Friday, June 13, 2008

A step in which direction

keyboard malfunctioning so this will be brief.

A minor victory with the advisor- got something I needed, but I think Advisor is miffed. I shouldn't but of course I worry if I'm doing the right thing here.

Anticlimactic Friday but a maybe relaxingish weekend ahead.

That's good, right? So why don't I feel better? Can't please everybody all the time, least of all me



At 8:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

man, take it to be good news. you are finally getting a victory out of this. have a good weekend.

At 11:42 AM, Blogger JaneB said...

Relaxing weekend sounds very good - make the most of it!

I also think if you have to annoy your advisor (and remember that advisors can LOOK annoyed without being annoyed at YOU at all - we're human, but generally short on social skills and polite masks!) that Friday is definitely the best day to do it - gives them the weekend to forget/get over it.

And sometimes, you are doing the best thing for the project by getting what you need. Your success ultimately reflects on the advisor, after all. He needs to realise that you're THERE, not just an obedient robot, so small tussles leading to victories that are followed up by thanks when the doobry arrives and a quick mention of how having the doobry that he gave you helped so much when you next show/do something related to it that he'd approve (e.g. present some data) are kind of useful.

Yes, the two steps after the victory are kind of manipulative. But they're also showing advisor that you aren't just a source of tussles, you are a person who appreciates advisor and advisor's help. Advisors can feel good for days on one heartfelt thank you! I had to learn these sorts of things very slowly but they do tend to work - everyone likes to be appreciated (and you can continue to rant and vent and stomp here, that's what's great bout blogs!).

Incidentally, do you have any friends at a similar level to you who are totally outside your field? You're somewhere in biomed, so I'm thinking something like a quasar physicist or fluid dynamicist or polymer scientist or even a medieval linguist. As a post-doc and a young faculty member, one of my handy reality checks was talking to a few friends and friendly aquaintances I had who were in totally different academic fields but also on the same track - somehow not having to be careful about naming names, knowing they'd never run into the same people about conferences, but NOT having to explain the minutiae of how a supervisor or advisor could affect your day or how a lab/university/the system worked made them a useful reality check. I still remind myself that it is MUCH tougher being a specialist in medieval Latin and Spanish than being a scientist, and that even if I was now running a multi-million-dollar-turnover research lab with tens of staff at one of those universities whose name is recognised everywhere and publishing in CNS regularly, there would still be all sorts of non-fun problems and administrivia - that friend spends more time on financial stuff and on dealing with the corrosive personalities in her lab and field than on science. Sometimes I'm envious - but talking to them reminds me that just because you can't see the thistles when looking from a distance, they're still there when you sit down on the new patch of grass - and when I REALLY think about it what I envy most about friend with huge lab is that a) she lives in world-famous-city-with-river-and-wonderful-bookshops and b) she's naturally blonde and slender... if I didn't know the back story, get to have conversations every few months over a drink that devolve into 'no no no MY HoD is worse than YOURS' and 'no no no MY student did something even more destructive than YOURS', I'd envy the job, the papers, the prestige. And some of me does - but it really helps to know that she ALSO longs for Fridays and thinks about calling in sick on long-meeting-days and worries about how to persuade her first years that writing in complete, grammatical sentences with references actually can affect their marks and sometimes goes out for a coffee just to get away from the knocks on the door and the email...

Sorry, here I am hijacking your comments again despite now having my OWN blog to rant on! oops...

At 6:19 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

jane, I love your comments. Cheered me up today.

Truth is most of my friends are not at my level or reallly do have it pretty good, and they - like some commenters- are a little bit disbelieving of some of the shit because it's not nearly as bad for men in faculty positions or other fields like computer science. My only close women friends are either too busy to sleep much less talk while they're setting up their own labs/ clinical trials... But yeah, I talked to a friend yesterday at a company and there are some similarities. Small comfort since she makes at least 3x more$ and owns her house, etc. I think the worst thing lately is this gap - my largely very successful science/business friends pity me, and my artist friends just think I'm so brave and selfless. It's weird and not comforting either way.

At 1:34 PM, Blogger JaneB said...

That's very frustrating - know what you mean about the pity of $ or £ successful friends. One large advantage of living in NorthernCity is that the cost of living is much lower than in the south of England where most of my successful friends live, so by now I'm not QUITE so far behind - I have a small terraced house (I think that's a row house in US?) but it's a couple of minutes walk from the town centre of a really nice little market town and a 15-20 minute commute to work (unless the traffic's really bad), whereas my wealthier friends mostly have larger houses with decent gardens in nice villages where they have to get the car out to even buy a loaf of bread and have a long and not terribly pleasant commute to work or fancy flats (apartments) in the city but again a tough commute. And these days my choice of a small, fuel-economical car is seen as smart not whacky! (the main difference now is that I bought my first car second hand when I was 28, drove it for ten years then traded it in on a very similar car a couple of summers ago, whilst many of my friends get new cars every other year). So although there is a difference in lifestyle, it's not so obvious as it was when I was 30 and still renting whilst they were all buying posh cars and going on exotic foreign holidays!

Is there any way you can try and meet other people in your institution who are in similar positions? Maybe there's one of those 'career development for post-docs' courses, in which the tutor will tell you lots of stuff you already know, but you can use the tea breaks and free lunch to meet some people from other disciplines?

What I really missed was a friend around here who understood something about ecology, as that end of biology is very poorly represented here - and I found someone who now works in the student learning centre but has years of post-doccing in a general ecological area and is about my age by going to a 'confidence building' event in the 'women's career development' programme on campus - we all had to do potted biogs at the beginning of the session so I made sure to get her email, and now we meet up every 4-6 weeks for a coffee break and it has really made a difference to my on-campus life - it's just nice to talk to someone else who cares about my parent discipline and has usually read the same recent articles, despite our different career paths. So it was worth going to the workshop despite the pointlessness of the actual content...

At 8:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think a lot of how you view your experiences is based on expectations. I know I am a guy, but my expectations are that this process of getting an independent faculty position would be difficult beyond compare. Why else would the grad school/postdoc paradigm be so disheartening?

I think maybe you were idealistic in your beliefs about this career path - and it has turned out to be like any other. Politicking, among other things, matters so much.

I won't deny that there are gender-specific issues that I don't have to deal with, but there are other issues - the whole MD >> PhD for example - that in my observations vastly trumps the gender issue (ie, a female MD would almost certainly get an academic job well before a male PhD based on the economics of the MD "service=practice"-based (and thus directly income-generating) role compared to the PhD "service=teaching"-based role). At least in the 'top' programs that are twinned with a medical school.


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