6 self-care tips for job-searching contingent faculty

Are you juggling several course preps and grading hundreds of papers over the weekend while managing a job search? With so many demands on your time, it can be hard to find the energy and motivation to take care of yourself.

Without self-care, your fuel will run low very quickly. If you do not take care of yourself, who will? Setting proper boundaries and making time for yourself can help you find the energy to tend to your present responsibilities and to work towards your future goals.

Below you will find six tips to help you make time to consider and tend to your needs and mental health as a busy contingent faculty member.

You are worth it!

1. Say “no” to perfectionism

Now is not the time to give in to perfectionism. Your goal should be to do your job “well enough” as you search for your next opportunity. For recovering perfectionists, putting limits on how much time you spend working on your teaching duties can be difficult. It may seem that you are not giving your best. You may even feel guilty.

Look at what your colleagues at the same rank are doing. If you are a perfectionist, chances are that you are working much more than they are. Armed with this knowledge, evaluate how much you need to give in order to maintain your current employment.

You need to let go of your perfectionist tendencies to have the mental energy and time to work on your future plans.

2. Stay organized as much as possible

A key to managing stress is to find ways to control what you can.

If you are in charge of several courses, try to set up a detailed calendar before the start of the semester for your daily lectures and homework assignments. Knowing what comes next helps to reduce decision fatigue and confusion as the semester unfolds.

A less cluttered work space will also help reduce stress as you will spend less time searching for misplaced files or items. Keep your desk in order by setting time daily or on a weekly basis to organize your digital and paper files. Recycle or archive items you no longer need.

3. Streamline grading

As a job seeker, you need to carve out some extra time in your schedule. One way to accomplish this is is to automate or simplify grading.

If you are teaching a grading-intensive course and have control over course syllabi and assignment creation, you may want to carefully consider both the quantity and type of assignments or assessments you will be giving. Remember that each assignments means extra work for you as well.

If you must assign open-ended or creative projects, making grading rubrics will clarify your expectations for your students, streamline the grading process, and reduce the potential for complaints or grade appeals.

Many textbook publishers now offer online workbooks, and some offer the option of filtering questions by type. You may want to assign more automatically-graded assignments, depending on the course you are teaching.

Find out if your department offers the assistance of a grader. Delegating some simple grading tasks to a hired student worker might save you hours each week.

4. Set boundaries at work

Think about how you could set boundaries at work so that you do not over-commit and burn out.

Could you say no to certain service activities you are doing? Only commit to those activities that really energize you or that may be useful in your future career path.

Set boundaries on how students or colleagues can reach you. Will you answer your email after 5 p.m.? What about on the weekends? Decide what is appropriate and communicate this information to them to set clear expectations. Put it in your course syllabus.

5. Find a space to work

Find a peaceful and preferably semi-private space where you can work. Like many contingent faculty members, you may not have a private office on campus. You may have to share a space with other instructors.

While socializing can lift your spirits, sometimes you just need to get work done. See if your campus library has study carrels or quiet study areas where you can focus on your work without interruptions. The more you are able to focus, the more work you will be able to leave at the office. Perhaps you will manage to get it all done for the day, and that can make you feel better a lot better about your workload!

6. Take advantage of free or low-cost self-care resources on campus

Many university campuses offer self-care resources for faculty on campus to help you stay active and healthy.

Look at your university website and see if they have the following services:

  1. Recreational Sports Center: Some universities have a designated gym or even fitness classes for faculty and staff (so you don’t have to work out with your students).
  2. Dining Services: Some campuses have a staff nutritionist who can help you select healthier options in the cafeteria and answer your questions about nutrition.
  3. Human Resources: Find out what faculty benefits are available to you. Some colleges have weight management courses, financial health workshops, professional development workshops, or tuition remission for courses.
  4. Employee Assistance Program: As a faculty member, you may not have access to the campus Counseling Center, but some colleges have a confidential employee assistance program (EAP) to connect you to mental health or financial health resources.

What self-care tips have you applied in your job search as a contingent faculty?

Join the conversation in our Community where members share job-searching strategies, support, and encouragement.

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