This post continues our series The Smart Scholar by Ramon Goings.

A little over two weeks ago I posted a tweet that stated, “Every professor should have a side hustle that generates income. Our skills are so valuable and, in many ways, command more 💰 outside of academia.” To my surprise the tweet gained a lot of attention and was viewed over 400,000 times. That Tweet generated some positive dialogue as many understand the reality of working in higher education. However, there was also a lot of vitriol for my Tweet.

Nevertheless, it did spark an important conversation about how, as higher education professionals, we should begin to think about how and why we can leverage our skillset outside of our normal job. In this post I want to expand on my Tweet and provide three opportunities missed by higher education professionals by not having a side hustle. And before sharing my thoughts, I do want to explain that when I state side hustle, I am not necessarily suggesting a second job as many suggested on my Tweet, but some form of business that has no income ceiling and you have complete control over.

The Ability to Have Options

I am a firm believer that having options is always an important endeavor. As a result, I think that having a side hustle allows higher education professionals to have options that do not just depend on one job. As author entrepreneur Nehemiah Davis often expresses in his talks, “Having one source of income is too close to none and puts you at risk.”

Unfortunately, we saw this quote play out as college campuses shut down in March 2020. Many higher education professionals took pay cuts, furloughs, and were even permanently laid off. Imagine if you had no other source of income. How would this impact your family?

Having a side hustle gives you the option to focus on your business. For instance, during my Done Dissertation Office Hours Show I interviewed doctoral student and entrepreneur Cheryl Lau who helps coaches in any industry create a side business that allows them to generate full-time income on part-time hours. 

While I certainly understand that each of us works at institutions with various policies regarding outside work, it is to our advantage to think about what we could do as a side hustle should something ever happen to our higher education positions.

Increasing Your Impact and Income

As higher education professionals, many of our goals are centered on impacting the lives of students on our campuses. However, in many of the conversations that I have with colleagues, the impact and reach that we want to have sometimes exceeds the monetary resources available to us. I am not suggesting that money is the only way to be impactful, but I have heard from a number of individuals who want to give generously to their alma maters and other organizations that they care most about, but their higher education salary alone, given their other life responsibilities, does not allow them to make the impact that they want.

Sadly, if you look at job advertisements in higher education many (not all) of the compensation packages do not align with the work and education experience that are required of candidates. As a result, because salaries continue to be cut and responsibilities are increasing for many, having a side hustle provides an opportunity to generate income that can be used to impact higher education institutions and our communities in ways that just our salaries alone cannot.

Building Your Own Vision

As higher education professionals we work within systems and institutions. While we are working to make these systems better, we did not create them, so our ability to change them is limited. However, one of the opportunities missed from not having a side hustle is that you don’t have the opportunity to build your own vision. One of the most gratifying aspects of a side hustle is that you can build a business that suits your needs, allows you to be fulfilled in whatever way you would like (e.g., spiritually, monetarily, etc.), and you have complete control over the processes your business uses and the outcomes (and profit).

One thing that I do want to make clear as many individuals commented on my Tweet: there is a need for higher education institutions to adequately pay professionals for their skillset. However, while we are doing the work to change institutions, I think there is also an opportunity to build our own visions in addition to the work we do to build the vision of our institutions.

What are your thoughts about building a side hustle? I’d love to engage in conversation with you on Twitter!

Any opinions, findings, and conclusion or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.

This post continues our series The Smart Scholar by Ramon Goings.

While summer is in full swing before you know it, students and faculty will be returning to college campuses. With that, now is a great time to begin thinking about what the next academic year will look like. In many conversations around faculty life there are plenty of articles around the importance of research and teaching, however service is not often given the attention that it needs. Therefore, in this post I want to provide three strategies that faculty should consider when engaging in service.

1. Engage in Service that Fulfills You

While service is the hallmark of faculty life and higher education more generally, I am a firm believer that faculty (as much as possible) should engage in service that is fulfilling. For instance, are you someone who wants to seek opportunities to improve policies on campus? If so, then engaging in a faculty senate or some governing body on campus would be beneficial. Or if you enjoy interacting with students then seek committees that allow you to consistently engage with students. There are plenty of options on campus so take some time this summer exploring the various possibilities you have access to.

