8 secret perks of academic research jobs

[By “secret” I really mean “underappreciated” or “overlooked” but one must sacrifice perspicuity on the altar of catchy titles!]

I have now been in academia longer than I have been in any other professional setting. I’m sure this is common in many industries and organizations, but academics love to complain-brag (e.g. Omg I haven’t slept for 72 hours to finish this grant.. you all should be super impressed and feel super sorry for me!). We are especially apt to feel bitter that despite our 17,325 years of education, most of us don’t make *that* much money. And I won’t lie, I often add my voice to the belly-aching chorus… because who doesn’t enjoy a good-old fashion commiseration session?

BUT I must say that now that I am contemplating leaving academia, I am reminded how good the highly educated and underpaid nerdlesons have it compared to many many peoples.

How doth academia benefit thee? Let me count the ways…

  1. Working with smart, passionate people
    • Many careers are filled with overly ambitious, cut-throat peoples, but I would wager many fields are not filled with people who genuinely love what they’re doing and like their work for its own sake – not just the pay or the recognition. Most of the professors with the most prestige will tell you that at the end of the day, they just find their research neat-o. It is also really great to have undergraduates working for you – usually for free – that are highly motivated and probably smarter than you in so many ways. No crippling apathy here!
  2. Flexibility
    • This one is probably my favorite. I have almost always been able to make my own schedule. If I want to be in at 7:30 am and leave at 3:30 pm, that’s fine. If I want to be in at 10 am and leave at 630 pm, that’s fine too. If I want to work from home and do data analysis all day – no one blinks an eye. When it’s time for vacation, most people say just say “Yo, I’m not going to be in lab these 3 weeks because I need to find myself and connect with nature.” and your advisor says “Word.” Usually no one cares as long as you’re getting your work done. It is incredibly nice not to be viewed as a slimy little worm who is trying to get away with the least amount of work. At least in the academic jobs I’ve had, you are treated like an adult.
  3. Job security
    • It is difficult to get fired in academia. You can be a miserable failure and the most your advisor will really do is write a lackluster letter of recommendation for your next position. I think you would have to do something that was seriously unethical to get fired, but failing continuously is probably not enough. It doesn’t serve you well in the long run to be unproductive, of course.. but you will at least be paid while you figure out your next career move.
  4. Street cred
    • You know when you’re trying to make small talk at a party and you ask a stranger, “So what do you do?” and they say “I’m a technical writer,” and you say “Cool!” *chirp chirp* Not so with academic positions. People are usually interested in your thesis or research, and you can usually entertain them with sharing your interest in the field and what you hope to accomplish. It’s not usual to have a job that intrigues a lot of people and makes them automatically think you are super smart, even if your only other interaction with them was to praise the hummus.
  5. Inclusivity
    • Once you get past admissions, I really don’t think academia cares about your demographics that much (of course there are fellowships and grants for those who identify as a member of a group underrepresented in science, but it can only take you so far). There are no headshots to turn in with your manuscript when you submit for publication. You can identify as a banana or the be the ugliest person on earth, but academia doesn’t care. Just do good research, and a place will be prepared for you. It’s a meritocracy if there ever was one.
  6. Bad fashion sense highly tolerated
    • I’m not sure if I would go so far to say that being a snappy dresser will hurt you in academia, but it truly doesn’t help. If anything, some of the people wearing the most egregious – whether that be flamboyant or downright geeky – outfits are senior professors. Wearing a suit in lab is not only impractical, it will probably be seen as an ineffective attempt to cover your own incompetency. So throw on a pair of sweats and a ironic tee and get to pipetting.
  7. Mentoring
    • In no other field is there such a built in culture of the person in the highest position taking an invested interest in helping the people working for them reach their career goals — whatever those might be. That is truly extraordinary. My advisor gets no benefit – either financially or research-wise – in helping me secure a job outside of academia. Yet he is seriously committed to helping me get there if that’s what I decide to do. Imagine your manager taking responsibility to help give you the skills and experience you need to move on to a better job at a different company! Unheard of.
  8. Benefits
    • Usually the health insurance is pretty legit. At least at my University, the retirement plan is very generous. You get access to a huge online library of journals for every topic you could possibly be interested in (just for reference, most published journal articles that I see are $35 a pop). You usually get a free or highly discounted membership to a gym that’s at least adequate. There are tons of talks with free foods. Little things all together, but nice.

