Someone recently mentioned an expectation of their academic career that they had had in graduate school and that was not fulfilled: they would move up, and up again.
I had not had that expectation, and certainly not on my own behalf. I did have some misconceived ideas about what academic culture was generally, that produced surprises for me later on.
What funny things surprised you, and what odd expectations did they reveal?
I expected some form of research culture. I expected heavier discrimination, but I expected it to be systematic in more predictable and less opaque ways.
What surprised me first was the arbitrariness of decision making. I knew these processes would be political, but I did not expect them to be as uninformed as they often are.
What surprised me most and still surprises me is how conventional people are, and at how immature most professors, and especially the new ones, are for their ages.
I did know there were power circles, but I did not expect the unsophisticated cliquishness.
What did you find?
ETA: I forgot when I wrote this post my very first culture shock, on the degree to which professordom is also an 8-5-plus office job. I had not realized there would be so many days on which one would be so heavily scheduled, with classes and meetings back to back all day and then a required evening event, and how much of the day would be spent attending to low-level bureaucratic needs. That was when I understood the difference between jobs and fellowships, I suppose, and I may still be learning to understand that — or learning how to take control of my job so that it feels more like a fellowship than it does. But at the time it was the humdrum that amazed me, just when I was ready to be inspired.