Friday, November 30, 2012

And so the dillema continues...

It's job market season in the antipodes. It always coincides with the time when you want to plan holidays and not have to think about work. It also coincides with grant-writing season too. To sum up - instead of relaxing and enjoying the summer, most Australian academics are frantically either trying to line up work for next year or write grants for the major funding rounds. For a lot of academics that seems to be ok - generally being indoor bookish types, they hate the sun and sand and would prefer to be working anyway*. For the rest of us though, it's sheer hell on earth. (Sidetrack: when I was a pretentious graduate student who thought I knew everything - I would take my Foucault to the beach. It was useful for picking up other pretentious graduate students, but not conducive to either study or beachgoing. I have long since abandoned the habit of taking anything to the beach with me apart from sun protection, dark glasses and money for beer on the way home.)

(*it's a stereotype I know, but I did say "a lot" rather than "all")

So as you might know, I have already been sucked in to applying for one job this summer. I am also toying with writing a grant, but I think that there is an inward compulsion to procrastinate my way out of having to make a decision about putting it in. Never having been a procrastinator when I was committed to my academic career, I find it interesting how this new skill (is it a skill?) allows me to avoid making definitive decisions by allowing the passing of time make them for me. Also never having been any good at listening to my inner judgement - I am old enought to realise that the procrastinating over very specific tasks is clearly a sign from my unconscious (or should that be subconcious or nonconscious?). So perhaps I will never get around to doing much about my self-appointed tasks and feel secretly relieved that it will be too late by the time I get around to starting any of them.

But the frustating aspect of all of this is: will I regret not giving it one more go? Will I regret not applying for jobs that come up or putting a grant in? Being a highly trained academic - making decisions is a challenging affair for me. I need to weigh up all the evidence, determine the best course of action and then make a fully informed decision. Some people might call this anxiety. I call it "analytical skills".

At least part of this frustration is obvisouly because my current job is boring. There are aspects that I like - i.e. working with actual human beings - but for the most part, I don't have enough to do. When I do ask for more work, the work I am given still isn't enough. I have literally hours to spare in any given week, sometimes in a day. While lots of people might be content to work like this, I am more than a little disappointed. I need to work on challenging and complex tasks that take a significant amount of time to complete - like the work I used to do as a an academic.

This is essentially why I am currently wondering if I should keep applying for grants and jobs and so on. Or if I should just bite the bullet and start retraining in another field - one that would be more challenging than the current one I am in. Because even if I was doing a more senior job in my current field - it still wouldn't be complex enough. I have seen enough to know all that I need to know. Working in a different part of the sector would not be that much different to where I am now. It's a shame, because there are heaps of jobs. It's an important field of work and does real things for improving life chances for many individuals. I believe in the sector and what it can acheive.

Still, there just aren't enough challenges in it for me. So I am tempted to keep slamming my head against the academic wall for just a little while longer. Maybe another year of not going anywhere will be what I need to get it well and truly out of my system. The important point is - I will have a job while I am doing it, so it won't matter if I don't get anywhere. I will still be exactly where I am now. And then I think: oh but maybe I shouldn't be wasiting any more of time? And so on and so forth.

For now though, I think I need to consider my options just a little more...

4 comments:

  1. I once lugged the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism to the beach. Ridiculous, right? Likewise, never again!

    On the lack of challenges, aren't there interesting things you can do during your "down time"? I basically like my work and find it at least somewhat challenging, but most weeks I would say for sure I'm not working a full 40 hours, even though I'm at my desk all that time. There's stuff to read, stuff o write ... I actually think it's this way for a lot of people. The 8-hour day is just an arbitrary invention. As long as you get done the things they're paying you to do, the rest of the time is your time. Are there things you could find to do you'd find challenging or in some other way satisfying with your extra time? Why does it have to be the job itself?




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  2. Oh dear, this problem of taking academic books/articles on holiday and on the beach seems to be a common one, as I do confess, I too was guilty of this bad habit. Another symptom of the academic life in which you feel you never really do enough to stay on top of things - then professional and personal life blur too easily into each other. Ho hum 'WTF' - I feel for you and empathise with your desire to have a fulfilling and challenging worklife. I just hope you find what you need without having to sacrifice too much. I'm sure you'll get there - good luck!

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  3. It's hard for me to imagine not having enough work to do at work. I'm miserably busy all the time at SAP. I am longing to have the down time to cultivate those non-work activities recent PhD mentions. Yet I remember you saying that you have a lot of non-work activities that keep you busy and engaged so it sounds like you do need a new, more challenging job. I would recommend, since you seem to have the time, applying to both academic and non-academic jobs, any and all jobs that seem like they'll be more interesting than your current one while not necessitating too many compromises of salary, location, etc. good luck!!

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