I ran into my old boss last week. She was in a rush to get to an appointment, but stopped for a hug and a brief catch up. And then she asked the dreaded question:
“So, do you miss us?”
Well, yes and no.
While my previous job taught me a lot, I don’t miss it. I don’t miss the nightmarish combination of boredom and stress, and I don’t miss the friends I made there, because I still get to see them. What I do miss is the sense of being part of a team of my peers.
I have some fantastic colleagues in my new job, from the PIs to their postdocs, residents, nurses, students, lab managers, and administrators. And they’re doing some amazing research, the kind that makes a geek like me go “cooooooooool!” in seminars. I’m so much happier in an academic environment, around people doing work that has the potential to make a real difference.
But I don’t get to work with my peers. I usually work in very small teams, consisting of me and maybe two or three PIs. There are other grant wranglers around in other departments (and I have my online peeps too, of course – hi, Bean-Mom!), and I do interact with them, but not on a daily or even a weekly basis. That’s just the way it has to be; it’s a different dynamic because it’s different work.
I didn’t realise how much I miss the mutual support and learning opportunities that come with frequent peer interactions until very recently, when I took a writing course organised by a different department. Most of my fellow students were from that department, and they get to work with each other on a regular basis. They’re visibly, tangibly, a team, who share experiences and help each other solve problems, and I envy them that.
A friend (who may or may not wish to out him/herself here) gave me some excellent advice; now that the course is over, I should contact the organiser, say how much I enjoyed interacting with my peers, and ask if there’s any way for me to be included in the occasional team meeting or other activity. As soon as this crazy week is over, I plan to do just that.
But what did I tell my former boss?
Well, I told her the truth.
“I miss the team. But my new job is a much better fit for me”.
And with a smile, a wave, and a promise of a coffee date, we went our separate ways.