1. It's a lonely job, meaning he spends a lot of time sitting alone in his office and writing grants
2. There is no one cheerleading for him and telling him he's doing a great job. Most of the cheerleading comes from other assistant profs he knows, in the form of group commiseration.
I've heard before that writing is a fairly lonely event, but I picture myself getting up from my desk every few hours and doing something like speaking with a colleague down the hall, or visiting my students in the lab. I also figure there will be a somewhat large number of interruptions from students and visitors knocking on my door, which is something I will have to learn to manage.
What surprised me is that this faculty member felt like not having a cheerleader was one of the unexpected aspects of academia. Did he have a cheerleader during his graduate and postdoctoral work? If so, what planet is he from, and when can I visit?
I do find that most of the cheerleading that occurs in graduate school (and in the postdoctoral community) comes from friends and peers. It would be nice if more positive reinforcement trickled down from the faculty ranks, and I wonder if the lack is due to any of the following:
> Faculty don't have the time to spend on leadership tasks such as how to motivate and manage their team given their fundraising/ networking/ service obligations
> Faculty don't realize how helpful and motivational this type of support is
> Faculty don't care how helpful or motivational it is
> Faculty don't know how to motivate students in this way
I suppose the answer varies from faculty member to faculty member. I've seen very caring people who want to engage their students but lack the people skills to do so. I've seen faculty who couldn't care less about students. And I've also seen the rarer species of faculty who both care and are good at motivating students.
I think the moral of the story is don't rely on finding a cheerleader, but do keep close to you any friends / advisors / colleagues / family who fulfill this role. And most of all, work on becoming your own cheerleader, because we all have those days where we need a boost.