In which I prepare to be terminated – again

The afternoons are darkening, the leaves are scattering to the ground — and the usual seasonal missive from HR has arrived in my inbox.

They need my clothes, my boots and my motorcycle

Actually, although I’m on rolling 3-monthly contracts, I haven’t received this kind of notice in writing since I started nearly ten months ago. Each time, they’ve found spare salary behind the sofa cushions at the final hour. The Unit here very much wants to keep me, but despite the fact that I’m REF-returnable, overseeing the production of exciting and clinically-relevant data and have already managed to bring in external funding, the receipt of a formal letter makes me wonder if the game is finally up.

So I have to decide now whether I should start seriously looking for another position. And if so, do I want to find an academic situation, or would I rather leave its uncertainties and instabilities behind me for good?

I’ve been here before, of course. After another redundancy in a small, low country that now seems a world away, I recall writing in my leather notebook all the pros and cons of academic research, industrial research and non-science jobs such as publishing, staring at them for hours as I agonized over what to do. In the end, with the economy in poor shape at that time, the decision to leave research was made for me. But not being in the lab made me fundamentally unhappy, and this memory too is fresh in my mind — as is the joy I experienced when I finally clawed my way back. I have been particularly content in this lab, feeling for the first time as if my talents and experiences are being used to their full potential, as if my efforts really could help patients and make a difference to their lives. Previously, my passion for the vocation had been lost in the details, and rediscovering it once again has been a daily source of intense satisfaction. It would be a personal tragedy if I had to leave it all behind.

Still, I am at heart a pragmatist. I have mortgage payments to keep up and food to put on the table; redundancy pay (less than a month’s salary) would not get me far. I believe myself to be eminently employable in a wide variety of roles, but it can take time to find a decent job. So it seems like the right thing to do is to roll up my sleeves and make a start.

Will leaving research, if it comes to that, become a life’s regret? I’m not so sure. I’ve come a long way since I last faced this decision. Tomorrow, I turn 45. Battling to stay constantly afloat seems increasingly unappealing. Meanwhile, the past few years of my expanded activities in writing, communicating, punditry and policy have revealed interesting career prospects that weren’t even possible for me the last time I was laid off. It seems likely that my love of research could face some stiff competition if I found the right role outside of it.

Having recently been accused by a higher-up in the Division of allowing my head to be “buried in the sand”, it might be time to face the inevitable with good grace and a sense of humor.

About Jennifer Rohn

Scientist, novelist, rock chick
This entry was posted in Careers, Staring into the abyss. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to In which I prepare to be terminated – again

  1. Urgh. Seems like just yesterday we were all applauding your new position.

    And Happy Birthday, one day early – as they say in Dickens, “if it ain’t out of keeping with the situation”.

  2. Bob O'H says:

    Eek. As Richard wrote, I thought you had only just got there.

    Does the external funding move with you? If you decide to stay in research, that’s a very useful bit of leverage. But I’m sure you’ll find something if you decide not to. It’s a crossroad you’ve find yourself at, not a dead end.

  3. Bob O'H says:

    Crossroad? Dead end? Bugger, I’ll be writing poems for Hallmark next.

  4. Eva Amsen says:

    I could link to my crowd-funding posts on OT Irregulars here, and I’d only be ~80% joking. You’re creative and smart, you should be able to do research, and if you can’t, something is seriously broken in the system (as, I guess, you already knew).


  5. cromercrox says:

    Cripes. Doesn’t time fly? I think you should probably try to stay where you are happiest. After all, you only live once.

  6. Thanks for your kind words, folks. It means a lot.

  7. chall says:

    wow, already time for “renewal or terminated”. Agree with all the other comments, seems like yesterday (or at least only a few months ago) you got the position. If nothing else, that would be the obvious “it takes time to do research”….

    I have a tendency to play too safe (money/salary wise) but wish I would take up more of “what do I love doing” thinking. I’ve realised though, in hindsight, that I probably should’ve put more on the sleeve and moved with “what I love” and ride it out. Based on that I’d say “go where you feel happy and doing something you love”. All the best to you!

    Oh, and happy early Birthday!! 🙂

  8. Grant says:

    I’d say too much, but honestly I think the main thing I can say is “what the others have already said”.

    I hope the decision-making and opportunities result in something you’re content with.

  9. Lee Turnpenny says:

    Time to reciprocate the empathetic words you offered me a couple of years back…

    Good luck on whichever fork you take.

  10. Ian the EM guy says:

    Happy Birthday! Hope you got some good presents. Like a job offer or something!

  11. Yep, didn’t you only just get there, Jenny?

    Anyway, as others have said…. In particular CHall, many of whose characteristics as described I recognise in myself, too. Stick with what you love doing, and all Good Luck.

    And a belated Happy Birthday, too.

  12. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Sorry, Jenny. I hope you find a way to go with your first choice, whatever that ends up being

  13. Frank says:

    Oh dear. I thought this was going to be a light-hearted post about how HR had made a silly mistake, like when the GP sent me a reminder for my cervical smear test. Sorry it sounds more serious than that.

    Hope Friday’s meeting is cheerier than we are all fearing.

  14. The Overeas Collaborator says:

    You’ll find your way. Wherever it takes you, you’ll find your way.

Comments are closed.