Monday, November 07, 2005

Back to work blues

I hate the first morning after a holiday. You have to drag yourself back out of bed reluctantly, not just for work, but for the gym. Where you confront exercises you've not done for some time and some scales that invariably show a degree of weight gain. And then you have to face going back into work (on which more shortly).

The gain wasn't good. In fact it was horrible. I've eaten rubbish all week, and lots of it. There is no excuse for eating that amount of food. Enough food that my stomach felt sore after eating. Not once but twice. Finishing off a meal when you've eaten enough about a third of the way through it. Eating a three course meal (with profiteroles) for lunch and then ordering a starter as well as a main course in the evening. And the alcohol, oh the alcohol. I knew there would be a gain, but I was still a little disappointed (hopefully there will be lots of water there...)

But I'm not counting it. This isn't denial, far from it. This is motivation borne of the fact that I knew what I did to put the weight on, and I know what to do to get it back off again and to get back down to where I was before the holiday. It's not a permanent falling off the wagon gain, or even a nearing goal and fluctuating around within a maintenance zone gain. It's a temporary, reversible week off gain, and I can live with that. So the tracker will stay where it is, and I'll be back there very soon.

How do I know that? Well, the fact that I ran just over 5k and did weights before work this morning? Usually after a holiday I try to build back up again gently, as I've got out of the habit of exercising. Amazingly, that's kind of what I'm doing this time except that running 5k now is building back up again gently. And if I can do that on my first trip back to the gym, I know that the holiday weight isn't going to hang around, so I'm ignoring it until it's gone. Why worry about it?


The thing that's been pre-occupying my thoughts today though is my career. Is it the back to work blues? Maybe, but I don't know whether it's more than that. You see, although I can do my job perfectly adequately, I'm good at it and it's well paid, I don't get any real satisfaction from it. I don't hate it, as such, but completing a deal doesn't give me a high, and I don't really feel like I'm making a difference to real people. It might help balance sheets, or improve profits, but it's not life changing. The work just leaves me feeling a bit empty, like there has to be something more fulfilling than this. I often have a dream about being able to do a job I really enjoy, and that really feels worthwhile.

I'm not looking for a new job as such, and I rarely read the job adverts in the Gazette, but today something made me flick through them. And there it is, something I can see myself doing, in Leeds. Using my legal knowledge, but in a different way.

When I was still an undergraduate, a friend said to me that I'd end up as an academic. I'd do two, three, four, maybe even five years in private practice, but I'd end up as an academic in the end. I never really dismissed the idea, to be fair. I think that deep down I knew they were right. I just didn't know when the urge would hit me. Recently I've been doing a fair bit of internal training for trainees and other members of my team, and I've enjoyed it. People have even said that I'm good at it. But I didn't think much more about it.

Then it hit this morning. There's a job as a lecturer in European law at Leeds Met. I love European law, I have a masters degree in it. I suddenly got enthused by the idea of making a difference to real people, on a personal level. At university there were lecturers who really made a difference to how I developed as a person, as well as making a difference in my career. I could enjoy doing that. I could still be involved in law, which I do enjoy, but in a different way, hopefully more fulfilling, less money driven and more enjoyable.

The thing that struck me was that if I went to an interview for another job doing what I'm doing I wouldn't know what to say. I don't know why I want to do what I do now, other than that it's what I know how to do. I'm not motivated by money or status or the buzz of completion day. I don't dream of becoming senior partner, or billing huge sums of money. That's partly why I'm not looking for a new job. I'm just not sure that I want a job that would be more of the same. I can get that here, and I'm not desperately looking to advance my career at every turn. I'm just surviving, plodding along doing the same old stuff because it's what I do.

But when I thought about the lecturing job, I couldn't stop thinking of reasons why I'd love to do it. Maybe I'm all misty eyed and romantic about what it involves, and the reality would disappoint, but I'd get a far bigger thrill from seeing students graduate with a better degree than expected, or from seeing a love of a subject develop than I ever have had from what I'm doing at the moment. I'd love to be able to research interesting areas of law from a purely academic view point rather than being dictated to by clients constantly. I can see myself doing it, and enjoying it. I've been having a bit of a reality check this evening about what the job actually involves, that there's internal politics, no money, exams to mark etc, but still, there's something that appeals.

