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Not What You Thought

Updated: Nov 14, 2022

I've had a few jobs entitled "Research Coordinator", and as I recently said to a Careers Coach, that's a ubiquitous term with vastly different definitions.

One of those jobs involved coordinating the use of magnetic resonance imaging resources for 🧠 brain research projects.

Another had me taking minutes for the steering committee meetings of a very new brain research centre, writing and distributing a monthly newsletter, and designing and maintaining a website.

Another job, still with the same title, saw me take a very active part in merging two large research centres into one big one; and then collecting and collating research CVs for an application for Priority Research Centre status (successful, first bid), and to be a Research Program within a large multi-disciplinary Research Institute (again, successful on the first attempt).

Still, another job had me educating and enabling medical and allied health clinical staff in becoming engaged and active in research. That was a 5-year stint described in a peer-reviewed research paper. I suggested to my Research Director at the time, that maybe my title should have been "Research Manager - Clinician-Researcher Education, Development, and Support", to which he replied that I could call myself whatever I wanted!

Those jobs ....

Pretty different really.

So, you can see why I'm asking you if you've ever applied for a job, got an interview, and wondered, "What were they thinking?"

Employers need to be quite clear in describing and labelling the jobs they offer, otherwise, they'll receive applications from all the wrong people (or no-one at all, because the people they want are using different search terms).

If you're looking for a new job, it pays to be clear about what you do and don't want, but also to widen your awareness of what labels potential employers might use for your dream job.

What do you see when you look at your CV?

Do you see a person going backwards because of a lack of opportunity, or someone with immense potential?

What do you see your future self "doing for a quid"?

When I started this business, I had no idea of the struggles it would throw at me, and how their effects would stick to my psyche. I just had an overwhelming feeling of relief and liberation in being free to be creative.

You see, before this little business, this side-track into Serendipity, I was employed in the last iteration of "Research Coordinator" described above. It was a fantastic job with wonderful people.

You might ask, "Well, why did you leave, if it was so good?"

Good question. Even if I asked it myself!

My boss and I saw that role as a project; so it had a beginning, a middle, and an end. At the time that the end was approaching and I felt that I'd done what I'd come to do, another role became available.

The new role was one I coveted for some time. I knew I could do it, but the person who was retiring and making it vacant had started grooming one of his staff to take his place. I listened to my intuition and refrained from applying.

The outgoing person and I bumped into one another one day, and he enthusiastically encouraged me to apply. Ultimately, I was one of only four people who did, and we all had an interview. One of the other interviewees was an Associate Professor with awesome experience, another was unknown to me, but didn't seem to have relevant experience.

I would have understood if the Associate Professor was offered the job over me, but she wasn't.

I'm going to admit something now, that I think is pretty important.

Being passed over for someone with significantly less experience than me broke my heart. And I lost faith in the whole recruitment process.

But there was fallout from this little interlude, that affected everything in my life. Everything.

First, an essential criterion of the job was that applicants needed their manager's permission to apply. I took this literally and spoke to my boss about it, before applying. He was so good, and supportive even when I had to say that I didn't get the job.

He said that I could stay, and I did, until my contract ended. I decided that it was disingenuous to stay more than that. I couldn't take advantage of his good nature any longer.

I applied for a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA), and missed out by a whisker. But there were no other jobs on the horizon.

And so, I found myself unemployed.

Instead of wallowing in self-pity (like I'm prone to at times), I discovered liberation. I was blessed with enough money to not worry, but not enough to live the high life. I described this time as being "on Transformation Retreat", and thought everyone should do it.

The first four years of The Centre of Serendipity were both challenging and fun. I developed a habit of noting my financial situation on a daily and monthly basis. This meant that I could plan. That habit has stuck, and in this age of scams and online hack attacks, it's not a bad habit to have. The daily notes allow me to see room for improvement (and any potential fraud), while the monthly notes help me to see a bigger picture and not get lost in financial fear.

I created my website purely out of curiosity, and published it because I felt like it. I went with the flow.

It was such a great way to live!

Eventually, money does run out. I'm still under retirement age, so I have a lot of living to get through, which takes money.

I'm now pretty experienced at marketing, and can say without a doubt that the most hits my marketing has had, have been from robots and scammers. And spammers, too.

They don't pay. And the income derived from this business doesn't cover expenditure. So around this time last year, I started to look for a job.

I was pretty picky, so my job search took some time. In December, I found two jobs for which I thought I'd be a shoe-in.

You guessed it, one of the jobs had the words "Research Coordinator" in the title, and I started to imagine what I'd do with a totally new research centre. Not only did I devise a 100-day plan, I was inspired to create something so innovative that I fell in love with the role I imagined.

From what I was told, by the stranger who rang from a mobile number I didn't recognise, this role went to someone who was in the job already. Same job? This job? Some other job that was "the same"?

I was gutted. I was so heartbroken that I wept uncontrollably. And because I lived alone, I had no-one to comfort me.

I'm blessed that I do have family and friends, to whom I could turn in my time of devastation. And I'm so grateful for their kindness, patience, and love.

There are three main things that have always got me through life.

One is my can-do and resilient attitude, because I have learned to pick myself up from disappointment (it might take minutes, or years, but it happens).

Number Two is my past experience, because I can look back (thanks to my tarot journals) and see what has happened and my power in situations. I learn from life.

Number Three is probably what I hold most dear, and it's that love that I mentioned earlier. Really, it's what has given me my resilience, creativity, courage, and my self-confidence.

There's an old advertising slogan, that says,

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

It's love that is your superpower in those scary times. Lean into it.


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