Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Cycling and Jobs

Having a Skype chat with the lovely Stephie-kins today reminded me that I need to post another update!

This is one of the biggest changes in my life since I came to Perth, as I've been biking almost every day. Some days, I stand on the pedals and power up the hills and roar with satisfaction. Some days, every muscle hurts and when I finally make it home I just fall in bed and stay there for hours.

But I am very very proud of myself for making progress:  Two weeks ago, D and I were biking home from uni at 5pm, during rush hour traffic, which was AWFUL. There were so many cars going so fast, and there is a stretch on the route where we have to cross streets and cycle with traffic. We got to a place where we had to cross the street, but there's a median, so we actually have to dog-leg a bit down to a ramp in the median and then cross the other lane of the road. D went first and got across, but I had to wait for a car to pass. An SUV pulled up next to me in the lane (after I'd been there for a bit), and when the car had passed, this asshole SUV turned in front of me just as I had started to go; we almost hit each other. BUT instead of being scared -as I've often been as a cyclist and pedestrian sharing space with cars- I got angry. I WAS THERE FIRST STUPIDFACE.
I spent the next ten minutes cycling home, verbally abusing that dumbass dangerous driver while D struggled to not laugh; he was very proud of me too, considering he usually tries to kick cars that do that to him. 

When I landed in Perth, I was already being considered for/had been promised an interview for a geology/data analysis kind of job. I was very interested in this job, as I would've stayed in Perth, gotten experience in geological data, and gained a skill that would translate to any other field. I spent the next few weeks waiting for the interview, and then waiting for them to decide whether to hire me. In the end, they said they really liked me, but my visa was the only thing preventing them from hiring me (it takes ages to train, and I'm only allowed to work for any one company for 6 months). So back to the drawing board.

At this point, I could have begun browsing company websites and job search engines and emailing out hundreds of resumes. But that sounded distinctly un-fun. So instead I conspired to get a meeting with the professor (hereafter referred to as Prof N) at the uni who I had wanted to be my Master's supervisor. That process took weeks, as Prof N was busy with students submitting, and then exams, and then me trying to just drop in on her but missing her by a half hour, etc etc. Finally, my wonderful PhD friend took pity on me and told me that the prof would definitely be in the office at a certain time, because Prof N was supposed to meet with her then. Success!

Before the meeting, D's advice to me was "Academics are always busy. Get straight to the point." So I met with Prof N and said "I'm still deciding whether to re-apply for scholarships, but either way, I need something to do in the meantime, and I have 4 months of study on my visa. Are there certificates or projects or one-semester scholarships? Can you think of anything that I can do for you or someone you know that benefits both of us?"
Prof N thought for a moment, then responded "You can write, right?"
Me: "YES. And also transcription and stuff like that."
Prof N's eyes lit up. "Transcription?? How about WE pay YOU (instead of the other way around) to do stuff like transcription and data entry, and also to rewrite someone's thesis for publication? "
Me: "yesyesyesyesyesyesyes."

And thus I became a research assistant. Score!

Lessons learned:
1) Getting straight to the point is far more productive than trying to "be polite".
2) All that pain of learning how to transcribe last year (for a prof back at UNM) paid off; always say yes to learning new useful skills, even if at the time they kind of suck.
3) I'm glad I had enough money in the bank to feel comfortable waiting to find the perfect jobs, instead of jumping into the first crappy job(s) I could find, or getting very discouraged because there aren't the kind of geology jobs I was hoping for.

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