Thursday, 19 March 2015

What it might mean when you begin to "put yourself in charge"

Uggh, I've been having frequent interrupted sleeping lately - just waking up at various times in the night for no particular reason (or when experiencing hormonal night sweats! yes, they are a big drag) and the latest advice on the net is to gear yourself up early for a night of good sleep by turning off screens- get away from the laptop, tablet, phone and turn off the telly at least an hour before hitting the sack. So, as I sit here at 11.30 pm on the spur of the moment decision to look at my neglected blog, I wonder what I am setting myself up for tonight. Let's see how it goes. I'm going to make this post short in some attempt to have some peace later on.

I've logged on now, I guess, because my mind has been in a bit of a whirl about what my next moves in life will be. My job is now finished - the final day was last Thursday. I've gone through the expected lengthy questioning about whether I made the right decision to move now before I have something else lined up, have experienced, and am still experiencing aches of guilt that I am not contributing financially to the family income at the moment, and feeling a bit of a sense of loss, if nothing else, of the routine that one has when one pick's oneself up everyday, often through the cold and rain on the bike, to participate in the conflicting world of paid work. If only we didn't invest so much of our identities in this, it may feel easier to move on and forward.

For the last couple of months I've been confining my job searches to suitable university administration/project work, and as I posted in January (or late December) I was unsuccessful in my last interview - still it was a good experience. Over the last few days I've started to widen the search out of curiosity to see what sorts of things might be possible. Chris Humphrey's postac Jobs On Toast website has been helpful in prompting some of this. But it was an article I came across tonight by Jennifer Polk 'Be vulnerable, be brave' that offered a few words of wisdom and has been sticking with me. Reading it felt like confirmation that my decision to leave the job now was the absolute right thing to do. The more I think about it, the more I realise that this move is my first step in beginning to "put yourself in charge" as Jen writes. Her final words, the internet speak "takeaway" message is this:

be vulnerable, be brave, and put yourself in charge. Whatever comes of it, at least you'll know you gave it your all, and that you honoured who you really are. You owe yourself that much. I'm rooting for you.

Thank you Jen, for rooting for the postacs who are making these kind f decisions, but also for people like me, a postac who's already made the transition out of the PhD, adjunct world and into alternative employment (albeit as an 'alt-ac', but still...). I'm just another example of what this working world is now like. Nothing is forever, new challenges are always presenting themselves and forcing us out of our comfort zones. It's hard sometimes to get to the point where we can will ourselves to 'be vulnerable' when it doesn't always instantly reward us or make us feel heroic about its related sense of 'bravery'. But vulnerability is an important, meaningful part of growth and won't do us too much harm. Onward I go. Let's hope that the night ahead is filled with sweet dreams.

See Jennifer Polk's website;

Apologies for not providing links - too much to manage at this hour. Next step - laptop shut down.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Starting anew once again

Just over a month has past since my last entry and much has happened. In short, I have decided it is time to move on from my current job. There has been lots of ruminating about it, feelings of guilt that I should hang on and just give it a go, that sort of thing, but instinct was telling me, and was confirmed after my consultation about the details of the new role, that it would not be positive to stay. I am obliged to only give four weeks notice but have given them an extra two weeks as nothing else is lined up and I was hoping to finish off some projects, not to mention take up some of the annual leave time that I accrued. Being part-time, that has meant that there haven't been too many full days of work left. The last couple of weeks have been chaotic busy time with what seems like an endless list of tasks and waiting for others to get back to me to complete things. In addition, other mini crisis management things have come up to keep me busy - all of this has just added amounted to an increase of stress levels at the moment that I'm hoping to manager better today on this day off and over the weekend so I can get a better sleep. It's actually probably a combination of knowing the end is near and not knowing what lies ahead that is really accentuating some anxiety. I think once I finish and have some time to just get to grips with this and relax a bit then I'll feel better. Sticking to getting some regular exercise with the running should help - it seems to have a positive effect when the headaches come on and helps promote some relaxation.

