How much can happen in one week, regarding mood swings and career possibilities..? Quite a few things to be honest, but I’ll get to the career options later.
First I want to share something typical with you that I experienced this week, actually a discussion I got into with a colleague. It wasn’t the first time I had a likewise discussion, but this one was a bit fiery. If you’ve read my last post, you may have sensed that I had gotten stuck in a bit of a ‘dark spot’. And this did not go entirely unnoticed at work either. Most probably, my mood and a motivation to revolt were to blame.
Anyhow, I started to discuss with my colleague one of the points that I find “most unjust” in academia: the meager pay. Especially combined with the effort and energy invested, and the overall lack of secure contracts and true career options.
Since my colleague is of the more traditional academic type, the discussion rather quickly got somewhat out of hand. I had apparently struck a purist-string. It went like this:
DR J: “You know, I think the pay we get is meager, unjust, and you could almost say that at least the student- and postdoc levels are almost being extorted. To the benefit of the more senior. Academics, at all levels, would be more productive and happier if they could earn a better and more honest salary, get a solid contract for a change. Instead of the rather small amount one finds deposited at the end of the month. Yeah, maybe someone someday wants to buy a house, a car, or plan a family you know?! Mostly it’s like you have some month left over at the end of your salary, rather than vice-versa. I mean, think of all the effort and time invested in requesting funds with a scarce 10-15% success rate.. Time that otherwise would be invested in talented people actually doing talented science happily.”
X: “…You serious?!”
DR J: “Well, yes. I also think academia is losing bright talented people at a high pace, much more than they can afford to lose. Mostly because they are met with low salaries, short contracts and few true career options. It’ll kill the system in the end. Academia should re-focus on truly investing in talent, develop bright people, have a talented and happy core workforce. Rather than letting talent fight one another to smithereens. Simple cause-consequence, action-reaction, you know.”
X: “Wah. You… My, oh my. You’ve lost it clearly. Are you ill? J you’re not running a company here. This is University. It is an Honor to be an Academic Scientist, you know? Science is about earning credit, traineeship, investing and learning. Not about undertaking research with things like ‘investing money in careers’ or ‘mutual goals’… Let alone about ‘earned reward for invested efforts’ – that would open the floodgates!! They would all come running!! No. Strong competition and adamant conditions foster talent and ambition.”
DR J: “Truly? You mean that..? That is exactly what’s wrong with academia. It’ll.. Hello?”
X left the scene, waving a hand in the air.
Deep down I thought there might have been more business inside me to begin with. Nevertheless, I really wonder why so many people, especially the ones that have been on solid well-paid (‘old-school’) positions for many years, believe that relentless over-competition and insecurity will stimulate aptitude. In my opinion, it is kicking talent out by the masses and making academia an unattractive career path. The system needs an overhaul.
And that actually brings me to the point I wanted to share too: I have been invited for a second interview!! Yes, that makes me very happy! I’m prepping like crazy and will receive the date and time soon.
On the one hand, I’m tremendously eager to go into the interview and show what I have already learned. Still, to be very honest, I am also a bit anxious... I really hope I will make it through and then get to the next level, on my way to that MSL contract!
Let’s get ready to rumble..!
Are you ready to jump ship?
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