Tenure track at an R1 and talent/ability?

attaca

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May 21, 2020
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I'm finishing up my first academic year as tenure-track faculty at an R1 (prior to that, I did a research postdoc/research scientist thing for two years, followed by a year as a VAP at a small teaching school), and I'm increasingly wondering if I'm cognitively capable of the level of work that this job requires. I constantly feel like I'm struggling to meet the expectations for the amount and quality of work we are expected to do, and while I always did well at research before (getting 3-5 articles a year, about half of them first-author), I'm realizing that the demands were much lower and the supports were much higher compared to what I'm experiencing now. I did a good bit of LD assessment in grad school, and I saw a lot of my clients hit "walls" when task demands simply outstripped their abilities, and I feel like I'm hitting that same type of wall--not in an LD way, just in a "I don't know if i have the ability to do this" way. I have mentors and collaborators who manage to clear these types of expectations with ease, so I know that they aren't unreasonable, but I feel like I'm scrambling over the same hurdles that they are clearing with room to spare.

Advice? At what point do consider that maybe I'm just not cut out for this level of academia?
 

Justanothergrad

Counseling Psychologist
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Mar 2, 2013
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I don't know your discipline (clinical/counseling/school), but here are a few readings below about what's typical. This exact question led me to analyze publication trends last year using the few prior studies as a guide for comparison over time. I can speak more in depth on Counseling publication trends since I've published in that area recently but wont if you're clinical. Expectations increase and there is a vested interest by academic institutions to ask for more (I mean, why not? ignoring burnout... there is a pool of people looking to get in each year). It sounds like you have a track record of productivity. I would expect that you'll hit your stride again as you settle in. The first year always feels hectic for so many reasons in my experience (and those of my colleagues at other schools - R1/R2 and in/out of psych).

Brynes (2006) Publishing Trends of Psychology Faculty During Their Pretenure Years
Stewart et al (2007) Scholarly Productivity in Clinical Psychology PhD Programs: A Normative Assessment of Publication Rates
Currin and Ingram (2020) Current trends of peer review publications among early career counseling psychologists in academia
Way et al (2017) The misleading narrative of the canonical faculty productivity trajectory

Year 1 checklist from my eyes, especially this year
[ ] find the bathroom
[ ] find the bathroom the cleaning staff put TP in
[ ] find the coffee
[ ] find good coffee
[ ] get lab setup
[ ] publish /something/, or submit something. R&R's count. 1 thing is the first year bar, honestly.
[ ] establish some enjoyable non-work life habits, like drinking (I kid, I kid)
[ ] pick how much you're willing to work and what you're willing to put into it. Do that much. read this
[ ] definitely don't quit after a year.
 
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irish80122

DCT at Miss State U.
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Apr 26, 2003
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  1. Psychologist
I'm finishing up my first academic year as tenure-track faculty at an R1 (prior to that, I did a research postdoc/research scientist thing for two years, followed by a year as a VAP at a small teaching school), and I'm increasingly wondering if I'm cognitively capable of the level of work that this job requires. I constantly feel like I'm struggling to meet the expectations for the amount and quality of work we are expected to do, and while I always did well at research before (getting 3-5 articles a year, about half of them first-author), I'm realizing that the demands were much lower and the supports were much higher compared to what I'm experiencing now. I did a good bit of LD assessment in grad school, and I saw a lot of my clients hit "walls" when task demands simply outstripped their abilities, and I feel like I'm hitting that same type of wall--not in an LD way, just in a "I don't know if i have the ability to do this" way. I have mentors and collaborators who manage to clear these types of expectations with ease, so I know that they aren't unreasonable, but I feel like I'm scrambling over the same hurdles that they are clearing with room to spare.

Advice? At what point do consider that maybe I'm just not cut out for this level of academia?

JustAnotherGrad's advice is very good, just a couple things I thought I would add.

First of all, this was not a normal year by any stretch. I don't know your life circumstances, but many of us were stretched extremely thin by COVID. Don't be too harsh on yourself for this year, remember that you were operating in the midst of a pandemic, likely being asked to so something (or somethings) that you have never done before.

Aside from that, I think it is valuable to find a trusted mentor or two, ideally one in your department and one outside of your department. Some colleges have a mentorship program like this already setup, others don't and you have to find folks on your own, but I would encourage you to find people whom you respect and will trust, because you will need that both for if change needs to happen, or to believe them if they say you are doing the job.

My guess is that it isn't your intelligence that is getting in the way, but some circumstance or maladaptive strategy. Sometimes it can be things as simple as overcoming a hesitancy to collaborate with others, or knowing what is good enough to submit a paper or a grant. I have seen many faculty members get stopped in their tracks by anxiety and perfectionism.

I hope that helps some, and at least some of it rings true. Remember as well that departments have formal processes for rating junior faculty. You should get feedback as you go along on how you are doing. If there is ever a question ask your head or chair!
 
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