2. Find Ways to Integrate Your Service into Your Teaching and Research

As faculty, especially those on the tenure track, I think one way to be strategic with service is to find service opportunities on- and off-campus that allow you to intertwine your teaching and research. For instance, my colleague Dr. Julius Davis who is the Director of the Center for Research and Mentoring of Black Male Students and Teachers at Bowie State University is a shining example of how this can be done.

As a scholar of Black male mathematics students and teachers, he found opportunities to use his research on Black male teachers to create the Black Male Teachers College which is a program centered on recruiting and preparing Black male high school students to become educators. Furthermore, the program is led by current Bowie State University Black male teacher candidates. In this situation he is engaging in service to the university with supporting undergraduate students and the community while also being able to conduct research in this area based on his service.

3. Be Willing to Say No

Although as faculty we are evaluated on service, it can quite easy to become overwhelmed with service. This is especially the case for faculty of color who, because they are underrepresented on college campuses, are overworked in service to the detriment of research and teaching. As a result, it is important to say no to service requests when you are overwhelmed and being overworked.

I think the pandemic has taught us the importance of our physical and mental health and I don’t want any of you to experience burnout. Thus, while saying no may be difficult, it is necessary at times.

What strategies have you considered with your service? Send me your thoughts via Twitter!

Any opinions, findings, and conclusion or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.

This post continues our series The Smart Scholar by Ramon Goings.

With the spring semester coming to a close, now is an opportunity for higher education professionals to evaluate new career options, including entering the professoriate. Interestingly, while there are some explicit requirements for gaining a professorship like securing a terminal degree in your field (in most cases), there are also some considerations that candidates need to explore when securing a faculty position. In this article I share five considerations that are important when applying for your next professor position.

Build Your Scholarly Community to Gain Access to Opportunities

“Your network equals your net worth.” This quote is often used when discussing the importance of having a network if you want to become wealthy. This analogy directly applies to academia. Often many of the opportunities (i.e., professorships) are provided to individuals through an informal network. As a result, it is important to begin developing these relationships. For doctoral students, this can be done by becoming officers in your discipline’s research organization and/or consistently attending and presenting at these conferences. For current professors, your network can be developed by holding service positions and networking with colleagues in the field during your discipline’s signature conferences. For strategies on how to make the most of the conferences you attend check out one of my previous Smart Scholar posts on the topic.

In my field (education), the most important conferences tend to be the American Educational Research Association annual meeting and then a discipline specific conference which for me are typically the University Council for Education Administration and the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education annual conferences.

Identify the Universities that Align with Your Mission

As faculty you are evaluated on your research productivity and impact, your teaching ability and innovation, and service to your department, school, university, and field. Often, I see a lot of scholars being given biased suggestions that they should only focus on research intensive universities. However, given all of the aforementioned evaluation criteria and the mission of individual universities, I recommend that on your faculty search that you find an institution that is in alignment with your own personal mission. 

For instance, do you get excited about teaching and student learning and want that to bear the most impact on your evaluations? If so, in your search you will want to find institutions that place a heavy emphasis on teaching. Or if you want to cultivate the next generation of researchers and engaging in the research process motivates you, then you need to find a research-intensive university that is aligned to your mission.

Begin Working on Publications

Whether we like it or not, the reality for many disciplines is that candidates with a publication history have an advantage in the job market. This in particular disadvantages scholars of color who often are not provided substantial opportunities during graduate school to publish. Groups like R.A.C.E (Research, Advocacy, Collaboration, Empowerment) Mentoring have served as leaders in supporting these efforts for scholars of color; however the mentoring around writing for publications is not consistent across graduate programs.

As a result, it is important for candidates to begin to engage in writing projects that will lead to publications in order to be more competitive when seeking faculty positions. Additionally, I began a Dissertation to Publication Mastermind to support doctoral students to turn their dissertations to publications.

