Is it Normal To Struggle This Much as a Junior Professor?

Unless you have some open and trusting colleagues, you may not be aware of how hard it is for other new faculty. It’s important that you know how difficult the first few years are, so you don’t wonder what’s wrong with you (that’s all you need — more reasons to beat yourself up!)

Here are some reasons that it is so hard to be a junior professor. I’m sure you know them, but if might feel good to have them spelled out for you!

  • You might still be working on your dissertation. This is true of many of my clients, particularly those in visiting professor or adjunct positions. Without good work habits, you may become totally overwhelmed.
  • You are probably teaching three to five classes (yes, five — one of my clients just taught 5 classes for each of two semesters, while working on her dissertation. Often you have not taught at least one of these classes.
  • You have just moved to a new community and had to find housing. If you have a family, the stress is even more extreme. Even if you are delighted with your new location, this raises the level of stress enormously.
  • You may feel isolated. If your new institution does not go out of your way to give you orientation, mentoring, and some breaks in your teaching schedule, you can be too busy to connect with others.
  • Other new professors don’t share their difficulties. Everyone is trying desperately to look like they know what they are doing. This increases the sense of isolation.
  • So much time is spent on teaching that you find you don’t have enough time to start your research or to write up your dissertation. In the second and third year of a tenure track position it will really weigh on you if you haven’t been publishing enough. Publication is the most important accomplishment that will be looked at in your tenure review.
  • Departmental politics start to become more clear. This can be confusing at best, and often frustrating or annoying. It’s sometimes hard to navigate these waters.
  • Meetings. You will long for some of that luxurious time that you (might have) had as a graduate student.

Of course, there is much more, and individual situations vary enormously. Be sure to read my newsletters and articles on this subject. As always, I am open to any suggestions, so email me at Gina [at] AcademicLadder [dot] com if you have any comments or additions to my list. And congratulations on your job!

Posted in: Faculty

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