Advice for new faculty!

With graduation right around the corner, many soon-to-be PhDs and postdocs will be beginning their first role as a faculty member.  Earlier this semester, Penn’s Career Services hosted a First Generation Graduate Student Week, which included a panel of faculty who provided their insights as first-gen students, and what advice they would provide to other new faculty members.  Below is a snapshot of their thoughts based on their own personal experiences!

General thoughts and advice

  • Great to identify with the first gen experience, but not to define the person
  • Imposter syndrome sticks with you throughout your career – this is so common for faculty from all kinds of backgrounds and it is OK!
  • Be aware of and understand your own values – if you are unable to relocate because of family for new opportunities, that is OK
  • Hold on to your own values despite the advice of others
  • If you have relocated to a new city – take the time to explore your environment beyond your work and campus
  • Make decisions about what work you will take on consciously and deliberately
  • Find ways to identify affiliations that are both professional and personal!
  • Remember – it is NOT a mistake that you are there!  You are a new faculty member because you are qualified and valued!  You do not need to feel like you need to justify that you are where you are
  • Watch out for overcompensating – most new faculty do not know that they are doing this!  When you chose to do something for work that is “extra,” ask yourself, are you doing this because:
    • You like it (this is a good reason to do something!)
    • You think it will help you build your resume (this is a less good reason to do something)
  • Pay attention to what you are doing when time flies, and work to find a place in your institution which supports these activities – ask yourself whether you want to “live to work” or “work to live” as the institution can’t love you back

Finding mentors

  • Seeking out good mentors is key – don’t wait for them to come to you
  • Asking for help is hard to do but it critically important – you will need to do this throughout your career, so starting now is a great time
  • Mentors are critically important, but remember, they don’t have all the answers, either!
  • The reality is that you don’t know what you don’t know – but there is not one person who knows everything – a group of diverse mentors to draw from is ideal
  • If you can find formal mentoring programs, by all means, apply!  But feel free to cold call (or email) people as well, as the worst they will do is not respond or say no
  • Disconnect mentoring from pressure – a lot of the professional faculty path has been based on the pressure from mentors – be able to differentiate between advice and pressure
  • It is OK to reject some of your advisor’s advice – your own values and expectations are what matter the most

Great Resources

As always, PhD students and postdocs are welcome to schedule an appointment with a career adviser to chat about their interests in academic jobs!

By Dianne Hull
Dianne Hull Senior Associate Director, Graduate Students & Postdocs