The First Year: Filter The Noise

Throughout my life I’ve always anticipated transitions with apprehension. I distinctly remember entering ninth grade nervous about the social climate, worried about the idea of taking final exams, and scared overall about the academic challenges ahead. These emotions were not unique to this experience. Whether it was starting college, beginning graduate school, or entering my postdoc, I’ve always had a difficult time managing my emotions and esteem when starting new endeavors.

This year I faced yet another transition: beginning my first year as a tenure-track assistant professor. I still remember receiving my job offer and being elated for weeks; I landed my dream job. Then the apprehension of transition came back, and I became overwhelmed. Could I really do this? How would I handle this new situation that everyone reports as a daunting one? As I did in the past, I asked many people I knew who started tenure-track jobs for advice.

As you would expect, the advice is what one typically hears. Expect long hours and late nights. Expect struggles in teaching. You will be overwhelmed. You will be tired. Fear tenure. And that’s okay…… But it’s not. It’s not okay.

Here I was, extremely excited to be entering my dream job after years of working toward it, and I was flooded by overwhelming negative messages about the stresses ahead. Instead of focusing on these, I decided to celebrate. This was the time for me to feel on top of the world. I was in the unique position to start my dream job and begin a lifetime of work that I was intrisincially motivated to do. I wanted my experience to be fueled by excitement, not fear!

So what did I do? I filtered the noise. I focused my energy on advice that was positive, advice that encouraged me. I was fortunate enough to land in a department where the majority of advice from my senior colleagues was just that; and it worked wonders. That tone of advice was instrumental in making my first year of tenure-track a much smoother transition than any other academic one.

Don’t get me wrong, there were certainly challenges along the way, and it was a lot of work, but by filtering the noise I was able to keep my emotions in check the entire year despite what came at me. So if you’re about to start college, gearing up for graduate school, starting a postdoc or any other job, remember to filter the noise and keep it positive!

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About Mohamed Omar

Mohamed Omar is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College
This entry was posted in Changing Graduate Programs, Going to graduate school, graduation, postdocs, Tenure. Bookmark the permalink.

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