Not the newbie anymore – growing into mid-career mentorship

I’m 35. I’m an Assistant Professor. I haven’t used all three shots at an NSF CAREER proposal. By many measures, I’m early career. But… This is year 8 on the tenure track, my first round of federal grants is into the no-cost extension stage, and I’ve both graduated and published with multiple cohorts of graduate students. I survived year 1, year 2, and beyond. At some point, I realized that this whole “professor gig” was what I was doing with my life. It isn’t always easy, but it’s a lot easier now than it was when I started. So by some metrics at least, I’m some distance past early career.

But sometimes I feel unprepared for honorific “mid-career” and the role as a mentor that this stage of my career seems to be inviting.

I have junior colleagues who come to me for advice. I’m not always sure I have good advice to give, but I listen and can usually tell them what my experiences have been in somewhat similar situations, how it worked out, what I’d do differently, and maybe even what I’d recommend they do. But often I feel like a complete impostor. How can I be considered a good source of advice, when I don’t even have tenure and my publication record is not where I want it to be? Continue reading