I have been thinking recently about how I would like my career to be. I am trying to narrow my focus so that I can figure out what is important (and then say “no” to things that get in the way of the important thing). Then I had a serendipitous conversation with my wife last night. She was making a list of “values” for herself. This list will help her make decisions about what she should and should not do in the future.
I realized that this is exactly what I have been considering recently, only I have been thinking about my “career values” rather than “life values” (this is not a perfect match—the word “goals” applies much more to my example than hers).
So here is what I currently have for a list of values. These are the things that I want to focus on for my career, and I will work to minimize things that do not belong on this list. This is also only a draft—I will be preparing my tenure file this summer, and I will do some deeper thinking about this then.
- I want to continue to improve my teaching. This is the most obvious one, but it should be included.
- I want to do research in finite group theory. This is one of the two values that has the least direction. So far, I have kind of been all over the place in my research, and not in a good way. The only theme I have seen so far is “I seem to be interested in maximal subgroups.”
- I want to help K-12 teachers improve their teaching. This is mostly done by teaching pre-service courses, but this could be met in other ways.
- I want to help close the gender gap in mathematics. Kate Owens has been inspiring me on this lately, and it is the value that I have the very least direction on. I have also only begun to think about it. At some point, I am going to have to sit down and read a bunch of the literature.
This is my list for now. This means that my default answer should be “no” to any other requests of my time (in theory, at least). For instance, I had considered eventually running for Chair of the Faculty Senate, but faculty governance is much less important to me than these four things. So I will stop actively thinking about this, although I would be happy to be a senator again in the Faculty Senate (which requires a lot less time—I have to do some service, after all).
Has anyone else thought of their careers like this? Any advice?