Handling the Extras in Academia
Researchers are expected to juggle several job duties with little to no training for those tasks. Is peer coaching an option?
To say that academics wear multiple hats is an understatement. A researcher must ideate, experiment, teach, analyze, collaborate, present, write, and more. As academics move up the ladder, their hat closets expand further. A new list of responsibilities adds to their already lengthy to-do lists: oversee budgets, mentor students, plan conferences, apply for funding, review papers, and serve on committees, to name a few.
Freshly minted faculty members have spent the couple of years leading up to their coveted positions just on the grueling application process. When academics focus all of their efforts on getting the desired job, they have little time to prepare for what it entails.
Given the minimal formal soft skills training, I am in awe of academics who succeed and empathetic towards those who struggle with these extra responsibilities. I wish that graduate students and postdoctoral scholars could undergo training for all of the functions they will handle as group leaders.
Researchers collaborate often to share their scientific expertise; wouldn’t it be great if they also set up soft skills collaborations? They could learn about mentorship from someone who wins over students; find out how a neighboring lab thrives on social media; or take notes from a senior researcher on handling a growing lab.
It would be valuable to rely on the strengths of peers in person and online. This month, we are proud to add bite-sized advice to our TS Digest. In this issue, Mark Emerson, a biologist at The City College of New York and an Undergraduate Research Mentor Award winner, offers tips for mentoring undergraduate students to ensure that everyone involved gets the most out of the experience.
What do you think of this initiative? We look forward to your feedback.