Waiting a year

In my last post, I mentioned that I deferred starting my job for a year, which is one of the best career decisions I’ve made.

When I was in graduate school, I didn’t understand deferring at all. The point of getting a faculty job was to be a professor, right? Why would anyone get that job and then spend an extra year not being a professor? And it definitely didn’t seem like a good idea to give up a year of faculty salary and benefits.

But then I actually had the opportunity to defer, and all of a sudden it started to seem like a much more attractive option. I could have a whole extra year to finish projects! And to set up my lab! And to get a head start on that whole tenure thing!

Part of what made my deferral year such a great idea was, indeed, the opportunity to do all of those things. I did finish some projects, and I started some new ones, which gives me some much-needed momentum. I think it would be harder to start an entirely new line of work in my first year as a TT faculty member; it seems slightly easier to continue something I’m already doing. I submitted a couple of grants, like I mentioned before. I worked with an entire team of people (from facilities at my new school, from an architecture firm) to design my lab, which is currently being constructed. Without my deferral year, I would have spent my first year on the tenure clock waiting for a place to do my science.

The biggest benefit, though, is probably the psychological boost I get from having done all those things. As ridiculous as it sounds to be thinking about tenure before my official start date rolls around, I feel more prepared for the long haul as a professor because I had this head start. I’m less stressed about having enough time to do everything I need to do.

Ironically, given the stance my graduate school self had on deferring, I’m a little nervous about my deferral year coming to an end. It’s been really helpful to have all of this unstructured time where anything that I accomplished was icing on the cake, and I’m a little sad to give that up. But also, super excited to start being a professor for real.

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Author: Happy Balloon

I am a new assistant professor in a STEM field at a research university. If you think you've figured out my actual name (which, sadly, is not Happy Balloon), please refrain from posting it anywhere here. But please do feel free to post all manner of other comments!