Friday, January 12, 2007

One big jump up the academic ladder

As some of you might remember I was asked a couple of months ago if I was interested in taking on a more administrative post on top of my research for a while. I agreed because I thought it would be a good thing to put on my CV in any case and a particularly good thing when the question comes up whether my present position should be changed to a permanent position. I do think it is important for youngish academics to play the cards right and jump at the best opportunities, and honestly the selfish satisfaction of seeing the list of achievements grow is a major motivation for me, BUT I might really have jumped a bit too high this time.

This new position means that I will be head of the group of people I work closest with every day, including people much older than me, people in permanent positions and my own PI....and I am hired on a postdoc contract. I know my colleagues are supporting the decision, and while I am flattered that they want me in such a position and that they want me in such a position at such an early stage, I don't really understand why. Maybe my competitive gene is more dominant than usual (but not so sure about that), but I particularly don't understand if this doesn't annoy the other recently hired and I suppose equally promising young people in my department. So far they have been really supportive, but it does somehow feel very strange that an senior scientist or full professor with a mile long publication list has to send me an email and explain if he/she is planning to go to a conference next year.

It is not only my role in the hierarchy that creeps me out a little. I am also getting very afraid that I will never be able to keep up with the work load - at least not if I have any ambitions of getting any research done. Having research time now is really important to me as I already spent the entire fall semester on teaching and nothing else. I started out really well after christmas break trying to incorporate some good routines for writing serious academic stuff every day (which also partly explains the lack of blog posts recently), but now I see how easily these routines can fall apart again. Already on my first day as "new administrative title" my inbox was filled with papers to sign, forms to fill out, people requesting meetings and I don't know what and I have a very strong feeling that this is not going to stop right now. I also have the feeling that I will be more relieved than sad when handing this position back to the person on sabattical in six months time.

On my first day with the new responsibilities I felt literally sick to my stomach and thought all day that now the stress level had really gotten to me. Later the same day it developed into some evil stomach bug and I had to leave early. I went home and slept for twenty hours or something like that and had to take the next day off work. Now two days later I am finally recovering. I hope this is not my typical response to my new work load.



At 9:15 PM, Anonymous Nicole said...

So you're head of a group, director of a bunch of people with permanent positions, but you do not have a permanent position? I've never heard of anything like that. It sounds like a recipe for disaster.

At 3:33 PM, Blogger saxifraga said...

No, as I said, it also feels a bit weird to me. Hopefully it will not lead straight to disaster though, but I agree, that it probably could. I don't fear disaster as much as the general feeling of being a bit uncomfortable with the situation. I work at a place where hierarchies are not super strict and the general scandinavian way of being points in the same direction. It's only for six months while the actual head of this group of people is away on sabattical and I think everybody thinks of me as someone who will just take care of keeping things afloat till he comes back. I am not going to hire or fire anybody. I am sure I will get back to this topic as time passes, and hopefully I will not be steering straight towards disaster.


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