31 January 2017 by Lisa Meloncon

Sometimes I look up a word that I know that I know or think that I know. I look it up because I want to read the precision that is often found in dictionary definitions, and sometimes, the alternate definitions provide a layer that I had not considered. Most of us appreciate words and their nuance, and lately, I have found that I have been looking up words more frequently, just to make sure I do know what they mean.

The word I looked up this morning was “overwhelm.” This word has popped up a lot lately in social media posts and in many conversations that I had by folks struggling to find their feet in the new term and in what increasingly feels like a new, and a bit unstable, world. The online dictionary tells me that “overwhelm” means to bury or drown beneath a huge mass; defeat completely; or give too much of a thing to a (someone), inundate. It’s the last definition that I think many of us of are feeling….inundated with too much.

As I have written before, I have no magic words or secret techniques. It’s hard to focus on the everyday-ness of our jobs when it feels like so many other things are more important and need our attention. Right now, those feelings can be overwhelming. So as usual, I turn to the painfully pragmatic as a way to remind myself and to remind you that we do have some control over own lives.

In an attempt not to feel overwhelmed here are a few suggestions:

Practice Self Care

It’s not just a buzz word, but something we each need to take seriously. We need to eat regularly. We need to try and not over do on the caffeine or alcohol. We need to sleep and exercise. We need to have down time to give our minds and bodies and spirits a chance to recover. How you practice self-care is a personal thing. I just want to encourage you to do it.

Step away from social media

I get the fear of missing out and all that, but social media can definitely be a double edged sword. Try to limit yourself or make sure you have down time away from it to see if you do actually feel better and less overwhelmed.

Engage the Mundane and Everyday

While it may seem odd or feel a little wrong, our regular lives must go on. Engaging with aspects of the mundane or everyday can be immensely rewarding. For example, as educators, we’re on the front lines of helping people (try to) see things differently. At the very least, we have the opportunity to expose students to new ideas and concepts. Engaging in the everyday-ness of teaching or a public service project (that we would do anyway) or [insert your thing here] can help offset the feeling of being overwhelmed.

Recognize your limits

We cannot be all things to all people. This is an important point to try and remember. We do have jobs and responsibilities so anything new we add is, well, new and in addition to. That means it is important recognize our limits and when you take something new on that you should let something else go. (see point 1 about self care!)

Find your comfort zone

We do not all have to engage and #resist in the exact same ways. It is ok if you happen to be doing things differently than the others around you. It is ok for you to find your comfort zone on how (and if) you want to engage with current events. There are no rules to follow but your own. Not everyone feels comfortable doing certain things so the key is to find the types of engagement that work for you.

Be thankful

I have written of this one before, but it has always been a tried and true approach for me. Finding the time to be thankful is important tactic toward keeping things in perspective focusing on the things you can control.

Feeling overwhelmed is a natural response to being inundated with lots and lots of things and feelings. There are no perfect solutions, but remember that you’re probably not alone in feeling overwhelmed. There’s a big community here and willing to help. Just reach out and ask.

Wishing you joy, good health, productivity, and feeling a little bit less overwhelmed.




Just start

3 January 2017 by Lisa Meloncon


Start now. Start where you are. Start with fear. Start with pain. Start with doubt. Start with hands shaking...Just start.One of the good things about this job is that we consistently get the chance to start over. We have, at minimum, two terms a year where we can start fresh and new. We have the summer where we can start “catching up” or focusing solely on one task or another. That’s quite a gift in its own way.

I had forgotten about how much this can mean until I saw the image above come across my tweet feed. It resonated. I think it resonated so much for me because of a trying 2016, because of current events, because of the renewed hope a new calendar year can bring.

Start. That’s a good word for this year, 2017. I’m going to start doing and continuing to do a few things to ensure there is joy and purpose in my life so I thought I would share them with you.

  • Start by thinking and (re)making boundaries
    This was inspired by Liza. She makes a great point about describing what boundaries are good for, and in this job, it’s important we have them.

  • Start by setting priorities
    To make a doable schedule, you have to set priorities. That means you have to look at what you want to do and balance it with what you have to do and finding that spot in the middle. Set your big goals and then reduce them down J
  • Start by making doable schedules
    I have many times preached about the schedule, but for me, it’s the only way to get things started and finished. Making doable schedules means you get things done so instead of self critique, we can do some celebrating.
  • Start the day by writing
    Writing can mean anything that moves you toward a goal. It can writing an assignment, writing comments on student papers, writing a report for a committee obligation, and of course, it can mean doing some activity toward a research project. But it’s good to schedule this dedicated time to write so that there is always progress toward your end goals (no matter whether that goal is teaching, research or service or some overlap of the three).
  • Start by scheduling time for self care
    Write into that schedule time for exercise, coffee with friends, playing with the dogs/cats, extra hang out time with the children….whatever brings you joy and gives you a mental and physical break from the work

As you’re thinking through boundaries and priorities and schedules, you may want to consider ways that you can start to engage differently with the world.

