You can take the person out of the lab, but it takes longer to take the #disgruntledpostdoc out of the person

Oct 22 2014 Published by under Academia, Decisions, industry, new job, science

It's been nearly two months since I started my industry job. My main reason to switch to industry was the insecurity in academia. The fact that you need to get grants and that it is unknown what will happen to your job if you don't get those grants. People had assured me that there is insecurity everywhere and these people appear to be right. The new type of insecurity is the fact that companies buy each other, and then it is unclear if the company will move, if the interests of the company will change or -worst case scenario - if everyone will lose their job.

But that's not what I wanted to talk about. Instead, I wanted to talk about the fact that even though I consider myself much happier in this job than in my post-doc job, I still very often feel like instead of gaining a cool and awesome job, I lost my chance of becoming an academic PI. I lost my shot at awards and stuff like that. And I wonder if academia has brainwashed me into thinking that being succesfull in academia is the highest attainable goal in everyone's life. In this job, I come home happy and feeling like I've accomplished something nearly every day*. In my previous job, I came home angry and disgruntled on many days. But whenever I hear about someone else getting a job, or a paper, or a grant, I feel kind of jealous. I worked hard, why did I not get there? I just can't figure out why I then still feel like I've lost here, even though in my heart I know that I am much happier here. Still dis-assimilating I guess.

* so yes, this can totally be filed under #firstworldproblems. I realize how whiny this post sounds and how lucky I am to have this awesome job .

14 responses so far

  • drugmonkey says:

    It has only been a few months! geez, give yourself a little time to adjust. 🙂

  • AScientist says:

    I suspect it will take longer than a few months to shake off those feelings, but really, it's the loss of a dream. Do baseball players who don't make the majors ever stop feeling a bit envious, no matter how good their current life? I know that green-headed monster (still in academia, but stuck), but have learned to keep it to myself, as the recoil by others whenever I make a snark-envy remark is even worse. Suppose the best thing to do is let the better pay, better conditions assuage those feelings, and just try to let it go.

  • eeke says:

    I know a number of people who were extremely successful in academia for a long period of time (held leadership positions, well funded for years, etc) who dropped everything and joined a company. I spoke to one of these people about his decision. He said he felt that the atmosphere in industry wasn't much different - in academia, your research direction is guided (or restricted, however you want to look at it) by funding initiatives, priorities, etc. whereas in industry, your research direction is guided by profit. The bottom line is that your "freedom" to make decisions in scientific direction is restricted in both camps. Academia has deadlines. Industry has milestones. He liked the fact that his research in industry had more immediate effects and outcomes on societal benefits. This idea that one needs to stay in academia for success, admiration and glory is fucked up and is propagated by self-centered douchebags.

  • Noncoding Arenay says:

    "And I wonder if academia has brainwashed me into thinking that being succesfull in academia is the highest attainable goal in everyone's life."

    "This idea that one needs to stay in academia for success, admiration and glory is fucked up and is propagated by self-centered douchebags."

    ^^ both comments are spot on. Who cares about academia if you are happy, earning well and feel satisfied with what you are doing in industry? Unfortunately, such misplaced feelings of reward or accomplishment are rampant in may aspects of life (not just career-related). The more one is able to through them with a clean, unbiased, non-brainwashed mind, the easier it is to be content with what you have.

  • becca says:

    Wait until you have a real balance in a 401(k). I hear it does worlds of goods for regruntlement. 😉

    • babyattachmode says:

      Yes I can imagine. Although I should add that in the homecountry as a grad student and post-doc you also automatically save for retirement through your employer/school. Unless you decide to work in the US of course...

  • biochembelle says:

    I just can't figure out why I then still feel like I've lost here, even though in my heart I know that I am much happier here. Still dis-assimilating I guess.

    I know this feeling. I made the choice to "leave academia" for many reasons. And I'm happy with that choice. But there's also something ... unsettling about it.

    It's a big shift. We have to adapt to new work cultures. And on top of that, suddenly, the camaraderie shared over the grind of academia isn't really ours to share anymore. Of course we can recall and empathize, but it's not something we do now. It's a bit disorienting.

    I also wonder if it would help to stop framing the transitions in terms of what we left and start talking about it in the frame of what we're becoming.

    (Oh and things like regular schedules and retirement savings do help with the dedisgruntling process. :D)

    • babyattachmode says:

      Yes to stopping to talk about what we're becoming! What I like about my new position is that all of a sudden my career path has widened a lot, I can become so many things within this company or outside, whereas in academia it felt like one path that needed to be walked if you get what I mean.

  • neuromusic says:

    sorry if this is too sentimental, but here's a James Baldwin quote...

    "Any real change implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety. And at such a moment, unable to see and not daring to imagine what the future will now bring forth, one clings to what one knew, or dreamed that one possessed. Yet, it is only when a man is able, without bitterness or self-pity, to surrender a dream he has long cherished or a privilege he has long possessed that he is set free — he has set himself free — for higher dreams, for greater privileges."

    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/James_Baldwin

  • fibr0blast says:

    'And I wonder if academia has brainwashed me into thinking that being succesfull in academia is the highest attainable goal in everyone's life.'

    I can second that. Big disappointment expressed by my academic community when I announced my farewell to research, but the transition allowed me to grow wings and further develop myself. I feel valued in my organisation and ever challenged to further grow professionally. This is my story 5 years later. To you I would say: Hold on tight for the exciting roller-coaster ride!

  • […] the wrong decision (which I don't think I did) by moving to industry. But then I realized I had written a post about this before where I wondered "if academia has brainwashed me into thinking that being successful in academia […]

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