Advertisement

loader

Talk

Advanced search

Feel out of place in academia because I'm not passionate or ambitious

(31 Posts)
BellaHadidHere Thu 02-Nov-17 11:16:22

I'm an SL at an RG university. I got prompted because we have a yearly round of promotion rather than self-nomination and the powers that be decided I should be promoted. Obviously, I wasn't going to turn down a £8,000 pay rise grin

I'm good at my job and I enjoy most of it.

But, I'm not looking to move up the career ladder any more. I'm happy to plod along where I am. I get excellent teaching scores and I'm okay at research (REF-able but I don't have thousands of 4* publications).

I'm also not "passionate" about the job. I like it but it's just a "job" to me. I don't work evenings or weekends regularly (will do if I'm under some pressure for a deadline) and I don't stress about work. If a great opportunity came up at similar levels of pay I'd think very seriously about it. I'm not "wedded" to academia and I don't see my identity as an "academic"- it's my job but not my whole identity, if that makes sense. As soon as I can, I'll retire from work and I won't look back. I don't want to be emeritus- I can't think of anything worse.

Sometimes I completely feel like the odd one out. I've never met anyone else in academia who feels this way (or at least no-one who's openly admitted it!). There must be people like me out there? Are there? Are you one of them?

Summerswallow Thu 02-Nov-17 15:43:59

I don't feel quite the same, but I'm not as hard working or obsessive as some of my colleagues, I work on weekends if I have a tight deadline, marking/paper due in, but otherwise not if I can help it. I do want to get promoted though as in our institution workloads are roughly similar with each level (bit more responsibility perhaps but not always) so would prefer to do my job on professors pay, thanks!

Summerswallow Thu 02-Nov-17 15:44:44

I think it's fine to feel as you do, though, and often the very solid performers are the backbone of the department/NSS esp if you are a good teacher. I consider myself one.

opiumeater Thu 02-Nov-17 16:19:28

I think you sound amazing and academia would be all the better for more people with your sense of proportion and realism. You sound like you're finding it relatively easy to coast and have a nice life outside - so why would you not do that?

Graby Thu 02-Nov-17 16:34:14

Me! I think I'm like you.

Except I like to think I do work pretty hard, except for the times that I decide (quite reasonably) to loaf and read other stuff (for new ideas), or pull my kid out of nursery for a playdate, or do a couple of chores which are hard to do at weekends. I do dip into weekends but largely because I also dip into my weeks. I wonder whether you're diminishing what you do do.

I very much enjoy aspects of my work but, yes, could see myself doing something else. I don't have the group identity which seems to be protective in some ways - but equally I don't tend to whinge as much as many of my colleagues who see martyrdom as a marker of being a true academic.

The whingeing and siege mentality does annoy me a bit, because I find it demoralising, though presumably other people find it helps. Friends in other sectors seem to put up with much more without being quite so precious, so I can't take it too seriously.

I wouldn't mind being a prof, but a bit of me thinks it's like The Office when Tim and Gareth talk about milk monitors.

TooDamnSarky Thu 02-Nov-17 16:38:15

I think I’ve found my people smile

try2hard Thu 02-Nov-17 18:45:09

I feel like this. I do work evening and weekends but it's generally excuse I day dream during the day and do secret childcare during the week. I do have peaks and troughs though so I'll suddenly get passionate about research but the feeling wanes very quickly. I used to like teaching but workload and whingey students have pretty much stamped out any passion I had there.

If I could find a similar paid role with the same commute and flexibility I'd jump for it.

FurryGiraffe Thu 02-Nov-17 19:23:49

Yup, I feel like this.

I'm on a teaching only contract, since before the last REF because everything went rather badly wrong. But I was never that passionate about research (probably why it went wrong).

I'm on a decent salary that allows me to work 4 days, I'm a good teacher, I'm a bloody good administrator and I know I'm valuable to my department for that. I have two DC under 5 and the flexibility to be able to go to harvest festival and nativity plays is fabulous.

But realistically I have no career progression (I'm an SL) and I imagine I've got 35 years of working life ahead of me and I'm a long way from being thrilled by that. I'd love to do something else (haven't a clue what), but the flexibility/salary/pension/decent employment rights are not to be sneezed at.

BellaHadidHere Fri 03-Nov-17 08:56:58

So glad to see there are others out there!

I do work hard. I just work hard roughly 9-5, 5 days a week. I think it's a pretty healthy way to work and, crucially, what I'm actually paid to do.

Graby I completely understand what you mean about the whingeing mentality. When I look at the pay and conditions in academia compared to other sectors, the moaning that colleagues do just makes me laugh actually.

