Leader of the pack?
So far, this has been one of those awful weeks. I can't believe it's only Wednesday.
I have been working my butt off and so far none of it feels like progress. At the end of the day, I try to pat myself on the back just for trying. I put in an honest day's work, I say. That's as much as anyone can ask for.
Today I will pick myself up and try again. One foot in front of the other.
But I am tired of the rivalries and bullshit.
My PI has favorites, and when the old favorites leave, there are new favorites, and I am never one of them. And I have been here too long not to notice the pattern. The favorites get favors, get promoted, and get out.
I would like to move up in the ranks, not as The Teacher's Pet, but as
"Yes, MsPhD deserves to have her outstanding ideas and skills promoted internationally!"
Instead I have to listen to my labmates complain about stupid, fixable problems. But there's no point, I'm learning, in trying to help them. They just want to vent, I guess. In fact, I get the strong impression that my labmates don't want my advice at all, maybe just because it comes from me. Which makes my so-called experience and expertise feel completely futile.
I am Jack's useless PhD.
I wonder if this is what it's like to be a PI. I have worked in labs where the PI made lots of good suggestions, but the lab members ignored them all. To me, this is a nightmare made real. It would completely defeat the purpose.
I have this fear that I am too much like my father. He is in the sort of profession where there are technical experts and there are managers.
The Managers are idiots, in this case, but good salesmen. They have different kinds of skills, which is important, but they don't have the ability to understand the technical aspects. At all.
Anyone smarter is assigned to a technical position.
The problem is that the technical experts are paid less and have less say in what projects get done, they're just stuck trying to make the projects work once they are decided upon.
My father has spent his whole career trying to figure out how to do something that happens only rarely: to get promoted into a Manager-type position from a technical-type position. Finally now, towards the end of his career, he is moving up. And he is much happier than he used to be.
But what if I am just like him? If that's true, it doesn't help me if I'm good at troubleshooting, it actually hurts me from reaching my goal.
I keep envisioning myself as a tiny cog in a giant pharmaceutical company, and trying to imagine what that would be like as a career.
Keeping in mind, I'm in that totally awkward position: PI has said in private that my suggestions, while rarely appreciated by my labmates, are always appreciated by my PI.
But I'm still not receiving any of the favors awarded to the Favorites. So where does that leave me? Technical Expert exploited by Manager?
I'm afraid so, but I don't know what to do about it.
So while it bothers me that I'm clearly an outsider from my peers, the truth is that my labmates will come and go, and probably more than half will not stay in academia (and some will not stay in research or science-related fields at all).
I have learned the hard way that you can put a lot of effort into relationships in science, only to have them never pay off in any useful way.
I have helped people and not gotten even an acknowledgment, and I have befriended people who weren't there when I needed them.
I have a few good friends whom I see only rarely, but I am supposed to be satisfied with that because I can't expect all my professional colleagues to be my buddies.
Postdoc Mantra 1: I am not supposed to care whether my peers respect or like me.
And I am not supposed to care that they don't know what they're doing, no matter how much time and NIH money I witness them wasting.
Postdoc Mantra 2: It is not my job to fix these things, even if I know how.
All I'm supposed to care about is that PI is here to stay, and if I want to be an academic, I have to stay on PI's radar and good graces.
But man, I am sick and tired of it.