So, it's all starting again for me, the re-thinking and planning ahead for the next steps. I may not have secure work in place for a bit, but I've never really been out for work for extended periods of time in the past. Overall, I'm feeling secure in my decision to leave and positive about the future but this is mixed with some overwhelming thoughts about the potential uncertainty of it all. I thought I may not be spending too much time on this blog but maybe this will change. Watch this space. I'm sure at the very least I'll be posting some short updates every now and then for those of you who may be interested and who may be experiencing similar journeys.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

How fast things can change

It's quite funny, actually, or should I say ironic, that in my last post I was writing about how fairly good things were at work and that I was in no rush to move on. It was all suiting me just fine. Well, not too long after my colleagues and I were informed that the organisation was making plans for a major restructure which would impact on some people's jobs, whether this would mean changes to their roles or making the phasing out the role to introduce something altogether different. Already the next line area managers were reapplying for roles that were changing from what they had been previously - all of these people were successful and are making new business plans for their areas. I've now discovered that my role will have different responsibilities added to it and I will be line-managed by another person in a different area who has been with the organisation less than a year. The areas I am told that need attention don't exactly thrill me with excitement and the new manager's interests don't seem to coincide with mine very much. This person is nice enough and I have the usual respect for him/her as I would for anyone else in the office, but I guess in all honesty, I'm not overly impressed with some of the approach to what I would have expected were simple decisions about a few things over the last months or so. It may be that my part-time role will now change to full-time. I'm told there is a possibility to consider how this may work in a job-share arrangement if I wanted to continue part-time. It's a guessing game as to how many prospective people may line up to take this possible job share and bring with them a range of skills/interests that I may not have, which could then complement the idea of the job share. All will be explored in more detail in a meeting next week. I'm trying to keep an open mind on this.

This all has prompted lots of pondering and some attempts at how to think about planning my future. I was actually successful in being shortlisted for a challenging interview for a role at the university before Christmas and I was very excited about the prospect of being chosen for something that looked like it was right up my street in terms of transferable of skills and interests. After loads of research and planning for what would be a whole morning of various tasks for the recruitment process I finally decided I had done enough and didn't want to overkill or burn out during a time when I was recovering from a cold that had been dragging on (and then returned over the holiday in a worse state). But sadly all of my good efforts proved not to be enough to convince them to hire me, or indeed the other two shortlisted candidates. I was told no one was offered the job as we didn't quite offer what they were looking for - indeed they were going to rethink this role, what they wanted and how to proceed. I've found this enlightening - the way it was advertised with the usual list of 'essential' criteria and 'desirable' criteria suggested they were remaining flexible, maybe hoping that someone interesting might show up with the potential and evidence of the goods. But I guess 'potential' isn't good enough if the employer wants that person to get in and turn out the goods fast with obvious confidence. This kind of candidate would need 'essential' experience in that field of work and developed skills in 'all' the areas, which I believe is what they hoped to find. I made the brave move afterwards to ask for feedback about everything. Wow, this ended up being quite a deflating experience, more than I was ready for. The list of criticisms seemed endless, aside from the compliment that I was quite likable/approachable, would be good to work with. Hmm, well, as this case shows, you need a lot more than that to secure a good job. But I guess what I have learned is that the aspect of the job that would have actually demanded most of my time, was in fact, when I look closely at my skills and what I 'enjoy' doing professionally, the least attractive part of the role. I hadn't quite realised this important point until afterwards, after I was forced to swallow the feedback. A good friend also reminded me that I shouldn't use this as a case to be too hard on myself. The whole recruitment process relies heavily of a lot of criticism, and especially in an example like this where they didn't hire anyone. As this was the case, they had to show good reasons why they wouldn't hire us. I may have been naive to expect to get more positive feedback after this process. And all of the kind giggling, smiling, positive nodding in the interview, in retrospect, feels like a bit of an unkind joke, a farce. If the interview panel were less cheery and signaled a bit clearer some of their dissatisfaction then maybe the let down would have been easier.

Still, a good professional learning experience for me for sure. I'm fully aware of the fragility of the workplace at the moment when things can unexpectedly begin to change. It feels good that my application was strong enough to shortlist me, but in future I should be more selective and really think hard about what kind of job I want to commit myself to, and how this would compliment my strengths, not challenge all my weak areas. I also decided I want to stick to part-time hours. Well, that's going to be harder to achieve - it's not going to just slot into place. Funny, that was another thing that came up with this interview. I had phoned and spoke to one of the contacts about whether the full-time spec could be worked into part-time and I was reassured that it was worth applying as they may consider this for the right person. But when I brought this up to the other contact in the interview the prospect seemed surprising to him/her and the other person kept quiet about it. Oh well. Sticking to this whole part-time agenda thing is going to introduce challenges. I'm not sure at all how I'm going to deal with this at the moment. For today, I'm going to just try to remain calm, take things slowly, see what happens at next week's work meeting and take things from there. Wish me luck.