Survive the squeeze

Drugmonkey has a very timely post up on the coming institutional squeeze (which Alex also noted a few days ago) and what it might mean for holding onto the old jobby-job. While I cannot predict what is going to happen in my neck of the woods, I can see squeezing heading for me in all directions. My current task, which I chose to accept some time ago, is to make my behind one valuable set of buns. So what’s my plan?

First a disclaimer. I actually have no idea if my plan is working; however, I knew this was coming and I’ve been working on it for awhile now. Moreover, I can read the perception of my peers around here and I think I’m succeeding, at least with a select group of people that might be able to protect me if the crap hits the wall (or the fan).

So here’s the step by step plan:

1) Now is not the time for slacking. I’ve been traveling, working more hours than usual (and for me that’s saying something) and generally saying yes to everything I can possibly handle. All of this by way of demonstrating that I am a dedicated and important (although rather low ranking) part of the local operation. If I get canned, other people’s jobs will get more difficult (at least they might have that perception).

2) Not only am I saying yes to everything I can handle, I am creating new things to say yes to. This means, primarily, doing some extra homework on opportunities. Be they foundations no one has ever heard of, mechanisms that once seemed far fetched or too hard or new opportunities with industries or even starting our own. At this point, everything is on the table.

3) Any previously inhibited bit of creativity that I used to hold back is now spilling out. Now is not the time to stay in the box. Sometimes I fear that this will lead to some embarrassment. Thus far it hasn’t, only to finding out that looking at problems from different angles is well appreciated by my colleagues.

4) I don’t often talk about just how bad I want this career but I have made a point of it a few times in the past weeks. I’ve done this not so much to inspire some sort of empathy that might save my job at some point but to make the point that by staying focused on keeping jobs in place through hard work we can overcome some of the negativity that is creeping into certain circles. This whole financial crisis hasn’t been fun for anyone. Its best not to focus on how terrible its getting but rather to focus on how we can collectively survive it. Whatever you can do to stay positive.

5) Despite the collective fear of what can happen if things truly head south, I have found that certain aspects of the current situation have been somewhat liberating. For instance, as mentioned above, the output of creativity in terms of twisting and turning projects to fit possible funding avenues has opened up my scientific horizons to many things I hadn’t considered before. The nothing to lose attitude I’m adopting has also done wonders for the ever creeping imposter syndrome, which I haven’t detected in some time now. Again, whatever you can do to stay positive.

6) Just in case I do get the axe, no bridges are being burned. In fact, bridges are being actively maintained and some new ones are getting built. Did I mention I really want this career? You do know its a career, right, and that its a real privilege to have it. Nobody owes us anything just ’cause we can do some science.

So, that’s what I’m doing to keep my “eyes on the prize“. How about you?
Oh yeah, and just in case you haven’t done it yet. WRITE THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION AND TELL THEM WE NEED MORE SCIENCE FUNDING!!!

16 responses to “Survive the squeeze

  1. I think you and I are both approaching this situation the same way. I’ve only just started my TT job, but am doing all I can to make myself indispensible with teaching and trying to make a solid contribution to some of the changes occurring within our program. Am also trying to ensure everyone realizes how valuable my research potential could be if/when I ever managed to get funded for both students and faculty. I’m not a very upbeat sort of person usually, but the budgetary issues have resulted in me being constantly surrounded by doom and gloom at work so I’m trying to rise above it and continue to make plans for next semester, next year and beyond.

  2. I admire your “bring it on” attitude toward the unprecedented dark challenges before everyone. This strikes me as great advice for anyone with ambition. Keep kicking ass, Juniorprof!

  3. PIT, I’m also a newbie so I imagine we’re in the same boat. I’m also determined to rise above. Your point on teaching is a good one and one I didn’t mention. I’m also trying to excel in my medical school instruction (and hoping for some of those coveted high marks on student evals). Moreover, for my upcoming grad class I’m going to try to implement a new teaching style for the course which shall remain proprietary. Its somewhat of a risk, but i pre-checked with the students taking the class and they’re game for the little experiment. If it works out it could pay big dividends, I hope. If it falls flat, well, it won’t fall flat :-)

  4. Thanks Juniper! And you keep kicking ass too… BTW, I’m embarrassed that I keep forgetting to get you into my blogroll. Got ya’ in there now.

  5. My fingers are crossed that your teaching experiment works out well (I’m sure it will).

    I just don’t want to sit back and wallow in the fiscal misery. My (perhaps naive) thinking is that if/when they need to start cutting TT faculty, I want the BigWigs to see me as the future of an aging department rather than the last-in-first-to-go.

  6. I want the BigWigs to see me as the future of an aging department rather than the last-in-first-to-go.
    WORD!

  7. Great advice for everyone who wants to hang on to their position. Even those of us with supposedly safe tenure (UTMB anyone?).

  8. (UTMB anyone?)
    No shit! How scary is that situation. For those not acquainted, UTMB is the original branch of the University of Texas Medical School located in Galveston. Although it has a long history of scientific achievement (the marine biology institute there was the home of cutting edge neuroscience for decades and decades), they are now cutting it back to what appears to be a bare bones operation. The latest move was to lay off a large number of faculty. Many with long standing tenure. Not a fun place to be right about now, I would imagine.

  9. BTW, I’m embarrassed that I keep forgetting to get you into my blogroll. Got ya’ in there now.

    No worries. Thank you!

  10. Great post, JP.
    And good luck to all of you.

  11. Juniorprof-

    Right on! I’m there with you all the way. Now is not the time to sit around complaining about how bad thing are- now is the time to make a plan, preferably involving all means to get $$s, then execute the plan with 500% effort!!

  12. Moreover, for my upcoming grad class I’m going to try to implement a new teaching style for the course which shall remain proprietary. Its somewhat of a risk, but i pre-checked with the students taking the class and they’re game for the little experiment.

    Dude, if you don’t blog that shit, Comrade Physioprof’s gonna pummel your motherfucking ass.

  13. Well, I don’t want to get pummeled so I guess I will. How exactly does one get cyber-pummeled anyway?

  14. Hm, how can universities fire faculty with tenure? I thought they could only fire with cause.

    Bad year to be applying for jobs, too; I’ve heard of several canceled searches.

    On the other hand, maybe the uni’s won’t fire young’uns, but nudge the older (and more expensively salaried) generation into retirement…

  15. … how can universities fire faculty with tenure? I thought they could only fire with cause.

    It’s my understanding that tenure if only good if you have a viable program/department – if the dept is closed, then tenure becomes meaningless … kinda like being a partner in a firm that goes belly up.

  16. Excellent article once again. Thanks=)

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