Saturday, September 26, 2009

Something positive about my job

Shifter here. I was in a weird mood this morning. Probably had something to do with trying to run 22 miles while sick and ending up only getting 17 in and feeling like !@#$. But anyway, at some point it just hit me that there is one thing I really like about my job. Long time IR's will know that one of the things I love most about my job is complaining about it, and that is because there are so very many things to complain about! But here is one thing I can definitely say I like about my job.

I get paid to think.

That's pretty incredible when you think about it. It's most obvious when I'm doing research but it's present elsewhere as well. When I'm given time to do research, it's essentially because someone somewhere decided "we like what you think about, we think it's important, and we're willing to pay you to keep thinking about it and to try to conduct studies to check out what you've been thinking about." That, well, that's awesome. There's just no other way to put it. It's amazing. It's also humbling. A lot of time researchers, including me, tend to think of research as our right - we should get to do research because we're researchers, by god, and why are they getting in the way? But it comes down to a value decision on the part of many institutions. This is most obvious in grant situations, when a funding agency literally gives you money, sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars, to conduct studies to test out what you've been thinking about. But it's also true of your home institution, which pays you a salary to, yes, think about things. Which means that your home institution has decided that you thinking about things is of benefit to it and to its goals, whatever they may be. Which is really cool.

This is also true, perhaps to a lesser extent, in my administrative role. A large part of middle management (I think I'm middle management, or maybe lower middle management is a better description) is just making things run. Keep the trains running on time. Get the staff performing to expectations. And so forth. But even in an admin job as low level as mine there are opportunities and sometimes even demands that you think of new ways to do things. And sometimes, though rarely, they even let you try out some of the things you think of. Granted, it's very frustrating when you spend a lot of time and effort thinking of a solution, a good damn solution, and don't get to do it because of any of a zillion factors (idiocy of others often being one of them). But it's still cool to be paid to try to think of new approaches or ideas.

I have other parts of my job, direct care parts, that are what drew me into my profession in the first place and that are valuable to me in an entirely different way. But oddly enough when you come down to it what gets me excited about work is when I get to think and analyze and take things apart and put them back together in a fun way. I had no idea those would be part of my career when I decided to go into this field, but I'm glad they are. Very glad. And it is a treat to get paid money to do stuff like that.

Sadly, this does not undo any of the stuff I absolutely loathe about my job, but it does remind me why I put up with all of it. Which means that you, dear IR's, will get to keep hearing about it for years to come.

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