My CV ticks most of the right boxes (other than having lectured before, which to be fair it doesn't actually ask for as a requirement). I have a good law degree (first class), I have a higher degree in the specific area (with distinction), not a PhD, but it doesn't specifically say that, I could also cover other subjects (I need to look what subjects they do, but contract law as a minimum, possibly something more specialised if they run it). I have a list of academic prizes as long as my arm from when I was at university. I was even a student rep for law faculty meetings, so I have some insight into the management side of it. I need to look at the full job description later today, but from the summary I've seen it describes me. I'm not saying I'd definitely get the job, but I'd probably at least get past the start line. Worth an application? You'd have thought so.

So, what's stopping me? The usual. I know I said I'm not motivated by money, but I suppose that's only true to a point. I like my lifestyle at the moment. I don't see the need to earn much more than I do at the moment, but equally, I wouldn't like to have to live on too much less than that. I could do it, but I'd have to budget more carefully than I do at the moment, and be far stricter with myself. Some of those little indulgences might need to be reviewed. Is the job worth taking a huge pay cut for? Because, from what I can gather, that's what I'd be facing. I don't know, but what I do know is that if I don't do it now, the difference between the pay of the two career paths is only going to get bigger. If I don't jump now, will I ever be able to?

The other thing is really fear of the unknown. What if I don't like it? Would I be able to get back on the private practice gravy train if I'd taken time out to lecture? Although, I could answer that question, I suppose. Would I want to?


Blogger kathrynoh said...

Whoa, big decisions. From the way you write, it does sound like academia is where your passions lie. Even if you decide to go no further, it's a great opportunity to get more information for the future.

And well done for getting back into it. Over 5 ks on your first day back - woohoo!

10:07 PM  
Blogger chaos said...

Welcome back! Sorry to hear about the gain, but you have the right attitude. I have no doubt you'll get it back in no time. The job stuff sounds tough. Did you like being a law student? My take on the academy: if you liked being a student you'll like being a prof.

4:05 AM  
Blogger Kykaree said...

I think you know what I think, but I definitely would apply for the position. Despite your lack of academic experience, you are in a strong bargaining position, and the wage situation might surprise you. As time goes on in your academic life, you can supplement your income with consultancies and writing, I would have thought. The university would be more than lucky to have you.

In my eyes, job satisfaction is priceless. If you are working just for the pound, it's not going to be enough to keep you satisfied. And once your weight demons are conquered, you'll need something to move on to and keep your brain activated. I get the impression (having been lucky enough to meet you in person) that your high intelligence needs constant stimulation and your not getting that in your current job.

So as someone who threw away a good job, a house and a whole life in Australia to move to England and start again......give it a try!!!!!!

7:35 AM  
Blogger Shauna said...

oh dude! i'd definitely give it a go. what's the harm in applying? it is a very specific job/field, one that may not crop up very often, so it couldn't hurt to apply. just say you got an interview, you'd get a feel for it either way once you met the people/learned more about the job etc etc.

plus the chance to do something more fulfulling... that is a rare thing. oooh i'd go for it :)

2:39 PM  
Blogger K said...

Yes, me too, I would at least apply for the job. After all, if you get it, you don't have to take it if it no longer seems a good idea.

I am partly saying this because I really wanted to be a university lecturer. For me, it didn't work out. But frankly, it sounds as though you'd be really suited to it.

It is hard, facing a dramatic drop in income. I'm going to do some more study next year, working part-time in order to fit it in. The thought of having, simultaneously, no free time and no spare money is pretty daunting. But I think it will be worth it.

I'm sure you will make the right decision, anyway.

2:57 PM  
Blogger Haloranch said...

Why not apply? If they offer you the job, then you can still reject it. Perhaps you can negotiate the salary to narrowt the gap a bit more?

6:16 PM  

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