareness.

Cultivate the Habit of Self-Awareness
In our workshop, Increasing Emotional Intelligence by Identifying Your Triggers, Cindy Babington describes a practice for cultivating the habit of self-awareness. The goal of this exercise is to first recognize and acknowledge that there's something going on, then to identify the accompanying emotions you are experiencing. For this exercise, you can ask yourself these things aloud or write them down – but getting them out of your head will make them more real.

Step 1: Recognition

Schedule 15 minutes at the end of the workday, before you go to bed, or first thing in the morning to reflect on what happened during your day. Ask yourself: what are the things I'm still thinking about from that day?

Step 2: Identify

Then, ask yourself:

  • Why am I feeling this way?
  • How would I describe this feeling?
  • What could have caused this feeling?

If you are struggling to describe your feeling beyond mad, happy, sad (the “minimalist trio” as Dr. Jennifer Askey calls them), then try searching for a “feelings wheel” online to help you expand your feelings vocabulary.

As academics, many of us spend a lot of time intellectualizing, so this exercise may feel uncomfortable at first. Stick with it. Through repetition and practice, you will get better at identifying emotional behavior in yourself, which will help you start to identify them in others, thus increasing your social awareness and ability to manage relationships.

Free Download
For your personal reference, download the 4 Pillars of Emotional Intelligence from our course The Key Components of Emotional Intelligence for Academic Teams.

Image of The 4 Pillars of Emotional Intelligence resource

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To learn more about how emotional intelligence can be applied to your role as a mid-career faculty member, see our resource, The Key Components of Emotional Intelligence for Academic Teams. Short on time? Try out the mini version of this course. When you sign up, you’ll receive daily bite-sized learning to your inbox for 5 days.

 

How Can an Academic Brand Benefit You?

In an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Dr. Maria LaMonaca Wisdom, writes that while burnout is a buzzy word right now, the malaise many academics often feel is less about burnout and more about desired impact. Whether you want your research to reach a broader audience, to step into a leadership role, and/or to explore new career pathways, building a brand can guide you in reflecting on your past accomplishments and setting a future path.

But what is an academic brand? An academic brand is:

  • A story about who you are as an academic – it includes the "what" and the "why" of your work. It shows how your research, teaching practices, and service and leadership activities intersect with your values, passions, and strengths.
  • A tool to communicate your story to other professionals, whether individuals in your field, institutions and departments for application and promotion, students and mentors, the larger public, etc.
  • A blueprint for aligning decisions about future work, opportunities, and collaborations with your professional goals, values, and identity.
    Authentic and strategic.
  • An ongoing process.

How to Begin Identifying Your Academic Brand
In our member-exclusive course, Building Your Research Brand: A Guide for Academics, Dr. Allison DiBianca Fasoli lists seven reflection questions to help you think about the impact of your work. We have included the first three to get you started:

  1. How does your work meet others’ needs and contribute to their shared mission?
  2. What changes do we see in the world as a result of your work?
  3. Who could benefit from this work?

These questions can help you start developing your brand statement. A brand statement describes who you are as a scholar and the value you bring in 1-2 sentences. If you want to learn how to craft a brand statement, check out Dr. DiBianca Fasoli’s course. While this course focuses on research branding, you can easily expand her techniques to teaching, leadership and administration, and campus and community engagement.

Upcoming Events
At the mid-career point, more leadership opportunities are likely coming your way. Do you know what your strengths (which are therefore a key part of your brand) are as a leader? The Five Paths to Leadership Self-Assessment℠ will help you to deepen your understanding and personal awareness of your leadership style under normal circumstances and under stress. Take the test and learn what your results mean at our upcoming debrief sessions. Click here to register!

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Taking a similar approach to looking at your career story, Dr. Heather Martin’s course, The Narrative Arc: Mapping Your Tenure, Promotion, or Reappointment Statement, will help you shape your accomplishments, thus far, into a cohesive story that presents a strong case for tenure, promotion, and reappointment.

Managing relationships with colleagues, chairs and administrators, and students can eat up a lot of time in your schedule as a mid-career faculty member. Setting and maintaining boundaries with each of these groups is key to your productivity, as well as preserving your sense of well-being.

Maybe you feel like setting a boundary with someone is harsh or will lead to you being perceived negatively. You may also fall into the trap of feeling guilty about setting new boundaries if you have not successfully done so in the past. Boundary-setting may even feel like you are creating non-negotiable or unmalleable barriers. But faculty who successfully set and maintain their boundaries enjoy their careers more and feel more secure in their many personal and professional roles. By determining what kind of limits you need to set in your professional life, you can excel at the things you commit yourself to, rather than trying to cater to competing demands.

Two Models for Setting Boundaries
It can be difficult to start the process of setting professional boundaries, especially if you have established relationships with your colleagues, supervisors, and students. Here are two models to get you started, whether you are more comfortable negotiating your boundaries or drawing a hard line:

  1. The “Saying No” Model: Use this model if you are more comfortable drawing a hard line, or if you know you can’t agree to whatever the person is asking.
    • a. Start by acknowledging the request with empathy. Try to understand why the person is asking and express that.
    • b. State a clear “no.” Use the broken record technique if the person continues to push.
    • c. State what you are willing to do, if anything.
  2. The Collaborative Model: Use this model if you’d like room to negotiate what the person is asking.
    • a. Start by acknowledging the request with empathy. Try to understand why the person is asking and express your understanding in your own words.
    • b. Explain the situation you are in.
    • c. Invite them to help you find a solution.
    • d. When offered suggestions, be clear about what you are and are not willing to do.

For more on both models, and for some cases to use to practice, check out How to Set Your Boundaries from Dr. Jackie Leibsohn.

Explore On Your Own Time
Check out a recording on Setting and Maintaining Boundaries as Faculty to Develop Professional Well-Being and Success for more opportunities to learn and practice defining your faculty role.