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1095 days/156 weeks/36 months/3 years since I started my lectureship.

by on September 11, 2014

This week marks three years since I have been lecturing at St Andrews, my first lecturing position. Just this year have I settled into the ‘typical’ academic routine and spent the semesters on campus and summer out doing fieldwork. This recent space away from campus, and the approaching anniversary has given me the chance to reflect on the past three years, to consider what has worked, what has been a surprise and what I’ve learnt. So, if I were to meet my three-year-younger self, there are 5 key pieces of advice I would give her about surviving as a new lecturer:

1. Make friends. You work in a department, a team. The administrators know how to upload files to moodle. The technicians know how to work *that* projector (yes, the one that is the bain of your life). You will get out of relationships what you put in, remember this. The same goes for your students, they will teach you so much so don’t be scared of them. To progress your career, you need academic friends both within and outwith your department – find them and work with them. The benefits of collaboration are massive.

2. Be realistic. Your job description has just expanded dramatically. You have to do more stuff in the same amount of time. Your expectations about what you should be able to achieve in terms of research should decrease. You will have less time. You will have different priorities. You have a lot of new stuff to learn. Once you understand how things work, and have taught one course once, it will get easier – be patient and learn to love the juggle.

3. Have faith. You are better than you think you are. You are inexperienced but trust your instincts, if you think something/someone is dubious it probably is. You look at things differently from others – celebrate this, and your students will appreciate it. Your workload is crazy now, but it will get easier once you’ve found your feet. Persevere.

4. Remember quality is better than quantity. You have more things to juggle now so you need to concentrate your efforts. In research terms, focus on one high quality paper than two mediocre ones, and seek out the best funding sources. Don’t neglect your teaching, quality counts here too, and you will get a reputation for attention to detail and innovation if you put in the effort.

5. Be humble. You think you are the bright young spark. You have papers in top journals that your colleagues don’t have. You have exiting new ideas about how that class or programme can be improved. You have some great ideas and good abilities (3, above) but you have so much still to learn. Take advice from those with experience (1, above), normally such advice is very valuable (and you can discount it if it isn’t) – people won’t give you advice if you are a ‘know it all’.
And…don’t stop reading. It is hard to find the time sometimes, but you will only be able to stay relevant if you keep reading.

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