Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Unsolicited Advice, While Pregnant or Professor

When I was pregnant, a ton of random people used to come up to me at the grocery store, movie theater, walmart - everywhere - giving me unsolicited advice. It was like I was wearing a sign. A few times it was a birth horror story of someone they knew, sometimes it was asking me if I was having twins, and once it was a waitress telling me to not drink decaf coffee because it would give my unborn child pink eye. (I wish I were joking).

All of my friends seem to have experienced this bizarre phenomenon as well, so I guess there must be some sort of Protect The Children collective group thing going on.

In any case, I find this strange phenomenon happening again as a new professor. I get unsolicited advice early and often from others. It's often pre-packaged tidbits, like, "Teaching is like a gas - it consumes all space available". Sometimes it's strange things, like the more senior assistant professor who put a hand on my arm, looks me in the eye and says, "It gets better." (like I was grieving the death of a loved one).

I know this is all well intentioned, but sometimes when I get unsolicited professorial advice I desperately want to say back, "YES. I AM HAVING TWINS.", just to see the look on their face.


  1. :-) You are more experienced than a typical junior faculty so all this advice probably seems superfluous and perhaps even condescending to you. In other words, you probably feel like you know what you are doing, which I can tell you from experience is not how a typical junior faculty feels. I think many (most?) junior faculty are actually quite bewildered and disoriented in their first year and really hungry for advice. Honestly, I wish more people had given me advice when I first started. I love advice.

  2. I can feel your pain. But I am a junior faculty starting my second year of tenure track, and I really wish people would give me more advice! That would have certainly helped me avoid some of the time-sink activities that I signed up for last year.

  3. I think the biggest problem with unsolicited advice is that it's usually provided without the giver knowing the surrounding context. For example, "don't do such-and-such service task", but it turns out doing it scored a home run for your department, which made the dean happy, which lead to an invitation from the president to a reception, where you meet a donor, who gives your lab a gazillion bucks.

    You just never know. Even something that looks like it has low visibility - student newspaper writes an article, which then the national press picks up, which then -- etc.

    Anyway, bar none I think the biggest time sink is email. I'd be 5000 times more productive without it.

  4. Anyway, bar none I think the biggest time sink is email. I'd be 5000 times more productive without it.

    I hear ya. If you find a good way to quit the habit, please do share. I also find blog-surfing to be killing me lately. I need to find a way to control my internet abuse.