Apply and Follow the Directions on the Job Posting

From my experience serving on search committees, you would be surprised at how many potential candidates do not follow the directions of the job posting. And do you know what happens as a result? Your application is often placed in the pile of rejections.

Because of these experiences, I want to caution job seekers to make sure that you follow the directions as listed in the job posting. I would hate for you to spend time putting your documents together and securing reference letters to only not be given serious consideration because you missed a document or provided information that was not requested in the job description. (If you are looking for an efficient way to collect your letters of recommendation, you might look at Interfolio’s Dossier service.)

Align Your Cover Letter to the Job Posting and Mission of Department/Institution

Similar to making sure that you follow the directions in the job posting, you will want to make sure that you align your cover letter with the job posting and the mission of the department and institution. First, aligning your cover letter with the job posting allows the search committee to see how you would be a fit for the position you are applying for.

Second, aligning your cover letter with the mission of the department and institution is an important yet often forgotten aspect of your application. To create this alignment, you will have to do some research about the department and institution. In particular finding the strategic plan will be helpful as you will gain an understanding of the institution’s priorities. With this information you can then tailor your cover letter to these priorities and explain how your research, teaching, and service will support the priorities of the institution. For instance, if the strategic plan of the university is emphasizing faculty research and extramural funding then you would want to make sure your cover letter touches on how your past experiences and future research would position you to publish and secure grants and other types of research contracts.

While there is a lot of nuance to securing a faculty position that I could not delve deep into here, I would love to hear your thoughts on Twitter about other considerations that are important to you when looking for a faculty position.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusion or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.

This post continues our series The Smart Scholar by Ramon Goings.

“Why does my article keep getting rejected?”

Over the past month alone I have had at least five conversations with higher education professionals who have sought advice on turning their dissertation into publication. During these conversations I reflected on my experiences when I was working on getting my dissertation work out there and the fact that I made a lot of mistakes. Additionally, having previously served as editor for an academic journal, I witnessed a lot of mistakes authors would make that prevented them from having a high chance of their article being accepted for publication. With that in mind in this article I provide three mistakes to avoid so that you can experience publishing success. 

Cramming All of Your Dissertation Findings into One Publication

As an editor it became easy to see which submissions were taken from the dissertation without adaptation. The giveaway was often that the author attempted to cram all of their findings into one article. While you have worked hard on your dissertation, you must keep in mind that the aim of the article is different. You want to make your focus about one aspect of your dissertation and then center the article on that one particular aspect. 

From my experience coaching individuals through writing for publications I always recommend that you take one of your research questions from the dissertation and build your article around that question. With this approach, you have a singular focus that will guide your writing of all the sections in the article.

Not Taking the Time to Read the Aims & Scope of the Publication

As former editor for the Journal of African American Males in Education the journal has a specific focus on exploring the educational trajectories of African American males. Interestingly, during my editorship, I received a number of submissions that focused on other racial groups. Sadly, I had to reject those articles for publication.

I share this example because as authors it is our responsibility to read the aims and scope of the journal which outlines who the audience of the journal is and what types of articles they accept. Understanding this emphasis before you submit your article will save you time and headache. It can help avoid your article being held under review for weeks only to be rejected without a review because it was inappropriate for the journal.

Not Having External Review Before Submission

In many doctoral programs, students are not always taught explicitly how to write for publication. As a result, I see a lot of articles that have not had the eye of an experienced editor’s review prior to submission. I want you to avoid this mistake and have someone with publishing experience to read over your work before submission. In a way that person would serve as a peer-reviewer to give you feedback prior to submission that, if not changed, would result in your piece being rejected.

Additionally, I certainly understand that not everyone has this network to support you, but consider reaching out to your doctoral faculty or connecting with others on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook. There are hundreds of online communities (including the Done Dissertation) where you can get this support.

What have been some strategies that have helped you become successful turning your dissertation into a publication? Share those with me on Twitter!

Any opinions, findings, and conclusion or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.

This post continues our series The Smart Scholar by Ramon Goings.

