Last September, Meg Duffy wrote a really nice piece about what she saw as some of the markers of a shift in career stage – like seeing a reference letter in a grad school application from one of your former undergrad students. This phenomenon is something of which I’ve been acutely aware recently, though I’m not sure why. But every few weeks, I keep finding another example, and I thought I would collate them here.
Similar to Meg’s example above, last December I found myself being the external examiner for a MSc thesis that was the logical progression from my own honours thesis 15 years ago. It was neat to look back and see what I would have done differently, how someone else approached the same challenges, and how they took my rambling suggestions for “future research” and actually implemented some of them!
Back in 2017, I noted that my “Manuscripts” link folder in my browser was empty because all my current submissions were being handled by collaborators or students. That was also the year I had no first-authored papers. There could be an interesting study in how authorship position shifts over career stages (I mean, it’s another example of quantifying the obvious but hey that’s basically ecology & conservation, isn’t it?)
More recently, I have become increasingly frustrated with some of the cultural systems in research in general (and academia specifically) and how difficult it’s been to change/fix, but because of how others (trainees, mentees, or other folks earlier in their career were being treated. I’ve been trying for some time to push our collective system towards a more equitable, inclusive one; my equivalent of reaching down to hold the metaphorical ladder. Or put another way, trying to be the kind of person I would have benefited earlier in my career.
Some not-so-obvious markers come from increased experience, and how long we expect things to take. For example, 7 days out, I hadn’t really done much to prepare for a seminar (because it was a minor alteration of one that I had given just a few months previously), and that didn’t faze me like it would have when I was a postdoc.
And the most recent example was from just yesterday. My good friend & colleague Ingrid Pollet & I, along with some other coauthors, submitted a huge 24,000-word monograph as an updated species account for the Birds of North America series. We’d been working on it since we first hatched the idea at a conference in Barcelona in September 2016, and so submitting it yesterday was a huge cause for celebration. But aside from telling colleagues, I had to make my own celebration. In grad school, or as a postdoc, for example, my supervisor/lab would have chipped in and we would have had some celebratory cake, or a trip to the pub after work. I came home and had a celebratory cinnamon bun (which was delicious).
For the above, I don’t have a particular “good vs bad” take on them; they all seem largely a part of the typical progression for someone in a permanent job 8 years from my PhD. I’ll probably update this post with others as & when they manifest.