When Your Employer Wants to Break Off the Relationship
Mar21

When Your Employer Wants to Break Off the Relationship

Last week, Christine posted a very heartfelt assessment of her struggle to continue on with graduate research although she has lost the fuzzy feelings she once had for it. She convincingly described her relationship with her graduate research project as being similar to one with a person, and how she felt she may be falling out of love with research. Well, what if you’re on the receiving end? It occurred to me that what I and my (now former) colleagues have experienced is more akin to having someone, or rather, something, fall out of love with you. The situation was handled very professionally, and some of us have ended up in better roles (i.e., relationships) as a result. Yes, it’s business, not personal, but you can’t completely avoid the feeling that you’ve been dumped. Not the most positive emotional state to be in when you begin your job search. You need to let go of that, and quick. Don’t cry into your beer. (That’ll just dilute your beer. You’re a scientist, remember? Hello!) If it requires some sort of ritual ceremony to purge yourself of these negative feelings – do it. It is here that I, much as Christine did, feel compelled to point out that this analogy in no way reflects my own relationship status. To illustrate, I will now go into game show contestant mode: “Hi Alex, I’d like to say hi to my beautiful wife of twenty-three years, and my two awesome children, my terrific son and my outstanding daughter, not to mention our three phenomenal cats. Hi everyone, I love you!!” There, I made nice. Okay, I don’t know how valuable my advice might be currently, since I am still "in transition" and have yet to “land” in my next position, but I’m confident that it will all pay off in the end. So, here are things, drawn from various resources and my own thoughts, which keep me sane. Okay, sane-ish. Don’t bad-mouth your ex. You need to take the high road – yes, you can “just be friends.” It’s your choice, though – but just see what happens if you trash talk your past employer in a job interview with another company. Yeah, that will help. They’ll see your baggage the minute you walk in the door. You might as well walk in naked and speaking in tongues. The end result will be the same. No job…and possibly some jail time. Don’t be a stalker. Seriously, what do you have to gain by looking at job postings at your former employer? Yes, they will begin hiring again, for different disciplines and/or in other locations...

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Falling Out of Love With Research
Mar14

Falling Out of Love With Research

I had a thought this morning. (Well actually I had lots of thoughts this morning, but one that I feel especially compelled to blog about). Being in grad school is a lot like being in a relationship. When you first get to grad school, you join a lab, get a new project, and then there's what I call the puppy love phase. Everything is so promising and bright. There are fuzzy feelings all over the place. You just feel so in love, so optimistic for what the future holds. Nothing could go wrong. That was me three years ago. They (my fellow grad students) called me the "naïve optimist", no joke. Time passes. You realize that the technique you are developing which appeared so promising at first is actually chock-full of problems. You have to work to solve those problems. It takes a lot of time. Numerous failed attempts to fix things are spotted with few successes. You try everything you can think of to figure out a solution. Now hear me out. Does this or does this not sound like the period in a relationship when you're starting to fall out of love? I have to interject at this point and just say that I am happily married to an amazing guy and that my description of how my relationship with my project is going through a rocky period in no way mirrors my relationship with my husband. I'm just saying that it's like a relationship. Now that that's all cleared up... So you're starting to fall out of love with your project. You get mad at it some days and don't want to talk to it. But then you realize that while you can try to just keep ignoring the problems, they're not going to go away on their own. Sometimes the problems fester and get worse with time. But if you want the relationship, I mean the project, to work, you need to keep on trucking. You need to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again. Because if you don't, your project is on the line, and the chances you'll ever finish and escape with those three coveted letters after your last time-- they get slimmer. Your choices are: suck it up and keep trying, or walk away from everything you already invested so many years of your life working on. Gosh, I feel like I could turn this into a daytime soap opera. I'll call it: Days of our graduate school lives. Here's the thing though. I still love being in grad school. I love learning, I love being part of an intellectual...

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