“I just don’t want to submit my work because I’m scared of rejection.”

When conducting doctoral and faculty writing support sessions, I consistently get some form of the above quote. Often, for dissertation writers, it stems from being afraid that their chair will give them harsh feedback. Those writing for peer-review publication often discuss a fear of critique from the infamous “reviewer number two” who often provides challenging and conflicting reviews of their work when compared to the other reviewers.

Based on my CV, folks may assume that I have figured out academic writing as I have been successful writing for publication. However, I too struggle and have certainly had my fair share of harsh critiques from “reviewer number two.” Additionally, when I started my career, I was scared of rejection.

Recently in a webinar I had a participant ask, “Well, how did you overcome fear of rejection?” This blog post is in response to this question as I share a three-step process I use to work through the fear of rejection.

Step 1: Address the Root of the Fear

From my work supporting academic writers I have found that a fear about rejection is never about the process of writing and submitting the work itself. In many instances the fear of rejection is a symptom of a deeper issue. Thus, in order to overcome the fear of rejection I have found that it is important to first address the root of the fear.

Early in my career there were three main reasons I had a fear of rejection:

  1. I did not believe in myself as a writer and that I had something unique to contribute to the scholarly conversation.
  2. I was intimidated that my work could be published and in conversation with the great authors that I was referencing in my paper.
  3. I internalized the rejection as it holding some value about who I was and the quality of my work.

As you can see from my experience the root causes of my fear of writing rejection had nothing to do with the process of writing, but had everything to do with my mindset. Once I got clearer about what was causing my fear it became easier to plan for and address the fear (see Step 2 below).

Step 2: Plan for the Rejection

The psychology of academic writers is rather interesting as we are motivated and plan for the success of our academic writing. However, why do we not plan for rejection as well? I have found it beneficial  to put a plan in place so that if a piece is rejected, I know what my next steps are with the paper.

In a doctoral seminar course I am teaching this semester titled “Seminar in Research Writing, Publication, and Communication in Education,” one of my assignments asks for students to write an Op-Ed. During our conversation, we discussed rejection, and I gave this advice on how to plan for it:

  • Before you write your piece, have three venues in mind that you want to submit to.
  • Submit to venue #1. If rejected, immediately submit to venue #2. If rejected from venue #2, submit immediately to venue #3.
  • If your piece does not get accepted at the first three venues, find three more outlets and repeat the process.

As I teach my students: there is always a venue for your work. Sometimes it is just exploring all of your options to find the right fit. As a result, by planning for rejection you are actually planning for the success of your writing project. Again, this is not about writing, but just shifting your thinking.

Step 3: Build Your Writing Community

Do you have a scholarly community who you can vent to and strategize with?

Having this scholarly cohort has been critical to my ability to overcome the fear of rejection of my academic writing. Whenever I have thoughts or fears about submitting my work, I go to my community and do the following:

  • Talk: I dialogue and vent about my apprehension on submitting my work.
  • Write: After my conversations with my community, I turn that fear into energy to write–even if only a little. This helps me to not let my fears of rejection paralyze me from writing.
  • Submit: I have adopted the mantra “You can’t score a basket if you don’t shoot.” In other words, I can never get a paper accepted if I never submit, so if I want an acceptance I must submit.

Based on your experiences, how have you overcome a fear of rejection of your academic writing? Connect with me on Twitter to discuss!

Any opinions, findings, and conclusion or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.

This post continues our series The Smart Scholar by Ramon Goings.

Why is writing so hard?

This question was posed to me recently by a Done Dissertation client who expressed frustration with their academic writing. I could certainly relate as I too struggled with my writing as a doctoral student as the academic writing process was foreign to me. Does this sound like you? If so, keep reading this piece, as over the course of my career I have found that while the mechanics of writing are one component to  effective academic writing, having an academic writing mindset is equally—if not more important—to improving as an academic. As a result, in this Smart Scholar post I provide three mindset shifts that I have found that lead to improved academic writing. 

