Posted by: jleventon | December 18, 2011

Transitions

There’s been a long gap in blog posts from me.  I started a post-doc at the University of Leeds, UK in mid-October, and so I moved from the Czech Republic back to the UK.  It would be easy to blame my lack of blog posts and my sporadic, random tweets on the craziness of settling into a new job; or perhaps the time-sap of commuting from Sheffield, house-hunting in Leeds and then setting up my flat.  But as all that happened in October, and now its December, its not much of an excuse!

The actual reason I haven’t posted for a while is that I don’t know what to post about.  It sounds stupid when you think about all the things I could say about this period in my life.  But before the move, I had been able to position myself quite easily.  I could identify myself by my career status (job seeker, formerly PhD student), my research area (environmental governance), my research topic (contaminants in groundwater) and my lifestyle (nomadic).  Now I am back in my ‘home’ country, employed, researching climate change adaptation and figuring out how to teach.  Only my research area stayed the same and I am not sure that I feel comfortable enough in my new definition yet to be able to communicate with the wider world about it.

Yesterday, I realised that my transitional confusion is what I should blog about. Its a bit scary to be setting myself up in a whole new environment.  But its also quite common – many post-docs move topic and location after their PhD (some multiple times). In doing so, I’m sure many repeatedly feel the fear: The fear of sounding stupid to people you don’t really know yet; the fear of not knowing enough about a new topic; or the fear of annoying people with your different working style.  It can all be a bit bewildering.  However, I am finding that it can be simultaneously great as I am shown new perspectives and get to work with some great people on exciting projects!

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Responses

  1. I can identify with you Julia. If you continue down an interdisciplinary path (as seems likely?) then I fear you may have to get used to these feelings in the longer term? I frequently feel out of my depth researching/teaching about things that I’m not an expert in (yet!), but life is too short and there are too many interesting things to learn about to stay in one place long enough to become an expert in any one thing…

  2. I’m in pretty much the same situation, with the same feelings, so I can completely sympathize. I moved into an entirely new area for me, and have no background knowledge. My new advisor assured me that that’s okay, but it’s still hard not to feel like you’re going to say or do something stupid at any moment. The only way I could get over that feeling was to embrace it and ask as many stupid questions as I could. 🙂

    I hope that it settles down for you, and I look forward to hearing more about your journey!

    • Thanks for posting Steven. It seems that there are a few people writing about such things. Via Twitter, I have also found this blog from Warwick Uni http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/researcherlife/ that defines this post-doc period as a shade of grey. And @PhD2Published touches on such issues.

      And as Mark said, in some disciplines, this feeling is a regular feeling that we must learn to embrace!


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