Roundup of the most read Career Advice articles in 2023 (opinion)


Working in higher education—or seeking to do so—brought its share of challenges this year, as suggested by the myriad issues the “Career Advice” section has tackled over the past months. Various writers have weighed in with recommendations about how readers can succeed professionally in their careers as well as help promulgate a healthy and supportive working environment. As we look forward to 2024, we want to present some of the best-read pieces in case you didn’t catch them before or just want a quick review. Best wishes for career success in the new year!

On Faculty Members

We ran numerous pieces about faculty members, whether senior and seasoned or just starting out in academe. One of the most popular for professors at the beginning of their careers was by Karlyn Crowley, who offers “A Wish List for New Faculty.” Her 20 recommendations for success include “Be caring, but also set boundaries around expectations students will encounter doing life” and “Remember sometimes you have a bad day and so do students; emphasize that resilience and solid habits matter, not perfection.”

Readers also gravitated to articles focused specifically on how faculty members can improve different aspects of their teaching. In fact, the most-read “Careers” piece in Inside Higher Ed this entire year was by Kerry O’Grady on “Getting a Grasp on Grade Grubbing,” in which she contends that “the leniency with grading and academic standards has hurt both faculty members and students, and we need to reset expectations.” She urges instructors to make—and stand by—some key statements to students, such as “A’s mean excellent work” and “It’s unethical to give unearned grades.”

In “The Uncertain Future of Class Discussions,” Douglas L. Howard examines student engagement in class, which dropped precipitously during the pandemic and still “remains in question even today.” To re-engage students, instructors need to get them to “see themselves as part of larger conversations—about disciplines, about communities, about cultures, about governments, about the world,” Howard writes. “Where they may have been more than happy to be passive learners in a Zoom gallery full of tiny faces, our challenge is to bring them back into that active classroom dialogue that has long been a source of intellectual stimulation and educational achievement.”

Not surprisingly, articles about the use of artificial intelligence in the classroom also garnered significant attention, such as one by Elizabeth Steere on “The Trouble With AI Writing Detection.” After listing some of the tools students are using to rephrase AI-generated text, Steere describes her desire to not “play plagiarism police” and concern that her “students gain a foundational knowledge of academically honest practices and understand the importance of originality and appropriate citation of words and ideas from others.” She writes, “Perhaps as we work to integrate it meaningfully and ethically, and teach students how to cite it’s use, they will feel less compelled to disguise AI-generated writing.”

On Administrators

One of the most read pieces was by Daniel Park on “6 Powers Administrators Should Cultivate” in order to enhance their effectiveness: curiosity, empathy, assuming good intentions, teamwork, humility and apology. Park examines each one in depth and also counsels readers to “always be looking for ways to turn negatives into positives. Every job comes with frustrations. Every career has setbacks. A positive outlook makes those challenges easier to handle.” In addition, he says, “If you are cheerful, enthusiastic and energetic, other people will like working with you, and you can’t succeed as a university administrator without the help of other people.”

Jennifer Snodgrass shared advice for those just starting out in “10 Things I’ve Learned as a New Administrator.” Her lessons include “Get a table for your office and invite people to sit around it,” “Teach a class of undergrads even when you don’t think you have time” and “Know your adjunct faculty members by name and the specific talents they bring to your school and institution.”

Other popular articles focused on administrators in specific positions. Peter Eckel’s The Trouble With Strategy” urged presidents to recognize that higher education “deserves a different paradigm for strategy and planning.” Eckel asserts that conventional planning “forecloses options rather than raises questions and identifies opportunities,” and he recommends that campus leaders think of a strategic plan as more of a compass than a road map, given that the roads that institutions are traveling are continually changing. “What would happen,” he asks, “if a strategy asked targeted questions to pursue, rather than presented binding pathways to take?”

Another favorite among readers was Richard Utz’s piece “Taking Umbridge With Associate Deans,” which explores in particular “why associate deans are so parodied.” It focuses on a Twitter user called Associate Deans that has “gained notoriety by ‘Making fun of middle management in colleges and universities.’” Associate Deans, who has assigned their Twitter persona “a top-memed picture of actress Imelda Staunton in her role as Dolores Umbridge, the most despised character of the Harry Potter transmedia enterprise,” Utz says, “believes there are ‘too many’ of these bureaucrats.” But Utz argues that almost every associate dean he knows has “worked hard to fulfill indispensable roles” and their “professional ethos” has been “all about building and sustaining the conditions in which faculty and students can thrive.”

On Graduate Students

Articles on grad students also covered a multitude of topics, offering guidance to those who are just considering the idea of pursuing a Ph.D. as well as others far along in the process of gaining their degree. Two of the most read pieces were “Navigating the First Years of a Ph.D. Program” and “New Regulations Will Impact Graduate Enrollment.”

The first one, by S. Mohsen Fatemi, is based on his personal experience as a new Ph.D. student himself. He offers a plethora of tips on how to have the most positive experience in working toward one’s doctorate: how to identify the right adviser, why it’s important to be visible, how to maintain a clear goal while remain adaptable to changing circumstances and many more.

In the second essay, L. Maren Wood takes a broad look at new federal regulations the Biden administration is rolling out, “designed to hold institutions accountable for the costs of their programs and alumni career outcomes.” Those regulations, according to Wood, will enable students to compare programs and identify those that will best prepare them for a well-paying career. “Career outcomes will increasingly matter,” she predicts, “certificates and master’s degree will be less appealing” and “graduate programs that thrive will be those that invest heavily in career support.”

On Search Committees and Recruiting

In a best-read article targeted to search committees and recruiters, “A Mistake to Avoid in Leadership Searches,” Annmarie Caño challenges the commonly held view that the best candidate for a position is someone who has held the same one at another institution. “When we narrow the field based on a title,” she argues, “we may miss out on hiring exceptional people who have the capabilities that our institutions need.” Caño suggests that “more people need to question their assumptions about who makes a great academic leader.”

We’ll end with a more general and somewhat unusual piece, “Why More Colleges Should Focus on Knitting,” which also resonated with our readers. In it, Diane Downer Anderson, citing the pandemic, climate change, racial injustice and political upheaval, observes, “Students and professors alike are stressed and searching for ever more ways to balance the ups and downs.” Through knitting and other kinds of crafting, she says, they can “develop empathy and patience” for those “struggling to learn new skills,” for those “who have been historically discriminated against” and also “for themselves.” She concludes, “We are all humbled and empowered in ways that begin to mend the world.”

Sarah Hardesty Bray is the “Career Advice” editor for Inside Higher Ed.



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