Perfection Doesn’t Exist So Don’t Make that Your Target

What I have found in my own writing practices and those in individuals I coach is that they become consumed with getting their work perfect. Is this you? Have you ever felt that since your work was not perfect that you should not submit it? I have found that perfectionism and procrastination go hand in hand. The more you want your work to be perfect the more likely you are to procrastinate because of the anxiety that perfection places on you.

If you fall into this perspective, one mindset shift you need to make to improve your academic writing is to come to the realization that perfection does not exist and that should not be the target. Your target is, in fact, to be satisfied with the product, knowing there will always be something about it that can be improved. Once you make this shift you will notice how easy it is for you to get your writing goals accomplished and get a paper off your desk and on to someone else’s desk.

Create Your Fastest Sloppy Rough Draft

Along with not seeking perfection, as an academic writer I am of the belief that your goal is to get the sloppiest rough draft as fast as possible. Yes, you read that correctly: sloppy is okay. I say this because you cannot improve anything that is not written down. As a classically trained musician and someone who spent some time in the music industry, I want to give you an example of why it is important to get to this stage of your  rough drafts.

Think about your favorite song —the one song that prompts you to  immediately increase the volume when you hear it. As a listener, you hear the final product of that song that is polished and professionally mastered. However, when the song was recorded, it may have taken your favorite artist 50-plus takes to get the chorus harmonies correct. 

I believe this same approach is applicable to writing. Your audience (the readers) will only read your published version. They will never know how many times you had to edit each paragraph to get it ready for publishing. As a result, in order to get to that polished version, your goal as the writer is to get your fastest, sloppy rough draft as quickly as possible because soon enough you will have a final version you can be proud of.

Put On Your Blinders to Ideas of Productivity

As a dissertation coach I get a number of students who want to become faculty discussing their ideas about productivity and the fact they feel behind because their peers are publishing more than them. To its detriment, the higher education culture has put writing productivity on a pedestal. I certainly understand as it has an impact on tenure and promotion decisions for faculty. However, this culture shift, along with social media allowing researchers to share their productivity, can be debilitating for many. 

As a result, I would argue that in order to reach your writing groove you need to put blinders on to colleagues so that you can focus on your work. Each of us has our own scholarly journey to run, and a focus on our individual work  allows us to live and appreciate all that we have done in our careers. Once you do this you will quickly find out that you are more productive than others who assert a persona on social media of “productivity.”

What mindset shifts have you needed to make to improve your academic writing? Please share with me on Twitter

Any opinions, findings, and conclusion or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.

This post continues our series The Smart Scholar by Ramon Goings.

As the US higher education landscape changed completely in 2020 with the transition to online learning, many individuals (including myself) were in the midst of applying for new positions. I was fortunate enough to complete the job search process last spring and secure a new position with the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) Language, Literacy, and Culture interdisciplinary doctoral program. As you all can imagine, transitioning to a new institution in the midst of a pandemic has certainly been an interesting experience. Now that I have been able to settle in with some time to reflect, I wanted to share some strategies that I have learned to make the most of starting a new faculty position during the pandemic.

Be Intentional about Meeting Colleagues

Prior to universities going to virtual learning, new staff and faculty at universities could easily meet new colleagues. This sometimes happened at the staff/faculty cafeteria, in the parking lot walking to the office, or at university sponsored events. Now that universities are engaging in virtual learning, these informal opportunities to meet with new colleagues are lost. However, despite these changes, there is opportunity to engage with colleagues. Some options to consider are:

  • Participating in university sponsored writing groups.
  • Reaching out for a short 15-minute meet and greet with individuals.
  • Participate in committees on campus (inside and outside of your immediate department).

While these activities take some effort, it is important to think strategically about building rapport with your new colleagues as soon as you arrive. Not only will this help for later opportunities, but this can lead to getting insider knowledge and historical perspectives about how your new university operates. Additionally, these initial conversations can lead to your new colleagues connecting you with others on campus which will build your network.

Control Your Calendar As Much As Possible

I have continuously heard from colleagues about meeting fatigue; indeed, I’ve  experienced it myself. It appears that, even more than in the past, higher education professionals are being inundated with meeting requests. While some of these meetings would happen if universities had students, faculty, and staff on campus, it appears that some, if not many, meetings could be an email.

