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Returning to the land of the employed June 28, 2016

Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, teaching.
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7 comments

I’m so excited! I finally have something to post about!  And it’s not just cat and dog pictures!  Or discussions about comic book characters!

I will be starting a new job in the fall as an engineering professor at a small liberal arts college.

I’ll be honest: no one is more surprised about this than me.  Until recently, I hadn’t ever thought about liberal arts colleges as a possible career choice.  Over the past couple of years, however, I’ve gotten the sense that I don’t fit well into a lot of research universities.  Despite a lot of places saying they wan’t people who do interdisciplinary research, it’s become pretty plain that they still want you to have all your degrees in one field.  Grant reviewers don’t like grants that are too far outside their expertise, either, which makes it hard to get funding.

All of that pushed me to start thinking about liberal arts colleges, particularly since I have a strong interest in education and pedagogy.  That ended up being a good decision.

The program is brand new, so I’ll be setting up some classes and labs from scratch.  While that’s daunting, it’s also exciting, especially because of the educational aspect.  Designing classes around a student-centered, hands-on approach is going to be easier (I hope) than trying to remake everything.  I hope my students will be okay being guinea pigs.  I’m certainly okay with getting to play with lab equipment.  The classes will initially be pretty small, but I don’t think they’ll ever get huge.  (I’ve been informed the largest classes at the school are around 50-60 students, and those aren’t common.)

The down side is that the school isn’t in town, so I’m in the process of finding a buying a new place to live.  It IS close enough that I’ll be able to come home frequently, but a little too far for a daily commute.  I am therefore also in the process of trying to teach the younger offspring how to cook…well, something other than mac and cheese or toast.

Anyway, the pace of life has definitely picked up, but that’s a good thing.

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Enjoying your job August 15, 2010

Posted by mareserinitatis in career.
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7 comments

FrauTech made a post a few days ago about career satisfaction:

Yes there are a lot of “boring” office jobs out there, but very often you can find your own satisfaction in that job. And your job does not define you. It’s never going to be perfect.

I don’t mean to suggest we should all be hedonists, just that we’re all in control (somewhat) over our own lives. We have the ability to change how we react to things and change our expectations. Maybe our expectations for our careers are just too high these days.

About the same time, I read this excerpt at Tough Guide to Work:

Our career and jobs become an integral part of our identity. Researchers have uncovered “a significant and positive relationship between occupational prestige and happiness”. Or put another way “people love boring other people about their work”. When you think about it this makes sense. We know that on the flip side: unemployment hits people really hard. People often sink lower and take longer to recover after losing a job than when their spouse dies.

Personal opinion is that it is, of course, somewhere in the middle. I had no idea that being a scientist was regarded a high prestige job. And really, when you’re in the middle of the experiment and it’s not working, do you really give a damn?

I have had a lot of jobs over the years. I think the only one I truly hated was working at Burger King. I actually found a lot of enjoyment or at least tried to focus on the various positive aspects of the other jobs. I was a police dispatcher at the university, where I got a lot of time to read and study. (I also got in trouble when I ran out of reading material and took a whole bowl of paperclips and chained them together.) I worked as a secretary at a juvenile detention center where I made the mistake of streamlining my job and computerizing all the documents. I basically was able to easily finish my work in four hours a day and really enjoyed the challenge of doing things more efficiently and neatly. (Unfortunately, it caused a lot of other problems and office politics.)

The worst was a job where I was hired by the some higher ups in a company to do some consulting work. The problem was that the people lower down really took what I was doing as a threat to them personally and made my life miserable. I really hated going in there. After a few months, however, I realized that some of the questions that I was supposed to answer needed more constraints. I spent about three months developing and running experiments to provide those constraints and apply it to the data I’d already taken. The point where I got to develop my own experiments and answer questions completely turned the job around and made it extremely exciting.

I have learned that I do a particular type of work best, and I am happiest when I am doing that. I get excited talking about it to strangers, and I think they find it interesting (or are at least polite enough to listen). But even when I’m doing something I don’t enjoy, I have found that there is at least one part of it that keeps me going and interested. I have also found that learning new things and frequent change helps to keep me motivated.

So what keeps you going at your job? How much of it do you love and how much do you tolerate?

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