Sunday, November 18, 2007

At night the monsters come out from under the bed

Yesterday I dreamed I was being fired from my job. The setting of the dream was clearly out of context, taking place in a carpenter's shop all complete with saw dust on the floor, old furniture and people dressed in work overalls, but the cast was people among the higher ups at work. The reason for the firing was that someone had pointed out something I had said in a meeting the other day, and although I only vaguely remember the reason, it was something along the lines of me saying something impolite to some service staff. Hardly a reason for being downright kicked out in the real world and the process behind it all was also a tad too Kafkaesque to be true, as it was only this one persons word against mine and the decision was already made.

Although I missed two days at work last week due to a cold I don't really think I'm up for being kicked out but the dream was distressing on it own for being so real and featuring the right people in the role of power. It also pushed on some very real buttons with some real situations lately brought about by my future change of workplace. Maybe it's all in my head, but I am having such a difficult time with the decision to go after my new job. It's not so much the move and the saying good bye to very nice colleagues here (although that in itself is taking its toll), it's more the guilt of not being grateful enough for the chances and opportunities I have been given here and maybe most of all the fear that in being open about my desire for New Job/ New Institution I am inevitably showing a lack of passion for Current Job or more correctly Current Institution. It is not so much about the actual work to be done in various projects, because I will continue to be involved in those and my closest colleagues know that I plan to be invested in our shared interests for the foreseeable future, it is more about the type of institution.

I am not unhappy where I am. I work with an extraordinarily good group of people who are excellent scientists and fun and kind people to be around. I like my workplace and recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone and I appreciate many of the privileges associated with this kind of business. I also like the city and the place and in general I am not ready to rule out the opportunity of ever coming back. I might never do so, but at the moment I like to think of leaving a door open. But it is not a university and it has a different mission. Not a worse one, just a different one. It has a heavy emphasis on applied science and the potential to do great and important work that affects lots of people every day, but I don't know if that mission is for me. I am not sure it is, but with being a postdoc and being in an almost entirely basic research focused group I haven't really experienced the true side of this workplace. At the moment I have a hard time seeing how the kind of research I am most interested in right now fits into the main idea of this institution, but to rule that out forever is a bit of a long shot, I'd say.

Ever since finishing my Masters I have had a desire to teach. I love teaching and I am good at it. I have a passion for teaching that I just can't muster up for applied research, and my main goal is to work at a university. The position I have gotten now is my chance to do so, and may eventually open the doors to another university in a more desirable location (the place I'm going to is definitely desirable in its own right, but it's not a place most people would want to spend the rest of their lives) or it may not. There are not hundreds of universities to choose from here. There are maybe something like ten universities where my field is taught in the region of four countries where we could imagine living for the long term. In other words there are absolutely no guarantees for being able to sustain a lifetime career as a professor.

I have been trying until now to signal interest in both worlds (I mean who on the job market wouldn't do so, if they could possibly under any circumstances see themselves in both types of careers), and trying to get credentials in both types of work. I have actively been working towards getting as much teaching experience as possible, but maybe my colleagues haven't realized I thought of that as a way of making myself marketable towards another type of position. I have found it difficult to be open about my wish of switching to the university environment because I feared it would change how my commitment to the applied research type institution was viewed. I think that was rightly guessed, because that is what I am experiencing right now. Now when everyone knows I have accepted the other job I cannot really hide where my preferences lie, and some people don't like that. It's not only that they don't like it, but I'm fairly sure that some people also take this as disinterest in what we are doing here and may well remember this if they ever receive an application from me again in the future. What bugs me even more is that although I don't want it to be that way, it may be true and if it is I will not be able to return to this place, and that leaves me really sad.

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At 4:13 PM, Blogger Mad Hatter said...

I've just had a nasty work-related dream too...what a coincidence!

I don't think there's anything wrong with being excited about a new opportunity to do something you're passionate about. As long as you're not going around talking about how much your current position sucks and how happy you are to be leaving (and I'm sure you're not!), it shouldn't be a problem.

The people you work with who are fair-minded will understand that not everyone has the same interests and goals, and that your interest in the new position isn't a personal insult to them or their profession. These people will be happy for you.

I suppose there will always be people who aren't happy for their colleagues who get a new opportunity. There's probably not much you can do about it except try to be nice to them and not burn bridges. Honestly, if these people will hold a grudge and decide not to hire you in the future because you once took a different job, are they people you'd really want to work with?

At 5:45 PM, Blogger EcoGeoFemme said...

You are probably projecting the thoughts and feelings you wrote here. If that is the case, they're not upset with your choice, although they may be sad to see you go, because you sound perfectly reasonable and thoughtful. It's just hard when you want to please other people and yourself. If you follow through with your commitment to the long term projects, they will know that you aren't ditching basic and applied research for teaching. They'll get it.

At 6:25 PM, Blogger Veo Claramente said...

I agree with both the earlier commenters. I think that people at your current job are likely wary about how you will treat them and your commitments to them once you move away, but will be much reassured when they see that your are not disinvested because you have different interests and goals. Good luck!

At 8:55 PM, Blogger Wayfarer Scientista said...

er...not much to say here since it's a bit like my reality right now. But I had to comment because I keep re-reading it.

At 1:02 AM, Anonymous Pete said...

Judging from the quality of your blog (the flowers really make it for me), you're in no real danger at work. You seem to be prime alpha material.

Wherever you end up, please be nice to service people. Beta minuses have feelings too.

I found your blog from All of My Faults Are Stress Related.

At 2:16 PM, Blogger saxifraga said...

Thanks for the kind comments everyone and welcome, pete. I have been too busy to post for a while and I've been feeling so guilty for not keeping up with the blog that I didn't even open the page and hence didn't see the comments either. I'm in awe of how you all keep up with posting regularly, year-round through hectic times at work and life demands. When it gets really busy here I seem to have no creative energy at all, and find myself incapable of producing text for the blog. shame on me, but it's wonderful to come back and see your comments.


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