Since virtual meetings are the norm now, it is important to consider your ability to manage these meetings so that you do not have as many. What I have found effective is to use a scheduler like Calendly which you can send a link to a colleague and they can find a meeting time that works for your schedule. I think this is important, as you can at least control the times when meetings are held and can plan your schedule accordingly. Additionally, when using these scheduling apps, have the person requesting the meeting to list agenda items that they want to get accomplished. This will help you prepare for the meeting and ensure the time is used as effectively and efficiently as possible. Lastly, using a scheduling application will limit the back and forth you have via email trying to coordinate a meeting time.

Find Community to Recharge Your Battery

In a virtual environment it is certainly hard to build community with individuals. Additionally, with the increase in meetings, it is important that you find time to recharge. As you transition into a new position it is important to continue to interact (as safely as you can) with individuals who rejuvenate you. This can be family, friends, and certainly trusted colleagues. 

While the work of higher education will continue, we all have to pause and recognize that  trying to work in the midst of a pandemic where COVID-19 has personally impacted all of our lives. 

For individuals who have recently transitioned to new positions, what advice do you have? Feel free to share with me on Twitter.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusion or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.

This post continues our series, The Smart Scholar by Ramon Goings

For many higher education professionals across the country the Fall 2020 semester was met with teaching online. While in the past I taught online in an asynchronous format, this semester presented my first opportunity to teach an online course in a synchronous format. Based on my experiences this semester I want to share three lessons learned from my own practice that may help you as you think about preparing your future online courses.

Use a Platform You Are Most Comfortable With

With the switch to online teaching, I have personally helped colleagues who do not identify as being technologically savvy. Additionally, I have run into many social media conversations about how to use various learning management and video conferencing systems. There has been excellent information about tips and tricks to create a seamless workflow on various platforms. However, based on my experience and those of my colleagues this semester, I find that it was best that I used Zoom as it was a platform that I was most comfortable with.

Why?

As an instructor you may encounter challenges using a platform and helping your students navigate the platform as well, and I have found that the more comfortable you are with a tool the better you are with providing directions and support to others. So far this semester, because I used Zoom, I have had few technical issues and if they arise, I was able to resolve them quickly. Moreover, using a familiar platform allowed me to feel more comfortable exploring all of its features which enhanced the learning experience. Lastly, as I describe below having comfortability with a platform allowed me to quickly pivot when the unexpected happens.

Adapt When Presented with the Unexpected

Early on in the semester I was engaged in a rich conversation with my students about research methods when my computer decided to shut off permanently in the middle of class. As you could imagine, there was certainly a quick panic, but I quickly remembered that I could use the mobile version of the platform on my cell phone and within a few minutes I was able to send out a communication to students explaining the situation and then jump back on the learning platform.

With my experience above, another lesson I have learned is to adapt when the unexpected happens. As a frequent presenter on how to support  doctoral students navigate the dissertation process, I always tell students who are getting ready to defend their dissertations to have a technology backup plan, because technology only works when you do not need it!

Using this same sentiment about teaching, you should have a technology backup plan just in case your computer crashes during class and/or your Internet unexpectedly drops. Having a backup plan will provide some comfort and help you to easily adapt to situations that happen during class.

Create Opportunity for Informal Student Connections

For me, one of the drawbacks to teaching online has been the challenge of students connecting informally. Typically, if classes were held in person there would be time to have conversation before and after class, during breaks, and walks from class to the car.

While this has been lost, I have sought to provide students some opportunity to engage in these types of conversations. In one of my courses I have students paired with an accountability partner. For each class I leave 15 minutes for each group to meet. This time is used however they deem necessary. An additional component of the accountability partners is that they read each other’s’ work before submitting it to me for review. Not only do I want students to make connections but I believe this also allows them to build a scholarly community. 

What lessons have you learned about teaching online this semester? Please share them with me on Twitter!

