Friday, September 21, 2007

Career Paths

Today I had an important meeting with one of my dissertation committee members, who is arguably the world's most influential and famous professor in my discipline. It may sound like an overstatement but it's not. What's amazing is that he is actually a really nice, humble person who likes students. A rare combo in academia.

Anyhow, he told me I need to get out some peer reviewed journal articles, which I already knew and am working on as I write. I told him the whole process of going through journal article publishing was intimidating, and he looked at me with a puzzled look. "What do you mean by that?," he asked. I looked back at him a bit taken back by the fact he had no idea what I was referring to. "The rejection," I said, "I appreciate feedback but it's still hard to stomach at this level of the game." He smiled and remarked, "You'll be fine. We've given you all kinds of critical feedback here." True, but it's different when your advisors give you feedback - you expect them to be hard on you. But when you start sending your things off to people you don't know and get rejected, it makes you wonder if you somehow got into [insert famous university here] as a fluke.

Another issue that came up is my job application process (cringe). He doesn't want me applying to little colleges and universities because he'd "hate to see me at a small, unimportant school for the rest of my academic career." I'm flattered that he thinks I belong at some big important university but on the same hand, I have no problem working at some small school if that's where the job is. He also wants me to apply for fellowships in the UK, which I would absolutely love to do if I didn't own a home, have pets, and have a husband. I know he'd pull some strings to get me one of the fellowships there (he's from the UK) but do I really want to spend a year in London living on pennies? I dunno.

Once again, I am faced with the question I have been dreading: do I want to be a full fledged academic at a famous university? Or do I want to be at a lower tier school living a semi-normal life? The crazy, anal perfectionist in me revels in the idea of being well-known in academia. For the past 8 years, I have had professors pushing me in this direction. My friends in academia say I'm the "archetypal" academic...which is probably a backhanded comment. But the pragmatist in me says to slow down and enjoy life before it passes me by.

The answer to these questions will partially be answered for me when I apply for jobs over the next two years. But I may be faced with this question soon and I'm not sure how to answer it. I love my family, and I know that they will continue to suffer if I end up becoming Ms. Famous Professor. I know how much time goes into being a good researcher and I'm not sure if I am willing to give up all the good things I have just for my work.

Otherwise the meeting went fine. I really admire him - I wish there were more people like him in academia. But I have to admit that I always feel like I am going to have a mental breakdown when I'm awaiting his feedback on my writing. I mean, he's super famous and I don't want to let him down writing wise.

Okay, back to grading my online times!

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