Post Academic

Job Burnout: How to Avoid It

Posted in Surviving Grad School,Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on December 16, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionSo you don’t think you’re burnt out, and you think there are enough bright spots in your job to stick around. That is terrific, but you might still be susceptible to burnout. Sometimes, burnout has more to do with you than with a nasty boss or workaholic colleagues. You also need to make some adjustments so you don’t become that person who had the nervous breakdown over by the coffee machine. Here’s how to make sure you keep yourself at peak mental strength, for academics or hamsters:

Make appointments with yourself. You won’t get anything done if people are always interrupting you with new fire drills. For that reason, you need long stretches of time to focus. Dana Gionta writes in Psychology Today, “Arranging for uninterrupted time may involve: closing your door in the afternoon; responding to phone calls or e-mails at specific times; and alerting family members and friends of the best hours to reach you.” Being available at all times is a recipe for burnout.

There’s nothing wrong with leaving on time. You might think it looks good if you come in early and stay late, but that doesn’t mean you’re actually doing anything. Management professor Gayle Porter sums it up nicely: “The employee who wants to go home is the one who will be most efficient during the week, because she’s protecting her time off.” If anyone gives you crap for leaving at 5:00 or whenever you wind up the day, mention that you’ve met all your deadlines. The best bosses are the ones who don’t micromanage and who trust you to do your work well within the time limits allotted.

Image by Mr. Satay from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.

Job Burnout: How to Cope With It

Posted in Surviving Grad School,Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on December 15, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionSo, what do you do if you think you are living the nightmare that is the Maslach Burnout Inventory? To avoid frying yourself to a crisp, you have to take charge of the situation. The sad truth is that people will work you as hard as you are willing to be worked (unless there’s a union that says exactly when people must stop working, but that’s a subject for another time and another blog). You are the only one who can take back your time, care for yourself and replenish your energy. Here’s how:

Re-evaluate your work day. If you’ve read this blog, you know that most of my recommendations for an improved work life involve some form of time management–preferably GTD. Using either a standard sheet of paper or an Excel spreadsheet, track how you spend each hour of your work day. Imagine that you are tracking your day in order to figure out how to bill a client. Try this exercise for a week, and look for the places where all your time goes. For example, if you discover that much of your time goes to meetings, which means you can’t get your work done, you need to figure out how to get out of a few meetings. If much of the day goes to finding lost items, you need to start a basic filing system.

More after the jump! Image by Tristan Nitot from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.

Job Burnout: Do You Have it?

Posted in Surviving Grad School,Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on December 13, 2010
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PhotobucketThere’s a big difference between job dissatisfaction and burnout. Burnout is an all-encompassing sensation that wrecks your personal life, too. Almost all jobs get annoying at some point, but burnout has an emotional and physical impact that’s tough to overcome, and academics are especially vulnerable to it.

This week, I’m tackling the subject of burnout–from how to figure out if you have it, how to deal with it and how to prevent it. While reading up on burnout, I realized that, if burnout could take a human form, it would be as a workplace bully. In the end, you have to know how to detect it and how to stand up to it so you can get your work done and stay sane at the same time.

So, first, how to tell if you are burnt out or just stressed. All jobs have stress, and people react to stress differently. Some people freak out if they catch a serial comma on an AP style page, while others won’t complain even if they’re asked to work until midnight. It all depends on the person, but the basic symptoms of burnout are hard to ignore.

The Maslach Burnout Inventory in French by Micthev from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.

Reading Gunn’s Golden Rules So You Don’t Have To: Why Tim Gunn and Bob Sutton Should Hang Out

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on December 11, 2010
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Like Bob Sutton, Tim Gunn is waging a verbal battle against assholes in the workplace. It would appear that, after stints in the fashion world and academia, Gunn has encountered more than his fair share of assholes. (You can go ahead and giggle at that joke, but it’s not like that. In fact, Gunn claims he’s celibate!)

After spending so much time with Betty Backstabbers and Debbie Downers, Gunn knows how to cope, and his advice is similar to that of Bob Sutton and David Yamada: Minimize all interaction with assholes, and get out as soon as you can. He writes,

The abuser could be your boss, and in a case like that you just need to try to keep your integrity, even as you’re being mistreated, and try to get out of the situation as soon as you possibly can.

