It might just be me, but it seems like my status has dropped somewhat. Once upon a time, when I talked, people listened. They either responded in kind (if interested in the topic) or they suddenly found somewhere else more interesting to be (most academics will be familiar with that one). Now, I find that I am routinely criticised, put down, talked over and not listened to. In short, I am now supposed to be "the little woman".
Now that I am a nobody, nobody cares what I think, what I do or what I have to say. This is somewhat unnerving.
I am not super sensitive to people not wanting to talk to me because they'd rather talk amongst themselves, but I am used to people at least expressing some polite curiosity about my work, my life or my opinion of stuff when they do choose to talk to me or are forced to sit next to me at some dreary function.
I do also like to consider that my social skills are not that bad. I try to be inclusive, empathetic, interested, and non-judgemental. I invite people into conversations, I don't play with my phone while I am talking to them, and I listen to what they have to say. I am also reasonably good at picking up queues that they would rather be somewhere else or that they don't want to talk about certain things.
Given some of the behaviour I have witnessed recently, I think many of these skills are a product of my academic career. All those awkward conferences and seminars etc where you're forced to try and meet people while stuffing your face and carrrying an overly heavy handbag at the same time. Whereas I always thought I was terrible at it, apparently I have better networking skills than many. I did of course observe some appallingly boorish behaviour at conferences by esteemed Professors, but I had always just assumed they were the cliched "awkward academic". However, perhaps they were more normal than I realised.
In my current role, I have witnessed a range of obnoxious behaviours that I won't go into. Of course, not everyone is like that, and I must confess, my heart leaps with joy each time I find someone capable of conversing like a normal human being. I hope I can continue to meet with more normal people instead of feeling like I am being walked all over by a badly behaved (usually) male.
When I started writing this post, I was wondering if these experiences were related to not being widely known as "Dr" anymore (in that I don't have it on my email signature and try not to refer to once being an academic). Yet now that I am writing about it, maybe it's actually a function of the environment I am working in instead. I never used to think anything of being "Dr" and generally consider myself to be quite relaxed about status and heirarchy. I like to think that I treat everyone the same, whether they are a student or a very senior colleague, a friend, a child, or a stranger (obviously though, with varying degrees of intimacy and conversational topics). But now that I am not an academic, I do feel somewhat at a loss about "what" or "who" I am, and I think this is playing out in my perceptions about what's going on around me.
I also can't help but feel that my job is somewhat beneath me. Now that does make me sound a snob when I put it that way, but what I mean is that it really is very easy. I remember being somewhat bemused at my interview when they kept on insisting how difficult working in the organisation was, but all I kept thinking was "I am sure it can't be any harder than what I have been doing". And while originally I thought they were possibly breaking me in gently, I actually now think that the job is waaay too simple for someone used to what I have been doing.
I have also had a few pangs of regret too, about the other road not taken when I was offered another job in a different sector entirely just before Easter. Opting to stay where I was (the reasoning was, and still is, sound), a small part of me can't help but wonder if perhaps the other role would have, in fact, suited me better. The first few weeks in any job are completely overwhelming, so it's impossible to decide if the job is really ok for you or not, but now that I am less overwhelmed, I realise that I have given up a lot in making the transition out of academia.
The work itself is actually ok. It serves an important function and I get to focus on something that I feel strongly about. But in terms of challenges, well, I don't think there are any. Oh my colleagues will bitch about the challenges for hours on end, but what they see as challenges I just think of as details. Maybe it's too soon to tell. Maybe I will be sucked in to the nitty gritty and find the everyday as overwhelming as everyone else. Maybe I am missing something. But then again, maybe this job really is as simple as I think it is.
So I don't know what to do about all of this for now. Part of it is just learning to unwind and realising that I don't have to push myself 24/7 in order to pay the rent (novel experience for me). Part of it too, is learning to recognise that having a PhD does in fact make me unique and that I should be looking for ways of building more challenging work opportunities for myself. At least having a job has allowed me to gain some perspective on the academic experience and recognising what skills I do have.