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confession of a "warm body"

PostPosted: Fri Dec 24, 2004 10:13 am
by Val

Hi everyone,

I have always wanted to become a competent specialist. My professional competency is what I would derive the feeling of life accomplishment and (not least) of the financial security from. With these thoughts on my mind, I graduated from the top universities with BSc and PhD degrees. During my PhD studies and initial postdoctoral years, I published papers in the top journals.

Since graduation with PhD, I applied enormous efforts to find employment (in Australia), though with limited success. Postdoctoral positions were as hard to get in Australia as, say, tenure-track positions in the US. I got postdoctoral-type employments in different areas of applied science, at universities and national labs. I noticed a pattern in all those employments. I was given a small task which I easily completed, and then I was left entirely to my own devices for the rest of my employment. I did a literature search in this new field of science and came up with the initiatives for new research, and with the suggestions to get funding for those researches. My supervisors did not act on my proposals as much as I wanted. Without the resources I could not do any research or development. I wanted to do something. I had impression I was not acquiring the skills for which the successive employers would want to hire me. I was very dissatisfied feeling the powerlessness and the lack of accomplishment. I started to think why employers hired me at all, and came to the conclusion that they needed "warm bodies" in the lab, so that they could get funding. They chose me because they perceived me as a capable scientist. They spent the money, and wrote the successful reports. I was not asked to produce anything tangible. Moreover, I thought that they might fear that I wanted their job, and thus they do not give me opportunities and resources to succeed. I hypothesised I might come across my supervisors as too eager (excessively aggressive ?) in pursuing my professional interests... and this was the reason why I was never able to get past 2 years in my soft-money positions.

It is over 5 years since my graduation with a PhD. I feel that I am capable to do much more than what I am doing now, and that I am far away from my dream to be competent at work and to derive satisfaction from it. The truth is I have no control over direction of my work. I am wondering what should I do. An accomplished scientist who had worked with my current employer, told me that they would not give me any projects and responsibility in the beginning, but earlier or later they will give me responsibility for a project.

I believe I am not alone in my situation, and I would like to hear opinion of other people in similar situations, and how they dealt with them.


confession of a \"warm body\"

PostPosted: Sat Dec 25, 2004 11:00 am
by Emil Chuck
I also am not sure about your situation. I won\'t say you are unique, but there are a lot of things that I am not sure why you\'re being as passive as you are.

If you don\'t like the fact you haven\'t been given more responsibilities, have you talked with your supervisors about that, about your performance at work, about your career goals? Obviously you have your own goals and think you know the way to get them: if you\'re not getting that mentorship or guidance, why don\'t you look for another position? Why haven\'t you also looked for additional mentors or advisors? Have you tried to apply for those positions you want, and perhaps get feedback from people (even under the auspices of informational interviews) about what you need to get that job?

confession of a "warm body"

PostPosted: Sat Dec 25, 2004 7:37 pm
by Dave Jensen
Hi Val,

Your comments reminded me of someone that I interviewed in depth for a client company. This fellow had a great deal of similar dissatisfaction. He was working for a large pharmaceutical company . . . Certain companies do indeed hire "warm bodies" just to fill up laboratory space. They have people who sit and look at their internet browser until it is time to leave at 5PM. Some of them retire in the same department that they started in.

Of course, this is changing, as there are tough times ahead for some of these firms. However, in a large organization, people tend to get put away into little cubby holes. They can perform if they want to -- and get noticed -- or, some of them are very happy just to exist. I know that you are not this kind of person.

My guess is that you would be VERY happy in a smaller company, perhaps even a startup organization. Something entrepreneurial. Have you ever considered this? When your butt is on the line and you HAVE to perform, or else the whole company could tank, that seems to inspire some people to really do their best. To become excellent in their field and to make steady progress. Isn't that what you were looking for?

Dave Jensen, Moderator
CareerTrax Inc.

confession of a "warm body"

PostPosted: Wed Dec 29, 2004 3:19 am
by Val
Thanks for your advice, Dave. Your wealth of experience puts me in the right perspective.