Career goals for fledgling researchers

I’ve been on recreation leave for the last 2 weeks as I needed to use up my holiday I’ve accrued over 2013. Oh academia. Yes, I took rec leave to get my eyes fixed when I could have just taken it as medical leave. They even gave me medical certificates.

Recreation leave at home is pretty dull to be honest. I’ve done a minor amount of work (wrote some abstracts, sent some emails), watched every episode of The Mindy Project, went to the gym a few times, cleaned the apartment obsessively, removed crap music from my laptop, read Tina Fey’s autobiography and tidied out my closet of clothes that: don’t fit me (damn you large portions of delicious food), I don’t wear because I may have been in a strange mindset when I bought them, or just are inappropriate (one t shirt had a vomiting skull on it, I decided those days are over).

I’ve also pondered my existence in the upcoming “fellowship” years and attempted to think of things I really want to do with my life, in a vaguely career driven manner (i.e. not discovering the ultimate whisky sour recipe or rekindling my love of crocheting animals and selling them on Etsy). I therefore decided to make a list…

 

Go to more international conferences

In 2013 I went to precisely zero international conferences. So anything I do this year will be an improvement on that. I hate that all international conferences require you to actually think about going and what data you’re going to present 6 months before the actual conference, so it really sucks when you are just starting out in a position and have no data. I also hate the fact that loads of international conferences only give travel grants / bursaries to PhD students. PhD students get loads of funding, damn them. One year during my PhD I went to America TWICE for conferences and mostly I just hung out with my friend’s lab group from New York, discovered my ability to drink whisky and nearly got run over by a horse and carriage. I also spent the majority of my savings in the Apple Store.
Now as an ECR I appreciate these conferences much more as a mechanism for international networking, a chance to build up an academic research identity and bonus, an opportunity to go drinking with people from my PhD. So now I am looking to attend conferences which might let me contribute talks in a colloquium rather than just standing by posters, will fund my trip with a grant so I can put it on my CV, and also those in Europe so I can work in a visit home to see my family (and buy loads of cheap clothes in Britain). I also get travel funding with my fellowship so I won’t have to pay for everything work related out of my wages.

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Increase my research presence in Australia

AKA try to forge independent research identity. I’m including “try to” as I have some boundaries to overcome. However, some of my aims include trying to get myself nominated for some measures of esteem (awards) in Australia as I previously haven’t been eligible for anything due to my “urgh, immigrant” status (I’m applying for residency this year). I know these things are really important with respect to promotions and obtaining a continuing position. I’ve written down a list of these along with their deadlines in my “secret plan for world domination book”, or diary to lay folk.

Dress like I’m an adult

I promise I haven’t worn a t shirt to work with a vomiting skull printed on it in the last 2 years. I probably still need to work on my appearance and look a bit smarter though. Sydney is problematic as it’s actually really warm here at the moment so I just want to wear a singlet and a pair of running shorts (I don’t wear them to work) so I settle with vintage cotton dresses. But I have done stuff like dye my hair a more natural shade of red (sad times) and started carrying a handbag that didn’t have badges pinned to it declaring my liking of pigeons and tea. It’s also difficult wearing smart clothes in a lab as it’s fairly probable that I’ll get rat wee on me, but as I’ve been using that excuse for wearing jeans with holes in for nearly 8 years, now I should probably just suck it up and start not looking like I’ve just been to a gig whilst at work.

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Work towards that magic “continuing appointment” position

Sorry universities of the English speaking world, I’m in this for the long run. I can’t go into all my reasons for wanting to stay in research for the rest of my working life because that would be dull, but I love research. I love thinking up experiments, reading papers and writing up research. But I also love teaching. I get a little warm fuzzy feeling at the bottom of my tummy after doing lectures, similar to when I used to do school plays or got to sing a solo in choir (I’m someone who would love to be in Glee but was too dorky, like actual dorky, not that Hollywood “just a bit awkward but take off those glasses and is super hot” dorky, I was all frizzy hair, fixed braces, spot cream and glasses at school). I enjoy giving lectures and I even enjoy writing lectures, so much that I spent a whole weekend last year hunched over my laptop writing the most awesome lectures on memory processes I could manage. This year I’ve got to get student feedback on these classes.

Also, I’m quite fussy about where I live and where I work, so most of the world is safe from my presence. I am particularly fond of places with a climate that remains between 20-28 degrees celsius all year round, has low precipitation levels, doesn’t have guns and serves decent coffee. Sorry Sydney, you’re staying on my list.

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Network more within the university

I’ve neglected the networking within my institution aspect greatly last year. And also the interpersonal aspect of getting to know people in my department on a social level so I can sound informed and interested in the lift with them “So… how’s your work on schizotypy going?” and they won’t just think “urgh it’s the rat girl again” when they see me. My antisocialness was namely because I thought I was going to have to be deported as a jobless loser, but also because I can be pretty antisocial and I really enjoy going to the gym and then watching crap on TV, particularly reruns of Friends and these usually fall in the critical 6-8pm time window. I need to embrace those wine and nibbles events with copious free alcohol as a “socialising event” as opposed to a challenge as to how much free wine I can consume before my bus home arrives.

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So… those are my plans. Every time I get to work dressed in something that may have been ironed, or I am talking to someone about work as opposed to what I ate yesterday, I’m giving myself a minor win.

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