PhD at maturity: Starting a consulting and teaching activity to prolong professional career

PhD at maturity: Starting a consulting and teaching activity to prolong professional careerAs I’m growing older, also do it my friends and contacts, so I’m experiencing, in particular after the occurrence of the last financial crisis, that professional careers start ending at a certain age (around 55?), and we should find alternative activities to prolong career (and income) until at least you turn 70.

And one of the most logical alternatives is to use your own long professional experience, that is, start consulting, activity that is linked to knowledge and personal branding, which fit perfectly well within an academic career: PhD, teaching, researching, publishing in scientific journals and networking.

But it’s clear that the transition is not done overnight and have to be planned in advance, at least 5 years. I did it more than 10 years ago: I wanted to be a university professor and now I’m delighted with my vocation, although it’s much more demanding than I thought at first.

On the other hand, it’s also true that you can be a good professor without a PhD, but I don’t recommend it because it makes no sense and has no future, as a doctorate degree gives you the basic skills a researcher needs, puts you as an equal with other academics, and when opting for an adjunct or lecturer job you will have more merits than the others, having into account that for a full-time position a PhD is a must.

Furthermore, in Spain at least, most private universities cover their adjunct/lecturer positions with successful working professionals without teaching or researching experience, but increasingly they are raising the requirements. Lately, for example, ICADE Universidad Pontificia de Comillas, a small business university in Madrid, were asking the following requirements (minimum and valuable ones) for an adjunct (part time) position:

  1. PhD
  2. Accredited as a university professor
  3. Publications in international academic journals
  4. Extensive professional and teaching experience
  5. And ability to teach in English

Honestly, how many professionals are there with that CV in Spain or even Europe? But you may develop it, of course, I’m of the idea that everything can be achieved with time and effort. So, go for it!

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Cops’ and Profs’ professional careers: more alike than you think

With this post I risk that you tend to believe that I’ve gone completely mad, if you don’t already think so, but I see an interesting parallelism between the careers of university professors and that of police inspectors, that can enrich us all. I’ve managed to unite it conceptually because I wanted to be a police inspector during my college years, and my teenage son is considering it now.

Cops' and Profs' professional careers: more alike than you think

1. We are talking here about vocational public service professions.

2. You can make a career in the private sector, but these higher education and security services are mainly provided by the government.

3. The academic career has four general professional phases (there could be some differences in some countries), as the high level career ranks in the police:

  • Assistant Professor Vs Police Inspector: newly qualified, with no professional experience.
  • Lecturer Vs Chief Inspector: with at least 6 years of professional career.
  • Senior Lecturer Vs Commissioner/Superintendent: around 15 year career.
  • Full Professor Vs Chief Commissioner/Superintendent: If you’re show endurance and excellence during 10 more years.

4. To access these professions a particular training and studies are required:

  • Professors have to obtain a doctorate in their specialty, with a college degree.
  • Policemen have to pass a training course of one/two years, with the requirement of a university degree (or a minimum of credits), at least in Europe.

5. In both professions are required to perform a research activity to achieve results and progress in your profession.

Obviously, the amusing issue is the similarities between these two professions, but they also have many differences of course, which can help us to approach our educational careers in another perspective.

However, I am not so sure whether the police profession is so demanding and multidisciplinary as in higher education as we have to teach, research, and / or publish in academic journals, although the police one is supplemented, as far as I know, with the daily risks they face. So maybe being a cop, PhD and a part-time lecturer of law and criminology is a good choice of life, which is what I recommend to my son without any hope of being heard, of course.

Best practices for university professors in 2014

Best practices for university professors in 2014The year is ending, so it’s a good time to revisit our development roadmap as professors and researchers, and not lose the rhythm and blur our ultimate goal. Now you know that my philosophy is a balance in academic activities and a continuous effort.

As best practices for university professors in 2014 I suggest the following ones, which are those that I currently have in mind for my development, but they are open of course to other practices to be completed, depending on your academic stage.

Teaching

1. Keep preparing your classes thoroughly. Analyze the feedback / evaluation from students.

2. Improve your presentation and class management skills. Use further the case method and the involvement of students at class and during the course.

3. Develop new content for seminars and courses to keep building your personal brand and keep learning.

4. Search and be open to new job opportunities. It’ll also help you to focus in the key skills required by universities.

Researching

5. Collaborate in research projects with others, if possible from different universities and countries.

6. Take care of your research project pipeline. Have projects in different stages: new ideas; research in process; and articles pending to be reviewed and submitted to journals.