Start small and explore different options. While I have typically been quite private about my activities outside of work, I have always had them. I volunteer at several organizations that mean a lot to me. I have shifted those commitments recently, but I am still engaged in a way that makes a measure of difference—one that I can see and feel.

Reconnecting with friends and communities that offer support and laughs is also a great way to start each week and ground ourselves in the people that add positivity to our lives. Start by picking a day and try turning it into a routine. The #womeninTC community is always around to talk, to brainstorm, to listen, to whine with, to cry with, and to laugh with. Just reach out through one of our communication channels. Sometimes to start, you need a hand.

Start, too, by remembering that we can only control what we can control. My mother actually told us this all the time growing up, and recently, I have found much comfort in hearing her voice in my head say those words.

Originally this post was much longer but then I realized that start as a coming into being is highly personal and highly contingent. So I decided to delete big swaths of it and just move to encouraging you just to start.

And I’m going to start by wishing y’all good luck and by looking forward to seeing all the great starts as the term and the year unfolds.





Going on the Job Market When You Have a Job

By Liz Angeli, Julie Staggers, and Lisa Meloncon

The job search, when you have a job, is an intensely personal thing, which reiterates what Kristen said in her post about doing a narrow or broad job search your first time on the market.

Why do we say intensely personal? Because, you typically go on the market after securing a tenure-line job because of very personal things:

  •      Location: the location is simply someplace you cannot live or you have an intense longing to be closer to family, old lives, better amenities, etc.
  •      Fit: the department and/or university is not a good “fit,” which typically means that you thought you wanted this type of job and realized that you didn’t or the department and/or university doesn’t match what you want out of your career
  •      Aspirations: you landed at a teaching school or mid-tier regional and now you know without a doubt that you want to be at one of the bigger schools with graduate students, etc.
  •      Personal: sometimes you may never murmur out loud except to your partner, your family or your dog why you want out. You just do. And that’s ok, too.

All three of us have unique stories as to why we went on the market.

Julie has moved twice since tenure — once for an opportunity to work with grad students and contribute to a research institute that aligned with an emerging research interest, once to get closer to home and family. In neither case did she really consider herself “on the market.” Opportunities that aligned with changes in her scholarly and personal goals simply appeared at the right time. In both cases, she applied only for the one particular position that she eventually accepted. She offers this cautionary note: Pulling materials together for a single job application takes approximately the same initial effort as going on the market full-tilt.

Liz’s choice to go on the job market pre-tenure was primarily motivated by her family situation, and the position for which she applied aligned with her career goals: to work at institution that emphasized research. When she applied for her current job, she had just successfully completed her third-year review at her previous institution. She was not planning to go on the job market at that time, but she knew that jobs near her family wouldn’t come around often.

Lisa was encouraged to apply for a position and wanted to live in the location of another. So during her tenure year, she applied for two jobs. She was offered one job and was the top candidate at the other, but the search was cancelled due to budgets. As you can see, only Lisa didn’t make the move (for really intensely personal reasons).

The point is that doing a job search while you have a job is a different kind of search. We would recommend only going on the market when you have a job when you would be willing to take the job you are applying for. (yes, we aware of the advice that going on the market is a good strategy to get a raise. However, in most locations in TPC, starting salaries are better than other humanities disciplines.). This sort of job search is also a much more narrow search than your first time on the market, but as Julie says above, it still takes a lot of time.

Following we’ll go through some questions and answers that are pretty typical for this type of job search:

When do I go if I know I want to?

We tend to follow the advice that if possible to do it in your third year so you’ve had a chance (1) to figure out what you really want and (2) to build up your CV to make you marketable. Some folks used to say always go on the market in your tenure year just in case you don’t get it and you’ve already done all that self reflection and organizing. We would only advocate going on the market in your tenure year if you want another job based on the reasons noted above.

If you are tenured, then it is much easier to choose a time. You just do it.

Who do I tell?

We feel that it’s best to keep the job search as low key as possible. There’s no need to bring on ill will from your current colleagues or at the very least there’s no need to start people talking until there’s a reason.