In fact, Gunn applies the policy to his personal life as best he can, cutting out jerks whenever possible. In a story about a producer who treated Gunn and others like dirt on a TV set:

We got through it somehow. But I thought: I am never working for this man again. And I never have. One day my wonderful assistant told me, “I have your old boss on the line. He’s at Ralph Lauren and wants to buy you a suit?”

“Hang up on him,” I said.

Although Gunn often advises people to (and this will seem familiar) “take the high road,” this story shows that there are limits. The key to dealing with an asshole is to make sure they don’t break you. You can protect yourself in many ways, but it’s all up to you to improve your academic (or hamster!) workplace situation.

Reading Gunn’s Golden Rules So You Don’t Have To: The Snowflake Antidote

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on December 10, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionTim Gunn is best known for his mentoring skills in the Project Runway workroom. He has helped designers do their best work without doing all their work for them. He offers guidance, but success is in the hands of the designer. It seems that he cultivated a similar hands-off attitude at Parsons because some of his students suffered from other authority figures being too hands-on:

In my later years of teaching, I started to see a disturbing trend: students who couldn’t function without their parents’ help. They were so overpraised and overprotected that they were incapable of handling any problem, whether it was dealing with a teacher they didn’t like, sharing space with a roommate, or struggling with a class for which they didn’t have an affinity.

Gunn offers advice for teachers coping with snowflake students who can’t manage themselves: flunk ’em. His logic is that if they’re not trying, they obviously want to quit. So, do them a favor:

[On a fellow teacher who felt guilty about flunking a talented student who stopped showing up to class] As I expected, we never heard from the student. Ever. So the F stood. And we all learned something: the teacher wanted the student to succeed more than the student did.

People send each other messages all the time through their behavior, and the message here was, Fail me. I don’t want to be in school anymore. Instead of admitting that she wanted to get out of fashion, she forced the faculty to make her decision for her. From a faculty member’s point of view, I have this refrain: Why should I want you to succeed more than you do?

When I don’t believe that “kids these days” are all lazy, entitled snowflakes out to torture their TAs, I think that students and college teachers can benefit from Gunn’s advice: Take a step back, and let the student choose if she wants to succeed or fail.

And, in the final installment of the Tim Gunn philosophy, why you should listen to him–because he and Bob Sutton have the same basic message.

Image of Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum by Michael Williams from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.

Reading Gunn’s Golden Rules So You Don’t Have To: Academics, Tim’s Watching You!

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on December 8, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionGunn’s Golden Rules gained notoriety because Gunn dared to call out some of the biggest names in the fashion world. Yet he didn’t chide Anna Winotour, Andre Leon Talley or Isaac Mizrahi for a lack of talent. He chided them for reprehensible diva behavior. For example, Winotour had bodyguards carry her down multiple flights of stairs because she didn’t want to ride in an elevator with proles.

One fact was missed in the press avalanche: Tim Gunn called a few academics divas, too. He encountered one poorly behaved individual at Parsons who had a toddler’s sensitivity when it came to cuisine:

In academia, too, you see this kind of outrageous behavior. I knew a dean who had soup delivered to his office. I once saw him bring a spoonful up to his mouth, scream, “This soup isn’t hot enough!” and hurl the container across his office onto a wall, which I noticed already had stains on it.

Gunn also dings his fellow academics for a flaw that he couldn’t possibly apply to the relatively cutting-edge Winotour, Talley and Mizrahi–an aversion to change.

Image of Tim Gunn showing that nice academics can finish first at the 81st academy awards by Chrisa Hickey from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.

Reading Gunn’s Golden Rules So You Don’t Have To: On Why You Should Listen to Tim Gunn

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on December 6, 2010
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PhotobucketProject Runway mentor Tim Gunn is one of the few people on reality television who has some brains to back up the bluster. The man is clearly a fashion expert, but did you know that his wisdom extends to post academics?

