In last week’s Times Higher Education, six scholars told us what they wish they had known when they began their academic careers.
We used our Twitter account (@timeshighered) to ask what advice - or warnings - our followers would give their younger selves if they had the opportunity, using the hashtag #DearMe. There were hundreds of responses, from the philosophical to the practical.
Schuyler Esprit (@schuyleresprit), assistant professor of English at Trinity Washington University, had this advice to her younger self: “It’s OK to talk publicly about your interests outside academia. You might not make it through without them.”
There was some philosophy on show too. “Not all intellectuals are academics. Not all academics are intellectuals. Remember that,” Professor Esprit added in a later tweet.
However, Adam G. Dunn (@AdamGDunn), research fellow at the Australian Institute of Health Innovation and the Centre for Health Informatics at the University of New South Wales, was less keen on the idea of giving himself an early career tip-off. “I’d say nothing and walk away. I’m here because all mistakes taught me to learn faster and work harder than everyone around me,” he tweeted.
Others offered words of encouragement. “You will get a ‘proper job’ in the end. All those fixed-term contracts are worth it eventually,” said Ceri Oeppen (@Oeppen), lecturer in human geography at the University of Sussex. Roopika Risam (@RoopikaRisam), dean’s teaching fellow at Emory University’s Laney Graduate School, added: “In 2008, the academic job market will start looking worse than you could have imagined. Yes, a lot worse. Don’t panic.”
Health preservation was a priority for a number of academics. Matthew Tomlinson (@mattjtomlinson), research fellow at the University of Leeds, wrote: “As good as you think your last-minute work is, it’s probably best for your grades and cortisol levels to start things a bit sooner.”
“Do. Not. Count. Conferences. Abroad. As. Holiday! Go on an actual break where you forbid yourself from taking your laptop with you!” urged Eleonora Belfiore (@elebelfiore), associate professor of cultural policy at the University of Warwick. Rebecca Hogue (@rjhogue), a PhD candidate at the University of Ottawa, said simply: “Get tested for asthma. You are not out of shape.”
Gary Foster (@Prof_GD_Foster), professor of molecular plant pathology at the University of Bristol, had advice away from the world of academia. “Enjoy watching Liverpool play and win, it does go downhill soon,” he said, while Jason Jones (@jbj), professor of English at Central Connecticut State University, took to capital letters to emphasise the importance of his advice. “FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY, don’t marry your former prof/debate coach next year just because you don’t have a plan,” he wrote.
Peter Tennant (@Peter_Tennant), research associate in the Institute of Health and Society at Newcastle University, was less keen to spend any time with his 20-year-old self. “Go away you nauseating post-pubescent man-child, can’t you see I’m busy? *Rolls eyes*…Undergraduates!” he said, before adding: “I should explain…I’m talking to myself at age 20. This isn’t my general approach to undergrads!”
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