You know you're doing pretty well when
All those people who ignored or snubbed you are suddenly asking what you're up to these days, what your plans are, and how things are going.
Those people in this case, are PIs who previously wouldn't give me the time of day. People whom I was content to think had forgotten who I was, or just didn't care.
I'm very amused because from these kinds of encounters, I get the impression that my scientific reputation is improving.
Sometimes I even get mentored on these little run-ins. Suddenly now everyone wants to give me advice.
I think it's funny because I think they are realizing that, rather than quitting like everyone seems to have expected me to, they might actually have to deal with having me as a colleague someday.
Maybe, just maybe, I might be worth the effort of mentoring.
So I'm laughing. Because although I will always need it, and I need it now, they were not there for me in the past when I really needed it.
Oh and to the people who think I always blame other people for all my problems? Maybe you're right. I'm with Sartre on the whole population issue: Hell is other people.
At the end of the day, I'm pretty sure I'd be perfectly happy if people would just leave me alone to do my job.
Most of my complaints with work and with my parents have to do with people who think they know what's good for me but who never stopped to even ask me what I want.
A lot of the crap I went through in grad school also falls into this category, where the 'adults' (PIs) were constantly trying to block me from finding my own way. Which in my opinion is a lot of what grad school should be for.
As a postdoc, when I ask for help, it's not because I'm lazy but because I know it would be faster to have someone teach me and/or I've exhausted all the other resources.
But what I've learned is that most faculty aren't really aware of how they got where they are. They've never been forced to articulate what matters in choosing what journal to publish in, how to write a cover letter, or how to write a good grant and make sure it gets funded. They just do it.
A lot of times they're not even sure what they did. Or they might even suspect it was partly political, but they don't want to admit they've had these advantages handed to them, and all they did to deserve it was to be appropriately agreeable.
You know, how to do these things (publish, get funded, get a job) is what we should have learned in grad school, but nobody taught us systematically. And I'll agree that it's hard to articulate and hard to teach. But not impossible. I've met some PIs who can teach it. And I think these things should be required of any PIs that universities hire.
And right now they're not.
In fact, I think I've learned a lot more about the job market, for example, from blogging and reading blogs than I ever have from real PIs in real life.
I had a funny/depressing conversation with a young faculty member the other day, who said that although he knows he had a great advisor in grad school and a stellar experience (which is fast becoming a stellar career), he doesn't remember being mentored. He's not sure what his mentor did that made everything always seem easy and turn out all right.
I know this guy's advisor and he was definitely a good mentor. But I think people who've always had good mentors take it for granted.
Even though they're surrounded by stories of how bad it can be, the natural reaction is to deny it, and to blame the victim. It's hard to believe it until you've experienced it yourself.
Worst case scenario, these people end up being terrible mentors themselves, just because they don't have a clue about what they should or shouldn't do.
And they might not even realize that being a good mentor is an active process.
To his credit, this guy is at least aware that he needs to figure out how to mentor his grad students, and fast. And I think he will, because he knows how important it is.
I personally have not had the stellar mentoring experience in science, but I know what it can be like because I've had other mentors in other areas of my life, and it's a wonderful thing. But in science, I've kind of given up on having that kind of relationship with anyone anytime soon, and I'm not sure if I ever will. My goal is to be the stellar mentor myself.
When finally given the chance, I found my own way and it mostly works for me when I have the courage to stick to it. Which isn't always easy. At all. And when I chicken out or feel pressured by 'advice' from people who 'know better', I have no one to blame but myself.
(See that, trolls? I blame myself. I don't blame anyone else!)
When I'm brave enough to do it, it works for me and I'm really glad I got the chance to find that out.