Before becoming a reality-show mentor, Gunn was a chair at Parsons The New School for Design, so he knows plenty about moving from academia to another gig. While he isn’t a hamster proper, his new book, Gunn’s Golden Rules, could also be called Advisor-in-a-Box. Like many advisors, he’s rambling, and not everyone is into the fashion thing, but he has many brilliant career tips and even advice for current academics.

The tips will be spread out over the next few days, kind of like a reality-tv season, but the core of his advice is the same as what’s on the show: “Make it work!”

That seems kind of cheesy, especially if you are faced with something as difficult as changing careers or figuring out how to get a tenure-track position in a bad job market. But the mantra to “make it work” is all about working with constraints and obstacles. In fact, what Tim Gunn says is similar to what I’ve advocated in the post “The Benefits of Boundaries.”

The Post Academic Road Warrior Guide: Expense Reports

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on December 4, 2010
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PhotobucketThe last installment of the Post Academic Business Travel Survival Guide involves what happens after you return from a business trip. Though it’s easy to get caught up in scheduling and logistics, you still need to get paid. Enter a concept that will seem bizarre to many academics: When you’re traveling for work, the boss pays for almost everything.

But there’s a catch–you have to fill out an expense report. It’s not rocket science, but you want to get these reports right so you can get your money back. These tips can keep you from getting stuck with a business-travel tab:

Read your company’s expense report policy before you go anywhere. Every company policy is different. Some companies will cover everything. Some won’t. For example, a company might say it will cover your meals but not your booze. You might even be able to rent an in-room movie, but make sure the title doesn’t wind up on your receipt lest you gross out the company accountant.

Image of an accounting office by Kenneth Allen from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.

The Post Academic Road Warrior Guide: Dealing With Customers

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on December 3, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionWhen on a business trip, your primary purposes will likely involve making a product, selling a product or maintaining a relationship with someone who buys your product. From the past posts, it’s clear that business trips can render you frazzled, but you must at least be on your game when interacting with the customer. Really, there’s only one bold takeaway regarding dealing with a customer on a trip:

Remember that you’re representing your boss and your company.

In the grand scheme of things, you do not want to be known as the schmuck who got sloshed at the hotel bar and used the company card to shop on eBay. On a less dramatic level, you also don’t want to be known as the individual who let sleep deprivation get the better of her and lost her patience with a client.

When you speak to others on a business trip, you’re not just speaking for yourself. You’re speaking for the whole company. I’ll admit that it’s a lot of pressure, but it’s actually easier than teaching. When teaching, you have to impress students, many of whom don’t want to be in the class. You’re only in the class for a short time, but it’s exhausting trying to sell yourself all the time. It’s like one painful job interview that happens over and over again.

With a business trip, the real issue is stamina. The customer or client is probably already in some sort of business relationship with you, so you actually don’t have to sell as hard as you would in a classroom. You just need to show that you are a professional and finish the task at hand. If you follow the tips from the days past, which amount to being prepared and maintaining a good relationship with everyone else on your team, you’re going to be just fine. My last installment of the Business Travel Survival Guide is a little more mundane, as it involves one of the most dreadful aspects of business travel–the expense report!

Image of a boardroom at the Virginia Beach Convention Center by Vbccevents, from Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license.

The Post Academic Road Warrior Guide: Dealing With Colleagues

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by Caroline Roberts on December 1, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionThe biggest challenge of business travel can arise if you are traveling with several people from your company. You spend time with your colleagues all day long, even more so than when you were in the Ivory Tower. Imagine being in a car with them, sharing a hotel room with them or negotiating where you’ll go for dinner. You are going to be miserable if you don’t figure out how to adapt early on. If you follow these tips, you can legitimately list “people skills” on your resume:

Be tolerant of the musical tastes of others. Academics and post academics usually have the most exquisite musical tastes. The synthy auto-tuned stuff on most radio stations will not do, but people take their music seriously, and you can’t insult them by going on a tirade about how much Ke$ha sucks. Even if you are the driver, offer to rotate radio stations every now and then.

Keep the conversation light. Anyone who’s been in grad school can leap into deep conversation right after an introduction. But very few people are into that, and you don’t want to piss anyone off right from the start. Places you’ve traveled or good restaurants are typical havens for safe conversation.

More road rules after the jump! Image of a car stereo by Notwist, from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

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