26 October 2011

Saying “Yes” (sometimes)

Assistant professors are often advised they have to say, “No.”

Don’t serve on committees. Talk your way our of as much teaching as possible. Do the absolute minimum you have to unless it will benefit your research. Just keep saying, “No” to, well, pretty much everything.

I admit that I said “Yes” too much during my probationary period. But you know what? I am glad I said yes to a lot of things. In my department, the majority the faculty for the better part of a decade have been tenure-track. There was just not enough tenured people on the ground to get everything done. If the tenure-track faculty left everything up to the tenured faculty, the department would have suffered.

When you listen to someone who preaches following your own self-interest all the time, remember the risk. If you keep saying “No” to working with other people, you can end up being a hermit who owns a lot of guns and has all your cash stuffed in coffee cans under the mattress because you haven’t worked with anyone else and don’t trust them.

In other words, a crazy misfit.

Photo by Joe Shlabotnik on Flickr; used under a Creative Commons license.

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