What (academically) are you good at?

Another blog I read asked this question the other day. How you answer tells you a lot about how good you are at promoting yourself (a trait that will become very important as we advance in our careers and start job-searching, etc.). For example, if you preface your answer with “I think I’m good at…” you make yourself sound weak.

The blogger also noticed that very few professors in her experience would answer this question with “I’m a good teacher or mentor” – even if they had won awards in the past for teaching! I think how we answer this question says a lot about our views on academia and our place in it. If we believe research is the most important part of a professor’s job, then of course we won’t list “teaching” as one of our better skills for fear that doing so would make us look like we have nothing else to offer.

When I thought about how I would choose to answer this question, I realized my answer would change depending on whether my lab(and blog)mates were in the room. I apparently feel more comfortable building myself up as a researcher when people who have actually seen me research (or not) are not in the room. This shocked me and is making me re-evaluate what it is I’m good at.

These “tips” aren’t news – we should all be capable of recognizing that qualifying our answer is a no-no. It’s hard to admit that we are really good at something useful, and not just “getting by” or “messing around” or something. I encourage anyone who reads this to think about how they would answer this question (and if you feel comfortable, post your answer in the comments section so we can marvel at what wonderful readers we have!)

Women in Science

Yes, surprise, another post by me (Caroline, NOT Big Chief, despite certain RSS feeds)!

Browsing around the interweb this evening, I came across a number of blogs by women scientists (both grad students and professors) that detail some of the issues that they face in their career of choice. The writers don’t let on which “-ology” they study, or what university they are associated with. Now, with the exception of ones my advisor suggests to me (Hawks), or ones I find through links from Hawks, or ones my friends write, I don’t really read academic blogs. So finding these was a wake-up call (to me) making me realize what Hawks meant when he posted his blogging philosophies a while back and mentioned the “to be anonymous or not” debate. It makes me wonder if these authors worry about not gaining tenure because of something they post in a blog, or if (despite my having skimmed the posts on their first pages) some of the blogs’ content is not so academic after all, or if they use their blog to trash people in their profession… But, aside from these curiosities, I am mainly interested to learn what women in scientific academia deal with on a daily basis. In case any of you are also interested in such blogs, here are the ones I found: