Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bad day


I had a really bad day yesterday. I've been struggling for months to be competent at my job. In my mind, I had this idea of a set of technical skills someone competent in my position should be able to do. Unfortunately, a task that would take a competent person in my field 10 minutes to accomplish takes me a full day to do a half-assed job. I've been very frustrated with that, and I've been staying at work late almost every day, so I can accomplish at least that one single tiny task.

And then I had a meeting with my boss. He asked me what is my vision of the project. I flustered and stammered that I'm trying really hard to acquire enough technical skills to handle the analysis of the  dataset given to me. He kept insisting that the technical skills are not the important part, that it's more important that my "vision" and plans are clear and spelled out. I almost snapped right there, or maybe I actually snapped; I'm not even exactly sure what happened to me.

You'd think that with 6 years of grad school training under my belt, I'd be an expert of some specific set of skills. It feels very crushing that I am back in the exact same position I was 10 years ago at my first science job, where my only skill is that I know how to use Google to look up information. I have some rough ideas on people typically do to this kind of dataset, so I search for available software and online tutorials / online discussion forums on how to use these software tools to perform these analyses. It takes frigging forever and it makes me feel like I don't know how to do anything. I stay late every night struggling to learn my job and now he says that's not important; it's more important to write up what you plan to do and how you envision you will succeed?

And then I realized that one of the skills that every employee should have, no matter what field you're in, is to be able to try to understand what the boss wants and offer it to him, even if it makes no sense or is completely impractical. I obviously lack this particular skill. Of course bosses don't care how you accomplish the tasks as long as they get accomplished. For research, since the set of tasks is not so clearly defined, the only thing the manager can do is to ask you to provide him a list of action items you plan to do, and then periodically poke you to see if you have completed the tasks yet. The concept is kind of sad for me. I almost kind of want a supervisor who will tell me exactly what I need to do and then I'll just do them. Then I go home and not worry about work any more.

I hope to eventually reach a point where I can become more competent at my job. Then I would feel better about giving my future plans, my "visions", and other BS. I also hope to be less exhausted when I go home every day. Right now I feel like all my life energy is exhausted by my work. I am also very tempted to give up science and take up a less cognitively demanding job. If only I knew what other kind of jobs I would qualify for.

Life shouldn't be all about work, especially in a field I have lost confidence in. I feel like I've worked so hard all of my life, but going in the wrong direction the whole time. Not sure what is the right path for me. How do I search for it and get on that road instead? Where is the Google search engine of real life?





6 comments:

  1. If your'e honest, you sooner or later have to confront your values. Then your'e forced to separate what is right, from what is merely legal.

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    1. Thanks for your comments Anonymous (though I do prefer my commenters to have a user name). I do have certain values but I wish I could either live and/or work with people who share my values. Right now I feel like I'm just surviving, adopting to whatever's going on around me, and the feeling sucks.

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  2. What would you do with your life if money were no object?

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    1. Actually being a scientist was my dream job ever since I was a kid. I've always wanted to contribute to society, make the world a better place and all that. But the way the world works is not at all what I imagined, so I feel kind of defeated. The illusion is broken.

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  3. Hang in there. Don't be too hard on yourself and remember to look for things that bring you joy. At the end of the day, life is short and we need to follow our hearts.
    Thank you for writing about your experiences and your struggles so openly and honestly. That's inspiring. I've just started a yoga blog of my own and linked you in my sidebar. I hope that's okay. Check it out if you're so inclined...

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    1. Thank you very much for your advice Savannah and thanks for linking my page on your blog. I think I've been too used to please others first rather and failing to establish my own boundaries + express my needs that I've been allowing people to step all over me. I've got to learn to be more assertive but it's not an easy thing for me to do.

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