Anyone who has built a career in student affairs understands the power of resiliency. This article shared by my fellow seasoned professional Deb Schmidt-Rogers reminds us that the ability to bounce back is essential, particularly as we consider our work. How is your ability to grow through failure? How do you respond when things go wrong? Here are a few of my favorite articles on the topic.
Part II of It’s a Post-Doc Life is a bit of wit, wisdom, and advice for friends and other doctoral students approaching the writing phase. See Part I if you require more introduction.
Contract with an editor in advance. Determine mutual expectations for the process. I hired an editor late in my writing process at the advice of fellow doc students in my cohort and did not have adequate editing time built into my writing calendar. I thought my editor could be working on edits for Chapters 1-3 while I put the finishing touches on my final chapters. Wrong. My editor required everything in advance so as to get a feel for the entire topic. The substantial amount of tables required extra time including several horizontal pages that were incredibly ornery for pagination. Fortunately for me, my editor was patient and well versed in the requirements of our graduate college.
Make every paper support your analysis. My faculty was supportive in allowing personal research for final projects for students who had a concrete research topic. For a qualitative research class, I redesigned my quantitative topic as a case study. For program evaluation, I reviewed how my research study would contribute to program enhancement. For statistical research, I focused on a test sample of my population for the final project and was later able to refine and submit that work as my capstone. Each of these papers shaped and enhanced my final project.
Keep your focus. Post your dissertation questions where they are clearly visible at your workspace. Even on days where no writing is accomplished, reading and processing your questions is progress. I kept a list reminding me to be positive right next to my research questions. I created Pinterest pages on focus and finishing. This may seem like procrastination, but they provided good left-brain alternatives to statistical writing. Blogging also helped.
Read dissertations. I read as many dissertations related to my topic as I could locate and found off-topic examples that had been highly praised by my department. Knowing what your faculty recognizes as good research is a great motivation and resource.
Feed your brain. Skittles and pretzels are not brain or body food for any length of time. Thank goodness I was guzzling green tea. Any semblance of a healthy diet or exercise program that I had prior to writing went out the window. In its place were the bits of time that I reserved to maintain normalcy for my family, a stolen few hours for a soccer game or baking cookies. My muscles suffered from constant sitting and I made many adjustments to my workspace. I am working hard to regain a healthier self.
Take some personal time following your defense. Immediately following my dissertation I was engaged in a campus conference then traveled away for another conference before moving into the busiest weeks of my spring semester. I struggled to quickly revise my project for an article submission, submit my final work to the grad college, sign up for commencement, and close our programs for the semester. I had little time for myself with the exception of a mani/pedi and a bit of shopping. And I was exhausted.
Don’t be surprised by Post-Dissertation Stress Disorder or PDSD. Unlike many post-docs, I was lucky to already have a wonderful job in student affairs. Although I am researching and entertaining next career steps, I already have a salary and satisfying work to wake up for each day. However the lack of deadlines, lack of pressure, decreased ability to function in the normal, and deadlines that are suddenly manageable is surprisingly stressful. A professor recently described it as similar to retirement. For my fellow doc moms out there, it’s like having a baby, but nothing to cuddle with post-delivery. If you are work and project driven, the adjustment takes time.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. There will be errors in your final submission. I have found two so far, just minor things, but our grad college does not allow corrections after submission. Although incredibly frustrating, I will live. You will too.
For several weeks now, since completing and defending my dissertation, I have wanted to write about the process and share some words of wisdom for my friends and colleagues who are still in process. The mere quest to do so has been exhausting. I can barely put pen to paper, let alone fingers to keyboard.
Several tasks have kept my brain occupied for the last month, an on-campus conference, the departure of a colleague, a professional conference, and some much deserved spring break R&R with my family. I completed text revisions for my committee. I condensed my dissertation to an article for a research competition. I forgot, then remembered, to order my commencement regalia. I reacquainted myself with the elliptical. I watched this thing called television.
And yet I still feel in a state of flux. As if the pattern buffer shifting my subatomic particles for transport back to the real world is having trouble locking on my position.
While I check in with fleet engineering, enjoy these posts that were helpful during my writing process.
When I read yet another article minimizing the value of a college education I am challenged by thoughts of privilege. Yes, Steve Jobs, an individual I greatly admire, was a college dropout, but at least he had the opportunity to give it a try. Mark Zuckerberg’s intelligence and initiative is without question, but how many students can realistically include Harvard on their college wish list? And then walk away from the opportunity?
I do not discount hard work, enterprise, and determination. But for those of us who are simply above-average, or first-generation, or of a marginalized population, college is the pathway to get a step ahead, a leg up, a move toward potential success. Yes, student loan debt and college costs demand answers, but denying the value of learning, but for an elite few, is not the answer. Just say Go. Go to college.
Happy Anniversary to to the eighteen and life blog!
Much has happened here in the last four years. Each post reminds me of the events, coursework, research, and friendships that have framed this blog. The topic cloud on the right highlights my work and my passions: student affairs, higher education, first-year students. As the posts have been sparse this year while I work on my dissertation, I appreciate that you are sticking with me.
Here’s a video reminder that as doors open for you, be sure to pay it forward and open doors for others.
I caught a segment on my favorite morning program last week featuring General Colin Powell promoting his new book. The book includes thoughts on life and leadership including thirteen rules that have framed Powell’s leadership vision. I am not certain if I was having an introspective moment, but the words resonated with me so much that I picked up the book later that day. I am still reading, but here are the basics. Think about a challenging situation that you have recently faced…the rules may have meaning for you, as well.
- It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
- Get mad, then get over it.
- Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.
- It can be done.
- Be careful what you choose: You may get it.
- Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
- You can’t make some else’s choices. You shouldn’t let someone else make yours.
- Check small things.
- Share credit.
- Remain calm. Be kind.
- Have a vision. Be demanding.
- Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.
- Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.