Thursday, 31 May 2012

Career vs Job

I'm one of the many research students within the Arts and Humanities who has a part time job alongside their PhD. I'm in the slightly more unusual situation of that part time job not being one tutoring undergraduates in my department. There are a few reasons for this, but the most obvious is that I was working in my job before I started the PhD. Instead of giving up a secure job on the off chance that I would get some teaching in the department to allow me to support myself, I spoke to my employers and they let me reduce my hours. 

This puts me in the odd position of working for one Scottish University while studying at another. It also puts me in an odd position as an budding academic since it gives me an insight into that other side of the running of a  University; support services. That's what we're called, and essentially I do University event related admin. This offers a lot of benefits, not least that of having a permanent job which gives me experience of working in a University, which could set me apart from those who only have experience at the teaching end of this. It also gives me staff access to the learning resources at the University I work for, as well as student access to those of where I'm a research postgrad. (In reality this means double the library fines, but I swear I'm getting better at returning books on time.)

Despite the rather amusing picture above, I'm not the event manager, I'm her assistant. Nevertheless, its not too different but involves more admin. the downside to having professional experience of Event planning is that it creeps into all aspects of your life. It turns out that pretty much everything you with other people is an Event of some sort or another and it is so difficult to switch off the Event Assistant in me.

This is particularly evident when I'm at an event, say a conference, for my career. I've got my academic hat on and I'm one of the presenters. I'm representing my University (not my work) and I'm "networking". This is all going fine; I've done this since 2005 and I've gotten used to the rhythm of balancing small talk and analysis, shifting between talking about me and asking about them. And then something small like a late running panel, or a logistic issue with the tea and coffee service during the break and suddenly I'm an Event Assistant again. I can't help it, I start working out what they should have done (i.e. what I would have done, which isn't really the same thing). 

I can't work out if this is a good problem to have. It means I'm good at my job, and that when my job and my career eventually become the same thing my conferences will kick ass. Right now thought, I wish I could turn it off and concentrate on the things I'm supposed to be doing.

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