Saturday, September 27, 2008

When one door closes, another opens... (But what happens if you leave a stick in the door?)

So it was a little strange deciding to leave my other job. Way back in the spring when I first worked out my plans, it was set up as sort of a verbal agreement with my adviser that after my early summer funding ended in late July, he'd continue to support me on one of his grants into the fall sometime. As I think some of my earlier posts mentioned, I was going a little crazy after a few weeks of this, living off in a house in a soybean field pretty much by myself, and working close to seven days a week 'cause I had nothing much else to distract me (both a good and a bad thing). The research was fairly interesting, but not even slightly applied... just math and theory and thinking. One of my goals in taking a year off was to try new things, and to increase my experience with the application of theory, and hands-on field work skills, as these are sort of weak points on my CV. So my job at the bio station, while productive, relatively lucrative, and good for a continued career as a theory guy, wasn't quite fitting the bill of what I had intended to do with my time. So I started looking at other opportunities, via Ecolog, the Society for Conservation Biology, the Student Conservation Association, etc. I was still having trouble getting interest from some of the interesting jobs I found because people don't believe that I can do field work, since most of my documented experience with research involves sitting in front of a computer...

The catch is I was torn about whether or not I even wanted a different job, since the one I had was really pretty cushy, and it's a lot easier to leave things the way they are, and keep working with people I already knew and liked, instead of taking chances. So I didn't really tell my adviser that I was even nominally applying for other jobs. Ooops. And then, rather to my surprise, I got a job offer for a really neat project studying dispersal (a component of some of my theoretical research projects), to be a field tech in a southeastern state I'd never been near before in my life.

That was a pretty good recipe for a good deal of emotional turmoil there - I felt bad about not having let my adviser know wayyy in advance that I was applying for something else (it felt a little sneaky). I wasn't expecting to actually get offered a position doing the kind of work I was looking for experience in. I couldn't decide what to do with myself - these two different jobs sort of took on the parts of a deeper conflict I have going on, the tug and pull between math/theory/research and ecology/field work/hands on work. The field tech job, while it offered chances to do some neat field work, see a new place and meet new and interesting people, didn't involve me doing my own, cutting edge(ish), mostly self guided research (something I was doing at the bio station) with the potential for publications. Craziness.

Twas an intense two days of indecision/soul searching/phone calls with parents, Eugenie, friends, etc, trying to figure out what path to take. In the end, I talked with my adviser about it a bit, layed out the situation to him, and asked his advice, albeit later than I should have. This was a good thing to do, and i sort of wish i had done it sooner, but he and I don't communicate well for whatever reason so it's always kind of awkward to converse. I don't think he really grasped why I would even want to go somewhere else and do fieldwork, but he was really nice about it, and said he didn't mind if I went off and worked at this short term position for a few months, especially if I would come back and finish my work with him when I was done. Never expected to have that possibility! Right now I think that's what I'm planning on doing. Definitely I need to finish the project that I've been working on him. As a wise prof/friend of mine likes to say "Research that doesn't lead to results that are shared/published/presented is purely recreational". I need to have something concrete to show for all of my work. Plus I left some of my books there, so I pretty much have to go back ;-)

Once you get through one of these decisions and pick a path, it's best to jump whole heartedly into your new path, so that's what I've been doing. But definitely icky to work out the details inbetween. I think I always worry too much about what my employers think about me, and feeling like if I go work for anyone else I'm letting them down/selling out on them or something. But in reality, I guess maybe this is the way that science goes - people move around all the time, at least pre-tenure, and it's not such a huge deal.

So I've managed to move through one door into a new situation, but the door I came out of is still propped open with a stick or two! Wooo analogies.

No comments: