What I spent and earned: October 12th – Paralysis

When you don’t know what to do next…

Variable Expenses Budget: $500.00
Spent Today: $5.88
Variable Budget Remaining: $175.68

October Income Goal: $2,500.00
Earned Today: $99.75*
Earned To Date: $704.94*
Goal Remaining: ($1,795.06)

This one is going up a bit late because I don’t really have much to say at the moment… I called my best friend last night, and she was in such good spirits. She and the guy she had been seeing for some time decided to move their situationship (yes, perhaps the greatest contribution of my generation is this awkward, unhelpful label for romantic interactions in which one party, it can be both but it is usually one party, is unwilling to acknowledge a romantic relationship) to a proper relationship. They both seem happier, calmer, and less insecure about “what they are doing.” I am happy for her. When it came to her asking me how I felt about my decision of the previous day, I told her I still felt good. And that was the truth. That is the truth. Requesting a formal withdrawal from my top choice medical school resulted in a twinge of sadness as I remembered how much time I labored over that application and how much I connected with the mission of the school but ultimately it was pretty fleeting. Then she asked a question for which I knew I had no good answer, “What’s next?”

I didn’t have a good answer. Everything once again feels both wide open and urgent. During my walk with the good friend on Tuesday, he mentioned a job that was opening up at University B. He didn’t believe the job had yet been posted but a subsequent search of University B’s HR portal confirmed that it had indeed been posted. The good friend, we’ll call him Mr. Pokémon, suggested that I would be a front runner for the position as the two people convening and chairing the search committee are fans of my work; in fact, I recounted a dinner with one of them not so long ago…

While this would seem like an easy transition back to University B in a significantly elevated role, in the areas of my subject matter expertise, I have significant reservations. This role is a non-institutional (unnecessary for the functioning of the university) role that only exists at a few universities across the country. The job description looks like the kitchen sink and suggests that they don’t know exactly what they want the person to do. I also have some reservations about the person to whom I would be reporting…in my past experiences with her, one in which I reported to her as chair of a university subcommittee, I have found her kind and well-meaning but generally incompetent. I know that seems harsh but…there it is.

In discussing my reservations about the role with Mr. Pokémon, he argue that the role is a bit better than my read. He acknowledged the considerable ambiguity but argued that there would be significant autonomy and the ability to define the initiative’s mission, parameters for success, and define the director role. In response to my concerns about my would-be supervisor, he said that he saw her as unable and uninterested in undermining any agenda I put forth but that the interview process would allow for vetting of her leadership/management style. In most instances, I would apply and use the interview process, as it is intended, to discern more about the role and whether or not it is a good fit. In this instance, I have some concerns that were I to enter and later withdraw from the interview process that I would be burning a bridge. I have asked Mr. Pokémon for his thoughts here and will make a decision as to whether or not to apply this weekend.

*Income is reported as cash on hand. Some gigs are 1099 gigs (taxes not withheld) and some gigs are W-2 gigs (taxes withheld) and it would be tough to distinguish between the two in a neat way. Instead, I will report cash in hand, and money set aside for taxes and expenses related to gig work will have a budget line item each month.

2 thoughts on “What I spent and earned: October 12th – Paralysis

  1. So I have some very specific thoughts on this situation based on my own experience as a slightly older person making a fairly substantial career shift. First is that you do not lose anything by being clear with everyone (friends, yourself, potential explorers) that you are in a period of exploration. If you think this is at all appealing, apply; the process will give you time to sort out if you want to do it and discuss your concerns with them. You can and should be explicit: “While I don’t want to complain about my previous two jobs and they had huge upsides, ultimately it was very important to me to have room to grow (first job) and to be true to my sense of mission to the community (second job). I am really excited about the possibilities at (new job) (name them). But I’m a little worried about what the university’s expectations are for this role and I’d like to discuss what the process of evaluation would look like. For example, the description suggests several goals that are in some tension with each other. How would we figure out what to prioritize? Who is ultimately in charge of that?” That kind of question shows that you’re being really thoughtful about the program but it also gives you super valuable information. Regarding the potential supervisor, just really directly ask, what’s it like reporting to you? How often do we meet? What kinds of things do you ask your direct reports? What kind of stuff do you value in a direct report and what drives you crazy in one? // Finally, I would not be concerned about bridge burning. If it’s really not a good fit they will discern that through the process and just won’t offer you the job, fine, no bridges burned. If they offer it and you just don’t feel it’s the right fit for you by then — say how flattered you are, but you just can’t see your way to doing it for whatever reasons. // Basically I think my advice is: don’t game yourself out of a potentially interesting job before you have to. It’s very common when you’re making a big change to just need some time to explore and the job application process is part of that.


    • Yes, brilliant woman, you are correct. Your argument is essentially Mr. Pokémon’s argument and after I read your comment I told him I would go ahead and apply. If I am getting the same piece of advice from sage people in my networks then I am willing to try. I think I was being so careful because I realize that given my recent blip at Organization C that I would need to be in this role for at least three years or I would jeopardize future opportunities. While I needed to leave University B, there were some warnings that Organization C was not the best fit and I ignored them during the interview process because I was so desperate to jump. I am just really trying not to do that here.


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