In toto— If you are in academia, put a pause on your belly aching and take time to appreciate the fun little perks of your position. If you are outside academia, maybe ponder the positive aspects of your job.. and if there aren’t any… come over to the dark side of academia!

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Ladies, your femalolz are a big turn off (apparently)

..a smart, funny woman’s best bet to snag a man may be for her to limit her vocabulary to disyllabic words and giggle vapidly at his jokes.

nofunnywomen

I recently read two articles that explained my singlehood to me so beautifully. I’m not single in spite, but because, I’m so frickin’ funny* and smart**.  According to this article in The Atlantic, men want women to laugh at their jokes, not to laugh at women’s jokes. The article further explained that humor correlates to intelligence, so gauging someone’s humor is a fast proxy of their intelligence. A Huffington Post article I found corroborated the first one – men find smart women – particularly women who are smarter than them – less appealing to date.

I have to say, this is the most ego-boosting reason I’ve heard lately for being single. It has nothing to do with my fashion, weird eating habits, or random quirks – men just don’t want to jump funny bones (aha, see what I did there? Whoops probably just lost a few more romantic prospects… Can’t stop this Lolz Train).

I’m torn by this news. I’ve never been so appreciative of not being appreciated, but it’s also annoying that a smart, funny woman’s best bet to snag a man may be for her to limit her vocabulary to disyllabic words and giggle vapidly at his jokes. Yes, I take this a little bit personally, but it’s also the principle of the matter.

But before we women commit ourselves to indignantly blowing the Shofar of Shame and call out men for being insecure pricks, let’s consider several alternative explanations.

  • Maybe men don’t actually think “funny women” are funny

This is hard to handle, but it’s possible that the same jokes that split your girlfriends’ sides are just lamé to the Monsieur Averagé.

  • Maybe self-deprecating humor from females makes men uncomfortable

Men could be horrified that if they laugh too loudly, the woman will suddenly burst into tears or judo chop him for not protesting that her thighs in those tight pants don’t actually remind him of a partially busted can of crescent rolls. This whole scenario might make men so tense they rather just make fun of themselves instead and let the women laugh at their expense.

  • Maybe funny women seem more likely to mock men mercilessly

Waxing poetic and being romantical is already putting men into a position of emotional, sometimes physical, vulnerability. Perhaps the thought of a woman mocking him in her own thoughts, to her girlfriends, or on a public blog post (teehee) makes the potential cost/benefit ratio too unfavorable to even consider.

  • Maybe intelligent women are more likely to be get offended at something random

This is kind of a stretch, but especially women in academia – even if they do have a good sense of humor – seem more likely to go off on a rant about male privilege, act insulted when he tries to hold the door for her… or you know, get riled up by a documentary about bra burners and start refusing to shave her legs.

..I don’t know, really. I’m just trying to be gracious here, and think more creatively. Why don’t you speak for yourselves, men?

Do you consciously find funny/smart females less attractive? If a woman gets too funny do you think to yourself “Oh snapz, she’s funnier than me. Gotta go find someone who is so dull that she’ll find my lamé jokes hilarious.”? Or is it more implicit, and you just happen to think that women who are really smart are also arrogant, nerdy, or annoying? Or is this research just dealing in averages, but YOU’RE no Monsieur Averagé, and actually actively seek out smart and funny women? I mean, I know funny smart married women, so obviously it’s not a huge turn off for all men. But.. did currently married women tone down this part of themselves while they were dating?

I’m genuinely curious – I promise I want to know the truth of the matter and I won’t publicly accuse you of being a jerk-face. Although privately I may make a little voodoo doll and tell it jokes all day just to be spiteful.

— EDITORIAL NOTES —

*Mama sez I’m funny.

**Mama sez I’m smart, too.