Today’s post isn’t
contest related, so feel free to tune out if you’re only here for the cash dollaz (although if you are a writer, perhaps you should be at the submission page rather than reading my ramblings). As those who follow my Twitter-self may know, I’ve been applying for jobs over on the East coast of Australia for around six months now, with not so much as an interview to reward my persistence so far. It’s been affecting my ability to do the casual research work I’m currently being paid for a little bit, but thankfully I have people like Lucy to cheer me up when I vent my frustrations into the thrumming social media void:
@toothsoup Looking for work is like having the entire world tell you you’re not good enough. Keep at it, there is an ideal job waiting!
— Lucy (@findmeastorm) May 3, 2012
My problem is, of course, experience. In that I apparently have none, despite my four years of near-constant scientific analysis performed during my Ph.D. project. The attitude of industrial and, to a certain extent, university research positions is that you must have some degree of experience in a laboratory when applying for their positions. Oh, but the huge number of hours you spent performing and demonstrating laboratories, preparing samples for experiments at national and international facilities, or stuck in front of a computer analysing ream after ream of barely-parsed machine code? They don’t count. No, you need to have at least a year or two up your sleeve doing the kind of laboratory work that would be made redundant by robots in a second if those lab monkeys decided to union up and protest the ridiculously low wages they are paid on graduation from some of the hardest bachelor degrees available.
Ahem. Sorry about that; getting a little ranty. Anyway, my point is that I’m getting nowhere fast, and it’s a bit of a downer. I have occasionally received good feedback from HR departments stating that I was within the top 10%, had a good resume, etc. but apparently I need to spend a couple of years deadening my (already dangerously low) passion for science doing the scientific equivalent of a brickie’s labourer*.
Oh goodness, there I go again.
Okay, staying on topic this time. The point of this post was to talk about goals, and how I don’t generally make them and how I’m trying to make them now. The source of this sudden focus is (like many good things) the bro-tastic Laurie Steed, in the form of a book called ‘Where Will You Be 5 Years From Today?’. It’s one of those dream-big-make-progress-not-quite-self-improvement kind of books, where by you fill in a bunch of fields and end up coming up with a set of goals to work towards. It’s a bit twee, with quotes from everyone who’s ever said something about life flitting about on each page, and cute little graphics emphasising points in bold duo- or tri-colour. But despite this, it’s possible to use it for good rather than mockery. Which is what Louise and I did one night last week. Just sat down and went through the first half of the book, answering as honestly as we could.
The results were surprising, but also not. Both of us obviously have a passion for creative endeavours, and that showed through in our top long-term goals (her: art exhibition, me: novel/collection). But what was surprising was that neither of us really had any real desire to pursue our chosen careers with any kind of vigour. Nor did our long-term goals involve any kind of material gain. In fact, both of us were pretty thoroughly sick of the idea of careers and 9-5 jobs and managers and bosses and climbing the ladder. And we are both rational enough to know that these kinds of feelings are to be expected: no-one actually likes working for the man.
But what was interesting was that, for the first time ever, we actually sat down and thought through what the alternatives might be. Things like starting a small business, or working part-time. Business proposals, grant funding, freelance writing, selling art online, and so on and so forth. And what was even more interesting was that, keeping a rational head on our shoulders, some of these options started to seem feasible. I’m not talking big money feasible, but keeping-your-head-above-water feasible. Which is not to say we’re rushing into anything crazy with idealistic stars in our eyes, but it certainly has given us both something to think about. I guess the take home message is that goal-setting is something that not a lot of us really do in a meaningful way, and it can really help focus you towards pathways that you didn’t think were possible.
And now I think I’d better go before I start raving on about personal journeys and asking the universe to give me a sports car.
*Not that I mind labouring. I quite enjoyed my time in Kalgoorlie and would likely do it again if the chance arose.