Any opinions, findings, and conclusion or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.

This post continues our series, The Smart Scholar by Ramon Goings.

With the onset of COVID-19 the higher education landscape has changed drastically in what feels like overnight. While institutions have begun to announce hiring freezes and faculty/staff furloughs, 2020 has witnessed individuals like myself transition into new roles.  While I have written past Smart Scholar Series articles on tips to apply for a job position, given the uniqueness of transitioning to a new institution while most operations, including hiring, are virtual, I wanted to share two aspects of the job search process for candidates to consider this hiring season.

Invest in Your Virtual Interview

Prior to COVID-19 typically faculty and administrator hiring processes entailed a round of reviews of candidates’ written materials (e.g., cover letter, CV, letters of recommendation). For those individuals who made it through this round, they were then given either a telephone or video interview and finalists selected would then be brought to campus. However, now that many institutions have halted in person gatherings, it is highly likely this season that candidates will complete a finalist interview via some video conferencing platform. As a result, there are a few technical aspects that I believe are critically important.

  1. Purchase an HD webcam- As a result of doing interviews virtually I think it is important to present the best visual image of yourself. While laptop computers have adequate webcams, I believe making the investment in a higher quality camera will help folks connect with you visually during your interview. 
  2. Invest in an External Microphone- As having a visual presence is important, in many ways having a strong audio presence is even more important as you will be responding to questions from the search committee. There are a number of USB microphones on the market that will give you an advantage over microphones connected to headphones and/or the microphone on your laptop computer.
  3. Upgrade your Internet Router- Having a strong Internet connection will be critical to ensure that your video and audio come across as high quality. As a result, if within your budget I would recommend you to upgrade your Internet to a bandwidth that is suitable for video conferencing. And if you are unable to upgrade, I would suggest that if you have an interview, you should disconnect all devices that will be using the Wifi connection so that your video interview is the only device on the network during the interview to maximize your Wifi connection. 

While these are suggestions, the takeaway here is that you want the search committee to remember you and the thoughtful responses you had to their questions and not have a discussion about the various interruptions due to poor video, audio, or Internet quality.

Get an overview of how institutions are improving their faculty recruitment in our recent white paper, The Modern Faculty Recruitment Playbook.

Importance of Position Fit

As a job seeker I believe this current virtual environment, more than ever, stresses the importance of candidates seeking a position that is the best  fit. For some an important question to ask is ‘what does being a fit for a position look like’? While fit can be specific based on where you are in your career, for me, here  are some of the questions I considered as I determined if a position was a fit for me:

  • Does the position provide an opportunity to for me to expand by skill set?
  • Do the individuals on the search committee like working at the institution?
  • Will the institution provide me the resources to effectively do my job in a virtual environment?
  • Will this position require me to work alone or will I have a team to help?
  • What are the institution’s policies around COVID-19 and keeping students, staff, and faculty safe?

While this list is not exhaustive, it is important to always consider how the position will support your professional growth and whether your values align with the values of the institution. With you potentially not being able to be on campus until Fall 2021 (depending on your locale), fit will be just as important as you may be working from home. 

For those of you who have transitioned to new positions this fall, what were some considerations that you kept in mind as you started your new role? Please feel free to tweet me (@ramongoings) to continue this conversation!

Any opinions, findings, and conclusion or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.

This post continues our series, The Smart Scholar by Ramon Goings, with Antione Tomlin as article co-author.

For doctoral students across the nation who are writing their dissertations, the onset of COVID-19 has drastically changed how they will approach their research projects. In some instances, doctoral students will have to redesign their studies to accommodate remote data collection or potentially scrap their research plans altogether. Moreover, dissertators are balancing the completion of their studies with employment and family obligations. Students are not alone—professors have also been impacted because they have to support their dissertation advisees remotely while juggling the care of dependents, adapting research projects, and preparing for remote and/or social distance in-person teaching. 