I guess my issue is that this attitude I have seems like such a no-no in academia. I feel as though I will be labelled as incompetent or uncommitted if I say that I'm not passionate about the job, as much as possible I only work my contracted hours, I don't care about promotion etc. But that's not true, I am committed and I am competent- I'm just committed and competent for the 35 hours a week I'm actually paid to be grin

Furry I'm planning and working towards early retirement for that exact reason grin

user2019697 Fri 03-Nov-17 09:25:22

For many us, it just wouldn't be possible to have the attitudes you describe - we wouldn't have gotten permanent positions without working long hours, moving around, generally focussing on work most of our time.

It sounds very healthy to have these attitudes and I wish you well at continuing this way. It wouldn't be possible in my institution as what you describe would probably have you put into performance management i.e. you would be pushed to achieve more or get out. But it is good that it is still possible to work 35 hours per week somewhere in UK academia.

try2hard Fri 03-Nov-17 10:32:29

I actually do think the pay argument has merit. If I'd gone into any role that required me to have a PhD then I'd be getting a lot more by now! But the flexibility remains good for the short term so it makes the lower salary worth it.

Graby Fri 03-Nov-17 11:00:49

user2019697 - why would the attitudes put me in performance management, so long as I'm productive and professional and collegial? I don't wander round chippily saying 'you're all drones, I'm such a rebel'.

I work hard but I prioritise. I'm not going to be promoted quickly so I try to prioritise interesting research over excessive good citizenship or rewriting my teaching materials every year, so that at least I get something out of this career path and it feels a bit less of a treadmill. I do have a sense of market value and a little bit of healthy self-preservation. Otherwise I would be really unhappy and no more successful, perhaps less, and might as well do something else.

user2019697 Fri 03-Nov-17 11:06:11

It's not the attitudes that would put you into performance management. It would be not performing highly enough relative to (high) benchmarks in terms of research performance.

BellaHadidHere Fri 03-Nov-17 11:14:30

user

It would be not performing highly enough relative to (high) benchmarks in terms of research performance

As I said in the OP, I receive excellent teaching scores and I'm performing at a level commensurate with my career stage so I have no idea why you've assumed I'm under-performing enough to be looking at performance review hmm

A couple of years ago I got promoted so clearly the University are happy with how I'm doing.

user2019697 Fri 03-Nov-17 11:25:12

* I'm okay at research (REF-able but I don't have thousands of 4* publications). *

This is what you wrote OP. You give the impression by this statement that you are not performing at the top end, research wise. If you are, then of course you wouldn't be put into performance management.

And again - in many universities the benchmarks are becoming sufficiently high that more and more people are being placed under performance review. If that's not happening at your institution, great. If you can work 35 hours per week and meet the demands of your job, again, great. But I very much doubt you will be able to carry on that way for the next decade.

Graby Fri 03-Nov-17 11:27:44

user I think I'm trying to make a point that moral pressure is often counterproductive and the people who are susceptible to it, who (apparently) work very long hours, are often no more and perhaps even less productive than others. Once I started relaxing and enjoying my work I began doing a lot better and attracting good, productive research relationships.

user2019697 Fri 03-Nov-17 11:34:10

Hours worked does not correlate with productivity or outputs certainly.

Morale is very important and the performance management culture that is being introduced in many places has bad effects on morale.

A lot of time is wasted by academics on stuff that doesn't count for them, so by picking what you do you can save a lot of time.

So it may well be that OP out-performs those who are more ambitious and work longer hours (unproductively).

But more and more is being loaded onto academics every year (REF, TEF, KEF,.....). The workloads now being given to a typical SL in a research intensive university in the UK are such that most people can't do everything in 35 hours while producing enough world leading research. I'm not saying that the high workloads in admin, TEF/REF/NSS related stuff is good.

Halfdrankbrew Fri 03-Nov-17 11:43:34

I'm still completing my PhD I've decided academia just isn't for me because I don't appear to have to same all consuming desire to let my job take over my life. If I thought I could have the same attitude as you do, work hard, hit the targets but still have a life outside of work I'd love it. My supervisor is a complete work addict, she'll email at 1am and then again at 5am, it's constant. I just think nah this isn't the life for me.

It sounds like you've got great work/life balance and I'm envious in some ways you can still manage to work in this environment and still seem to lead a normal life. I've never once thought I fitted the mould of an academic.

Graby Fri 03-Nov-17 12:12:57

The OP is probably being modest about the fact she is very smart, well-organised, liked by students and colleagues and all that makes an enormous difference, much more so than being a workhorse.