Many states and/or institutions have to make job searches public so there is a point in any search that no matter what it has to be announced. Typically this is at the campus invitation stage where it is not uncommon to know who the other candidates are visiting campus because of these type of laws. If you want your search to stay as private and confidential as possible for as long as possible, it is a good idea to include a sentence in the final paragraph like “I would ask that this application be kept strictly confidential as long as possible under the hiring laws of your institution and the state of XX.”

How do I get letters?

A good rule of thumb for letter writers is to have writers who can address specific aspects of your professional profile such as someone whom you share a common research area with or someone from your teaching center who has visited your classroom. If you follow this rule, finding letter writers is not hard to do. You simply contact folks you feel comfortable with and ask them to write a letter that focuses on specific things.

However, if you have yet to cultivate these sorts of relationships (and this should be on your to-do list right after you get this job search business settled) then you have two options. First, you go back to your close networks at your graduate institution(s) and provide lots of details on what you’ve been up to. Or secondly, you may need to get a letter from someone at your present institution, which means you may need to tell a person (or two) whom you truly trust.

There is a lot of mixed advice on whether you have to have a letter from your current institution when you go on the market. If you are trying to keep your search under the radar, you are your own best judge of whether a letter from a colleague — especially an in-department colleague — is worth the potential risk of upsetting people if the cat gets out of the bag earlier than you intended. How have others been received when they have been on the market in your department? Typically, letters from colleagues in your present position attest to your collegiality. If you believe you really need a letter from your current institution, you might consider asking for a letter from someone you’ve worked closely with in your institution who is outside of your department.

What do I put in my cover letter as to why I am applying?

We are of the opinion that you need to be honest as possible without any negativity toward your current institution or colleagues. If you are applying to take a step up, then talking about wanting to do more research is a perfectly fine and acceptable explanation.

If you are making a lateral move (same type of institution and job) or taking a step down, being upfront is without doubt the best way to go. Toward the end of the cover letter (next to last paragraph is a good place), you can directly challenge the elephant in the room: “The reason I am applying is XYZ.”

Caveats: No matter what you say, there will be questions about this during interviews and campus visits and sidebar conversations and email exchanges so you need to think long and hard about the answer(s) to this question.

What do I need to have done to be able to make this move?

This is a tricky question. If you’re wanting to move up to an institution that is higher ranked (either by Carnegie Classifications or based on the recognition of the programs) then you need to be certain that you look like the folks there at the same period in time. In other words, if you’re in your third year, then you need to look just like someone in their third year at the institution in which you are applying.

So then you are prompted to ask, “how do I know what that looks like?” Well, this is where it gets a little tricky because you may not look like that but you could make up for lost time if you had more time or you may look sort of like that but it’s because you’re doing the thing they really want but they don’t understand the time it takes or …..see how it can get tricky.

We hesitate to make a blanket statement about production because we have (especially women) tended to overproduce so we will encourage you to do research and then talk to trusted advisors. All of us would be happy to talk with you (and Lisa has a whole slew of tenure documents to help guide those conversations!).

Can I apply for a job as assistant if I just got tenure? Or can I apply for a new assistant when I am an advanced?

The answer to both of these questions is yes, especially if you, your research, and teaching profile fit what the institution is asking for in the job ad. We would recommend that you acknowledge differences directly in your letter. For example, If you’re an advanced assistant applying for an assistant position, consider acknowledging this difference in your letter by stating, “I realize that I am an advanced assistant professor applying for an assistant position; I am applying because . . . ” You might even want to state that you’re willing to start as an assistant professor if you truly are willing to and if this job and move are worth it.

Also, we would also recommend that you contact the search committee chair and talk to them (on the phone) about your considerations for applying for the job. In most cases, the search chair will find ways (within the legal and institutional limits of the search) to let you know what the committee may be willing to consider and to not consider.

With all tenure-track lines so precious, no one wants to waste one so it’s best for all involved to know ask questions.

The job search when you have a job still means that you need to put a lot of time and attention into your cover letter and CV. In many ways, it’s harder and you’ll need more time because you’ve done more, which makes it difficult to decide what to include. This is why it’s so important to know who you are as a scholar and teacher. Because the length of the cover letter isn’t much longer. You’ll have a little extra because you’ll have publications to use as writing samples, and you should already have a teaching philosophy and research statement drafted (somewhere!).

Please feel feel free to reach out to any of us with additional questions or concerns.

Wishing you the best of luck!