The time seemed to have flown by in one sense and yet in another, it seemed like forever. It was hard to believe that after three long years, I was about to return to the world of work. Now with my doctoral degree in hand, the possibilities were unlimited. But where should my marker be placed?
This was indeed an important decision. Relocating to a new community and starting my academic career was going to impact all aspects of my life: personal, professional, social, financial, spiritual. In fact, my decision about where to relocate was going to shape the next phase of my life.
My mentor, Dr. B., was good at challenging me to stretch and examine ideas and information from different perspectives. So I scheduled some time with him to prepare for my interviews. Prior to meeting, he directed me to complete a comprehensive search about each University, to include the Departments that I was applying, colleagues, students, teaching, research, publishing, and tenure requirements. He then suggested that I make a list of potential questions that might be asked of me during my interview. After completing the assigned tasks, I scheduled our meeting.
Dr. B. loved asking questions. Almost as soon as I sat down, he began probing to see what I had learned about my potential academic institutions. Once he was satisfied that I had an accurate grasp about each, Dr. B. began drilling me for the interview itself.
After an hour of intense questioning, he casually asked “What questions are you going to ask?” I looked at him with a blank stare. I hadn’t spent any time thinking about questions that I might need answers.“Well, young lady, you had better get busy making your list.” Dr. B. reminded me that the interview was not just about me demonstrating that I was the person for the position; but rather, it was also about me listening, observing, and probing to ensure that the position was best for me. I assured him that when I got home I would spend time reflecting on our discussions about the Universities and generating my questions. And before he could remind me, I quickly interjected and “I will make sure that my questions affirm and clarify any assumptions that I have made.” He smiled and gave me the look of approval. It was something about his look that made me realize there was another important aspect of the process that I needed his feedback. How should I organize the information that I gathered so that a prudent decision could be made?
Dr. B. didn’t hesitate to tell me that as soon as each interview was completed, I should take a sheet of paper and label two columns, one the pros (things that would be beneficial to me- contribute to my success professionally and other aspects of my life) and the other cons (things that could get in the way of my success and adversely affect my professional performance and other aspects of my life). Then re-examine both, making sure everything was included. Compare the pros and cons.
“So what do you think is most important to your decision making?” I was uncertain. Dr. B. proceeded to enlighten me. “You can live with the pros- because those are all the things you think are beneficial. The crucial question is “can you live with the cons?” Choose the University that you can best live with the cons.
After completing my interviews, identifying, and comparing the pros and cons, it became clear that the “cons” did matter the most.
- How do you know you can live with the cons?
- What can you do to make sure you know the ramifications of the cons?
- Have you ever made a decision focused solely on the pros that turned out not to be a good decision?