Halfdrankbrew - having a different perspective often adds great value; and in any case don't buy into the idea that it's all about merit and hours worked. Even beyond what you deserve, connections, location, sheer good luck all matter as much, probably more. Remember as well that your supervisor may have a touch of insomnia and then rolled over and went back to sleep. How would you know?

user - are you based at an institution which periodically makes large numbers of redundancies & uses performance management very actively? I have noticed extreme differences in institutional efficiency - some institutions are just much better at taking the regulatory load off the frontline staff and dealing with it more centrally. Some institutions have a more sustainable business model too so are a bit more future-proofed.

I can't see why a typical SL should be much affected by the TEF or KEF if they're not leading impact cases, or running degree programmes (and yes, I do do impact, and care about teaching, but at the moment they're not priorities).

My sense is that the structural changes to come are such that the difference between a 45 and 50 hour working week at the individual level will make no difference to individual prospects. The findings from the productivity literature regarding the sources of low productivity probably apply to our sector as much as others. And if there are mass redundancies to come within the next decade it's not because we're not 'good enough' but because of Brexit, political changes, excess student places & institutional business model flaws which are all beyond individual control.

user2019697 Fri 03-Nov-17 13:43:21

And if there are mass redundancies to come within the next decade it's not because we're not 'good enough' but because of Brexit, political changes, excess student places & institutional business model flaws which are all beyond individual control.

I agree that the issues in the next decade are the ones you have identified - add in likely cuts in real terms to university student funding.

The risk to people such as OP is not necessarily redundancy. Those who "under-perform" in research (where "under-performance can be defined as not producing enough 4 star papers, or pulling in enough income to cover 30-40% of salary) could well see substantially increased teaching and admin loads over the coming years.

But ultimately academic staff could kick back against this - and simply not maintain their research output at the personal of working ever longer hours. It is hard for a university to make an entire department redundant if everyone cuts back on research to cope with the increased teaching/admin burden. If however most people accept an increased workload/working hours (i.e. work extra to maintain research output) and some people don't, those people are at risk of being managed out.

BTW I think it is going to be very much discipline and department dependent how much of the burden of subject level TEF and KEF (and whatever other nonsense politicians dream up) will fall onto more junior staff.

BellaHadidHere Fri 03-Nov-17 14:19:09

I'm okay at research (REF-able but I don't have thousands of 4 publications)*

This is what you wrote OP. You give the impression by this statement that you are not performing at the top end, research wise. If you are, then of course you wouldn't be put into performance management.

And again - in many universities the benchmarks are becoming sufficiently high that more and more people are being placed under performance review. If that's not happening at your institution, great. If you can work 35 hours per week and meet the demands of your job, again, great. But I very much doubt you will be able to carry on that way for the next decade

confused I'm performing at a level commensurate with my career stage. I have enough publications for REF with a couple of years to go. Of course there are those who are at the top of their career stage, those in the middle and those at the bottom. Those at the top will be being eyed for promotion as I was a couple of years ago when I went from L to SL. I'd say I'm now slap-bang in the middle of the expectations put on me.

I understand what you're saying about those expectations increasing but I don't think it'll be half as bad as you're suggesting otherwise pretty much everyone at my university would be on performance management.

And, TBH, if I couldn't carry on working as I am now (as in just the hours I'm paid for), then academia wouldn't be for me. It'd be a nice excuse to try a new career grin

MistressDeeCee Fri 03-Nov-17 14:25:09

OP you sound great. You're good at your job and do it well. Your work/life balance is good. I'm not a believer in being driven, and putting work before all. I'm self-employed worked hard to get here, I love it. Yet it's not the thing I'm most passionate about, I've hobbies I love and work is a means to an end re the lifestyle I want to have. That's all. Nothing wrong with being solidly good at your work. I think we are too encouraged to be constantly goal focused, at times. But we need the people who will steadily hold the fort too...

user2019697 Fri 03-Nov-17 14:27:20

I have worked in a university (a world leading one) where about a quarter or a third of the faculty were put into performance management measures. It was not a nice environment - but the university did as a result push up further in the world rankings.

I'm performing at a level commensurate with my career stage. I have enough publications for REF with a couple of years to go.

Ok, so by the standards of your university you are in fact not just doing "OK" but doing better than "OK", which is not what you wrote in your first post.

(BTW remember that publication numbers are going to be variable. So it is not about having enough publications, but optimising the number of high scoring publications submitted.)

user2019697 Fri 03-Nov-17 14:28:57

(In my own university, admittedly a top 10 in the world university, the push is now on producing as many 4 star papers as possible i.e. having 4 "clear" 4 star papers would no longer be enough for the next REF.)

BellaHadidHere Fri 03-Nov-17 14:43:03

user Ugh, don't get me bloody started on star ratings. All our papers have to go through internal peer review and we get indicative star ratings. The only problem is that no-one really knows what a 4* really looks like. The papers are reviewed by people who've sat on REF panels but even they don't seem to have a clue.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now