Most of the discussion about supporting students with the onset of COVID-19 has tended to focus on undergraduates. Generally speaking, graduate students—and doctoral students at the dissertation phase specifically—have not been given the same attention. Therefore, we want to share some strategies for doctoral students from our vantage point of being a doctoral candidate in the midst of completing a dissertation, and as a faculty member who is currently supporting doctoral students. Below we provide three tips for students on how to navigate the dissertation writing process during the pandemic and also include how faculty can support students in each of these areas.

Be Realistic

It is easy to become so consumed and overwhelmed with finishing your dissertation that you forget to take care of yourself. So, it is important to know and recognize your limits. Life does not stop because you decided to be a doctoral student; it might be even more hectic than ever with increased family, work, and personal obligations. Be mindful of how much you are putting on your plate and deciding to take on. If you can only provide 50% effort to your dissertation because you took on more than you can handle, everything you said yes to suffers. Knowing when to say yes or no becomes more critical during these times. 

How Faculty Can Support:

As a faculty member, I can say from experience that it’s important to take the time to understand that our dissertation advisees have lives outside of the classroom. Take the initiative to understand their circumstances, so you can support them and become a trusted sounding board. This includes advising them on when to accept new responsibilities or defer them to another time. Additionally, we (faculty) can use this information to develop realistic timelines about when various sections of the dissertation can be completed. 

Ask For Help!

As doctoral students, we assume that we are supposed to know everything, and if we do not, we think we are less than we are supposed to be. Both of us understand how feeling like an imposter can be paralyzing to completing the dissertation. It is important to let go of assumptions, perceived expectations, and self-doubt because it gets in the way of moving forward. We are all experiencing the effects of COVID-19, acknowledging that some students may have more or less time depending on obligations outside of school. So, ask for help when you need it. You do not have to know everything, and your faculty and committee are there to help and support you. Do not feel ashamed about needing more guidance or additional motivation to keep pushing along. Use your resources and get it done.

How faculty can support:

Faculty should be proactive and reach out to students to ask how they are doing and if they need help. Even in instances when they say they don’t need any help, it is important for us to continue to check on our students consistently. Also, you should not feel that you need to have all of the answers for your students. It is okay to seek counsel from other colleagues on how to help your students succeed.

Be Open-Minded

This is one piece of advice that we’ve found doctoral students dread hearing. From our experience, open-mindedness can be perceived as having to change everything about a dissertation plan. In reality, these simple but daunting words can work in your favor. Remember doctoral students; your committee is there to support and get you to the finish line! When they strongly encourage suggestions, it is only to help, so we challenge you—be open and consider all suggestions. When you fight the process, you will spend more time finding your way to the finish line. As a current doctoral candidate, I can say that when I made an effort to be open to suggestions, my research was enhanced, and my committee members’ experiences were more pleasurable.

How Faculty Can Support:

While it is our job to push our students to develop a robust and rigorous dissertation, we should do so with care and compassion. Far too often we see professors put their students through what can be described as academic hazing primarily because they are trying to recreate the traumatic doctoral student experience they had. This is unfair to students and a practice we need to change. For instance, we need to ensure that by the time students get to the dissertation proposal defense presentation that we are not asking them to drastically change their dissertation plan. These types of major suggestions should be addressed prior to the defense being approved. Doing so during a defense is a disservice to students and can make the dissertation process feel insurmountable. 

Given the impact of COVID-19 on the foreseeable future, we will need to continue rethinking and reimagining the dissertation process for doctoral students. Our hope is that this piece begins the conversation about how to advise and support doctoral students virtually and ensure support for students who are juggling their dissertations along with other life circumstances.

How are you navigating the dissertation process? Feel free to send me your responses via Twitter so that we can continue this conversation!


Author Biographies

Dr. Ramon B. Goings (@ramongoings) is an assistant professor in the Language, Literacy, and Culture doctoral program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and is Founder of the Done Dissertation Coaching Program (www.thedonedissertation.com) which provides individual and group coaching for doctoral students engaged in the dissertation process.

Mr. Antione Tomlin is a doctoral candidate in the Language, Literacy, and Culture program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and is an assistant professor of Academic Literacies and English at Anne Arundel Community College.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusion or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.


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