Thursday, March 20, 2008

Day Job

To pick up on how my employment situation has affected my blog/creative output:
My primary function (assisting with grant applications) is very seasonal. Plus, there is a limited amount I can do without information from the applicant. So, even when a grant is due, I have a considerable amount of "free" time. During which I would edit photographs, craft essays, and go surfing for topics or supporting evidence.

Until fairly recently, grant applications have been paper-based. Then, about three years ago, a number of agencies switched to electronic submission. Most NIH grants are now electronic submission only. Which means that there is even less for a secretary to do.

Finally, there are only three researchers who use my services on a regular basis. Even though I assisted with a grant application every month but three last year, there still was not enough for me to do.

Now, the average manager would probably respond, "There's always something to do." I accept that; but it doesn't necessarily mean that I would know what else needs to be done.

In any case, our primary boss started noticing. I do my best to be discrete in my surfing (mostly work-safe sites), and I typically have a "boss key" handy, but I was occasionally caught surfing. So, the boss said something to my immediate supervisor. A caution which was repeated to me twice – once in '06 and once in '07.

The first time my supervisor reported this caution, I responded with my view of the situation - pretty much as I've detailed above. My supervisor responded by saying it seemed like I needed to transition to another function. But nothing more was said.

When she repeated the caution in '07, I responded by listing the things I am doing, and how I spend my down time. I solicited ideas for other things to do, but she had none.

That's the point at which I started to apply for other positions. About the same time, I noticed the department was hiring part-time personnel to assist in our billing area. I immediately began researching whether this might be a function I could take on.

To make a long story less long, I sold management on the idea that I could serve the same function as the part-timer while continuing with my grant-support functions (as well as my web master job).

I'm not getting paid more for this (at present), but I do believe there is greater job security. Our business manager (who joined the department late last year)was especially impressed that I took the initiative. She has also told me several times what a good job I'm doing, and how glad the people in the billing area are that I have joined that corner.

So, now I have fairly full days at work. While I miss the opportunity to indulge in my creative pursuits, I do feel less anxious about being caught or being in a situation where I might lose my job. I feel more useful, as well, which has given my self-image a shot in the arm.

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