Monday, July 30, 2012

Career advice for the Electrician's son

So one of the electricians at our fine institution knocks on my door looking for the Prof next door. I chat with him a bit, and he says, "Did I tell you about my son? He really wants to teach. He graduated and got a job at Prestigious Institution by a Lake, and he wants to give it up and go teach at a community college"
Me, trying to orient: "He has his Bachelors and got a job"?
He: "No, he has his Ph.D., got it from Large Local State U of Some Prestige. He's been working at Prestigious Institution by a Lake for about a year now."
Me: "He needs to finish his post-doc if he wants to get a good job with lots of options. That tenure thing, even at an institution like this one, is a big benefit"
 *by now Prof-next-door has arrived, with a student assistant*
He: "Oh, he's already published, He doesn't need to do any more. He just wants to quit and take a job teaching a few courses at at the local community college."
Me: "Please encourage him to get at least a nice publication from his post-doc before he decides to move on. He needs that to get a stable job like mine or *anything* more research oriented. I have the best of both worlds. I get to teach mostly and do research a little. The students I teach are really good, smart kids and I enjoy my job"
He: "My son is brilliant. He says he's just DONE with research. He tells me that if he quits doing research to teach he can never go back. His advisor from Local State U says that if my son quits he'll drive all the way to Lake and kick his butt."
*all laugh*
He continues: "He even got an article in that one journal that's British. Supposed to be a really good journal."
Me, Prof Next Door, and Student Assistant: "You mean Nature?"
*at this point I had blown off all his father's bragging as a Father's pride, and his son as another good but not excellent scientist facing a bleak job market*
He: "His name is Ricky Electric. You can look it up I suppose."
* I duck into my office. Sure enough. First author Nature paper. Holy Frijoles!*
Me: "Tell him that if he just quits his post doc without a publication, and doesn't set himself up for a tenure track position of some sort, ___I'M___ going to drive to Lake and kick his butt!"
*all laugh and disperse*

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Stages of procrastination

I am a person that needs a deadline to really motivate me and bring my mental "A" game. Teaching in a PUI fits me to a T, becausethere are two or three deadlines daily (lectures, labs) to keep me going. However, this situation is Attention Deficit-ogenic, as I never have to sit and think for a long time, and rarely have to concentrate on one thing for days or weeks.

I'm trying to write a manuscript for submission to a journal that includes my students' data. There has been a very serious period of adjustment to "writing mode". First, I procrastinated for a long time by just "Vegging"- surfing, mostly. I felt very mentally tired and sought escapism. Now it feels like I have that out of my system and have regained energy and focus, but now my energies are being directed toward cleaning out my office. Necessary, but not toward my goal. It also feels like I need to spend a bit of mental energy imagining myself doing the work before I actually start it. I am nearing that phase. Soon, I'll get serious about the writing.

I have belched out a bunch of pages, but they are incoherent. I need now the mental sharpness and long-term focus that will allow me think of an intelligent structure, foresee logical problems to address, and then follow up on addressing them.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fraternizing with the troops

As a professor at a Small Liberal Arts Institution, I am expected to get to know the students well. A few students really take to me and want to be friends. I enjoy this mostly. This week I've had a good week visiting with former students on a friend-like basis.

1. I had lunch with a student who was a very enthusiastic learner in my class and a very nice person. She went overseas to India and has a passion to practice healthcare there. We talked about many things, including this TED talk, which I love and could watch daily:

2. I met with a student for advising who went through a very difficult time while she was in my course. I was kind to her and now she seeks my advice for many things, but mostly professional things. Technically she isn't even attending our school anymore, but she still considers me her advisor and we are on very friendly terms.

3. I had a student who is an EMT in one of my courses. I met with him this morning and he re-certified me for CPR. There was only a few moments of awkwardness as the student became the teacher and vice versa, but by the end, we were laughing and telling funny stories. I REALLY enjoyed this time.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What if I gave you $800 / month?

Hub and I are still working on trimming our budget. I worked a lot this summer, but the money has evaporated into a transmission for our car instead of the new bamboo floor I wanted- and I am very disappointed about that.

What I worked for

What I got

Both of us have become acutely aware of the cost of Hub's apartment in Suburb where he works. It seems as though that $800/ month could really better be used elsewhere.

I know, I know. Without it, he couldn't work or we would be paying much more in gas (and risk) to drive up there. He only stays there 3 nights per week, and it comes up to about $67/ night/ person. For comparison, our home hosts our family for $11/night/person not counting utilities.

 What we could have, plus some

Something like what we got

 Moreover, I could NOT handle raising these kids by myself and working full time, so I have cut back my hours.  My income will go down by 25%. With two kids in full-time daycare ($1100/ month), things are really tight. I have lamented about this financial aspect of the two body problem before:

Expecting more from two Ph.D.'s

Working for nothing

How much I make

Guilt about hiring help, but its necessity (this was with only one kid)

We have cut out all the household help. We just can't afford it, but we have gone on Chore Wars to make sure that the loads are even.

2012-2013 One year of 3/4 time work to go- Boy will turn 4 at the beginning of that year, Girl 2.
2013-2014 One year of sabbatical to go- Boy 5, Girl 3. Have no idea how the finances will look. We will probably lose a bit on renting our house, but save the apartment costs. I don;t know what our rents will be there, or how much compensation I can expect.
2014-2015 The Boy goes into school the year I return and the daycare costs will lighten.
I will be able to return to full time, I assume.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Rejection resilience -sabbatical version

I e-mailed two lab heads to ask if they would host me for a sabbatical. One was a good acquaintance and the other was a cold e-mail. I carefully crafted my introduction and included my CV, and crossed my fingers. Nothing. for a few weeks. The cold e-mail I can understand, but the close acquaintance? *sharp inhale*. This was a little ego- bruising. I re-emailed them both after two weeks to check up and heard back from the acquaintance (wait and see), but not the other.  I will broaden my search.

I saw a friend today and chatted with her about the situation. There's no reason for the ego to be bruised in this situation, but if there was an excuse it was is because my rejection resiliency has softened. This is probably due to three things:

1. I got married and have established friends. The level of rejection in my personal life has gone down to nearly nil. I may not be 100% satisfied with my social situation, but I'm not being rejected.

2. I got tenure. I did my best, both at work and at the dossier. I got it, and now I have a job for life. No more rejection in this way.

3. I haven't sent in a manuscript in several years for review. This is bad, of course, and means I am out of practice of having a tough skin. I'm writing a manuscript now, so I'd better build it back up.