– In 2014, publish 1 paper in a journal indexed in JCR (Thomson Reuters); 1 indexed in EBSCO/Scopus or the like; and 1 indexed in a regional or specialized field database.

– Go identifying journals that best fits your articles. Try Gaudeamus – The academic network for publishing in journals.

7. Disseminate your published papers periodically in the social networks, such as Google+, Linkedin, ResearchGate or Acadamia.edu.

Other activities

8. Keep peer-reviewing papers for indexed journals, and collaborating as Board Member of research Institutions and journals.

9. Be attentive to new opportunities to start a business and transfer knowledge to society, based on your specialized scientific background.

10. Help other colleagues and students; be kind to people.

  

I wish you a happy holiday season and a rewarding 2014 for you and your families.

Women academics on fire, the sciences on ice

women academics on fire, the sciences on ice

I am passionate about the issue of women and academia; well, generally in everything that has to do with higher education and publications. Here I found several different issues, on two different levels.

The first level has to do with women’s access to higher education, which I won’t go this time. The other level is more sophisticated, if I can use the expression, and includes two issues in particular:

  1. The first is why women don’t have access to full professor positions, which I wrote about obliquely in another post about self-citations; being the reason, in short, their publications in journals.
  2. And the other is why there are fewer women holding professorships in STEM areas (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), which is what I will discuss or reflect here (women academics on fire, the sciences on ice).

The other day I received a McKinsey article on women; articles that are almost always good and interesting. It was called ‘How to attract US women to the sciences’, and was saying that “compared with their counterparts elsewhere, American women shun STEM fields of knowledge”.

The reasoning i not simple: it is not that science appeals less to women, or that they make it worse than men, which is almost the opposite, at least in high school (Mckinsey, 2013); but that they are less interested in choosing these types of grades at college. In other words, in general, women are not attracted to STEM sciences as a career option, the place where they will spend the rest of their lives….

  • And going further, it is not that women are not interested at all, it is that the alternatives are better, at least in developed countries, such as business, nursing or law (academic) careers; which now have better or equal prestige and opportunities than that of the STEM areas.
  • Additionally, it appears that academic careers in STEM areas are less rewarding for women, at least in terms of publications, since female scientists often get less credit than a comparatively male researcher, even if their work is similar.

If this is really so, that STEM science careers in academia is not so attractive to women, what can be done? Should we do something? Even if women themselves are against it? It may also be that women are not fascinated by the idea of ​​being in an academic world in which their work is less valued, even by themselves, and this indeed can be changed.

A professor’s self-examination

a professor's self-examinationNow that the academic year is over and I am rested and recovered, it is time to do some self-assessment of how it went and to outline a plan for the coming year. This is a suggestion of questions for a self-examination as a professor.

First I have to be happy because I have the good fortune to be a university professor: it is a very varied, challenging and rewarding activity that allows me to make life better for others, to improve a little the world, and to grow as a person.

With respect to what is expected of me as a professor:

  • Did I prepare conveniently the classes?
  • Did I come to class on time? Did I go motivated or by mere compliance?
  • Did I correct/present the academic grades and other administrative documents on time?
  • Did I take the time to research and publish in academic journals? Did I seek to innovate in my research and contribute to the literature with my papers?

With respect to the others, students and colleagues:

  • Did I attend my students properly and with interest in their education?
  • How did I treat my peers? Did I willingly collaborate with them or did I just do the bare minimum required to meet my objectives?
  • Did I help other professors, for example from countries with fewer resources, to improve and publish, by providing my advice?
  • When a journal editor asked me to be a peer-reviewer, what did I do? Did I only accept if the journal had high impact factor?

With regard to myself and my goals:

  • Was I concerned about my training and reading to be a better teacher and researcher?
  • What was it that inspired my academic life: the others, improving the world, or else were the prestige and money?
  • Did I act as a professor normally in consciousness or was I driven by other motives such as obtaining publications, fear of losing the job, or what peers/students could say?

I understand that (academic) life is tough and stressful, and seeing how the things go in the world I’ll settle for the next course to fulfill my duties as a professor with students, to collaborate with my peers and to devote some time to study and research. And you?

Teaching or research: what goes first?

Teaching or research - what goes firstBeing a university professor is very complex and demanding.

