Maybe it’s just me

Right after writing my big, long post despairing on the nature of available work, I read this set of posts about a really cool-sounding conference organized by some Columbia stats grad students:

http://www.stat.columbia.edu/~cook/movabletype/archives/2008/04/conference_what.html
http://flowingdata.com/2008/04/09/what-can-you-do-with-a-degree-in-statistics-a-follow-up/
http://flowingdata.com/2008/04/12/reflecting-on-life-after-statistics-rip-minghui-yu/

Granted, I’m not a statistician, but I think their lessons apply (hell, half the classes of my program so far have been statistics, anyway). The most resonant message for me – and one that is standard advice for anyone who is thinking about a job – is to make sure that you’re doing something that you love. It’s good advice, although I use it in a modified form: do something that you find meaningful. I tried the whole “love” thing awhile ago as an English major, but I found that doing something that I loved professionally somewhat soured the romance. Now, instead of picking apart something I love – books – I slice up something that often infuriates me: society. Nobody wants to dissect Rover in biology, but the neighbor’s yappy little dog is another story…

Which makes me think a bit. I do love being an academic, despite my grousing below.  I like it all, and I think it is probably the only job I’d even have a chance of being happy in.  Much to my surprise, I really do like teaching.  I really dig research, too.  I’d like to do both; I just don’t want to do as much of both as seems to be the norm.  Academia, to me, is like a glorious all-you-can-eat buffet with a 6-plate mandatory minimum.  Everything I could possibly want is there, but I can’t stop when I’ve had enough.  Is that true across the board?  Do faculty positions that balance teaching, research and non-academic life still exist?  If so, what do you have to do to get one?

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