Interviews With Psychologists: December 2014

Each issue, we ask professors a question that we think might provide useful information to current students. This issue, we asked:

What is the best advice YOU have ever received (academic or otherwise)?

Well, I'll stay with academic.  I believe it was in a talk by Phil Zimbardo, a long time ago.  He said: imagine that the latest journal in your field has just arrived in the mail.  (I told you this was a long time ago.)  You scan the table of contents and see an article that, from its title alone, causes you to cancel everything else you were planning to do that morning so that you can sit down and read it.  Here's the advice: Write that article.  If you don't, nobody else will, and you'll never have a chance to read it.

DAVID FUNDER, University of California Riverside

When I first came to Michigan, the associate chair at the time, Rob Sellers, met with a group of incoming assistant professors including myself. He told us that over the next few years, we'd be getting (often conflicting) advice on many things, from many people that we respect. His advice to us was to "follow our hearts" in those circumstances and do what we find most meaningful. I took that advice to heart, and it has yet to steer me wrong.

ETHAN KROSS, University of Michigan

My adviser always told me how important it is to be responsible and careful in the research that you do. She also told me that it’s important to have a life outside of academia (shocking, I know)…that it’s ok to read a book for fun, etc. She was the person who made me take the “word vomit” approach to writing where you just get *something* on paper and then edit it later. She really gave great academic and life advice.

ERICA SLOTTER Villanova University

I'm grateful to have had so many mentors and colleagues share their academic wisdom—but the one piece of advice that stuck with me the most was more personal. The advice came from a friend and informal mentor, who was a well-established scholar in another discipline. As soon as I landed an academic job, she didn’t jump into talk of academic success: she pushed me to start thinking about the "rest" of my life—that is, all the career-unrelated decisions, goals, and experiences. What "the rest of life" means will vary for different people, but it can mean having kids, spending time on relationships, travel, other passions and pursuits. She pointed out that a lot of academics she knew had put off making decisions about the "rest" of their lives until after the post doc, after the stable job, after the first grant, after tenure... and sometimes missed out on the fullness of life because everything except career was on hold. There will always be another career goal or hurdle, the to-do list will never be empty. If you wait until you feel free and clear and "ready" to start the "rest" of your life, you may never reach the point you feel "ready."

ANNE WILSON, Wilfrid Laurier University

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