Professors generally are required to perform the following activities:

  1. Teach, conducting lectures and seminars; and mentor students.
  2. Perform advanced research in their fields, publishing their work in scientific journals.
  3. Provide consulting and advising functions, being this way closed to the reality.
  4. Conduct administrative or managerial functions at university or departments.

Is it possible, as some claim, to teach without research? At the end, being a good communicator has nothing to do with research.

What about research? Being a superb specialist does not mean that you are a good teacher, one can end up losing the wider scope of knowledge needed to teach.

But we are not just teachers (being good educators) nor pure researchers (improving the world), we are professors, we should master both of them; it makes sense and is required by all university and educational bodies all over the world, setting even the exact time for research and teaching.

Both are complementary and interwoven.

  • Teaching based on researching support the learning process and brings quality to teaching:  Research enriches teaching.
  • Research is fundamental in developing new knowledge and bridging the gap between academia and reality: Teaching develops research.

And going back to practical reality, the experience of successful professors is that both teaching and research spur our academic careers: without research one cannot be much effective in teaching, and vice-versa.

I am happy to be a university professor

teaching

This week I would like to share with you the personal opinion of professors about our work, our profession, how we see ourselves.

I summarize the responses, collected in the social networks.

LEARNING EXPERIENCE

  • Charlotte: We learn as we teach. Teaching requires a constant improvement of the mind. That keeps you young.
  • Deepak: It is the joy of knowing and the satisfaction of giving it back in a refined manner what you know and have learnt.
  • Kirsten: The challenge of acquiring new knowledge and passing it on.

CHALLENGE

  • Keshav: I love teaching because it gives me an opportunity to interact with young minds.
  • Denis: It’s knowing that we have challenged not only our wee students but colleague as well! I received this email recently: Sometime when I finish with you I need a brain massage (smile) enjoying every minute”
  • Ammini: It puts you in the right environment, intellectual colleagues, academic and cultural activities and a whole bunch of young enthusiastic students.
  • Gregory: I feel great being a professor because of the “high” I get when I leave the classroom every day!

PROUD

  • Wane: Being a Professor is just great and natural, it is a coveted title and I am proud of it because I worked and earned it.
  • Ashu: Can anyone get such love (from students) and respect in any other profession…?
  • Ralph: Teaching profession is the noblest of all professions in this world of human affairs.

REWARD

  • Jorge: I don’t know if I want to do anything else but teaching at this point in my career.
  • Charlotte: Sometimes there is a phone call or a letter from someone who remembers a phrase, an answer, an encouragement. That’s a big reward.
  • Ravi: When I feel sick I raise up muster some strength and take a class. After one hour I get renewed energy. I am happy to be a teacher.
  • Mohandas: I chose teaching as a profession way back in 1968,… and I am still in love with my profession, teaching.
  • Mike: An hour in a class room with enthusiastic students gives you enough stimuli to face the problems.
  • Shubash: Today I have completed over 40 years in this job and still admire of my decision. When students look into my eyes and listen to you, I felt satisfied and even great
  • Janet: It’s a hard job, but I love it like no other job I’ve ever had.

CONTRIBUTION TO SOCIETY / CHANGE AGENT

  • Yasmin: I feel that I have made a small but value added contribution to the society.
  • Howard: My job is …  to help others to see and work politically to achieve some measure of social justice and transformation.
  • Rup: My passion is working with my students in a lab setting. Many of my former students are working in the industry and that’s what makes my job worthwhile.
  • Sushil: Another thing that makes me feel very good is that I keep running into my students and it is so good to know that most of them have found very good jobs after two years at a community college.
  • Kate: My satisfaction came in large part as a “change agent” in their lives.
  • Dugdale: I enjoy most is seeing my students faces light up when “they get it” and watching them become a professional in their field of Physical Therapy.
  • Richard: I love the impact that I’ve had on my “kids”.

HELP OTHERS

  • Penny: I feel that I am molding new nurses and getting them started appropriately. I just love to teach. When I stop loving what I do, then I will stop.
  • Barry: Each year and each class is a new beginning. I love what I do in the classroom. Well-rounded students are the ultimate outcomes of today’s professors.
  • Mohammad: As a student I used to read to pass my own exams but now I am reading to ensure my students pass with merit!
  • Chris: It’s great to feel that you’re really helping people and having an impact on lives.
  • Jane: I always feel great every time am teaching my students, we are part of their future because we are there to support and help them.

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Profs are the inspiration for this blog and for Gaudeamus, built to help them to keep changing the world.

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