Thursday, September 21, 2006

Work things I do and don't like


I think I want to work in education. The other places where I could imagine possible working are:

  • An institution that does research pertaining to social science or education, such as a government office, foundation, or research institute.
  • An institution that does something related to folk music, such as a concert venue, publication, radio station, management/promotion, or label.
  • An institution dealing with outdoor recreation/tourism. I'm not into roughing it, but I'm also not into luxury hotels at fancy ski resorts. I like simple lodgings such as a cottage with plumbing and electricity but no TV or internet. I favor nonmotorized activities: walking over ATVs, windsurfing over jet ski, cross country ski over downhill ski, bike over motorcycle. The institution I work for should engage in ecological practices such as leave no trace hiking and recycling. Examples of the kind of organization I like are Scott Walking Adventures and Lapland Lake.

Work environment

  • I like feeling that I'm part of a community. This partly comes from working in an institution of the right size: working with only two other people all the time is not enough, but being part of an organization with 10,000 employees ends up being too anonymous. The sense of community also comes from people having the opportunity to cross paths regularly and come to know each other. Another factor is having a shared sense of purpose, identity, and culture. That leads to the next item:
  • I like working with people who share my values. We should all be out to help people, to treat people with respect, and to seek the truth, not to rake in as much money as possible.
  • I like having the freedom to set my goals and work in my own way, yet the support of working with others who will give their input when I need it.
  • I like not having to get too dressed up.

Types of tasks

  • I like working on one big task rather than many small tasks. Partly it's an issue of focus. I like to be able to focus on the thing I'm working on rather than be distracted by the many other things that need attention. I think it's also a matter of complexity. Rather than working with a single strand of thread, I'd rather weave together many strands. I don't like dealing with the individual requests like:
    1. How many applicants from China did you accept last year?
    2. Write me a letter stating that I am a full-time student.
    3. Post a link on the web site.
    Instead, I prefer larger projects such as:
    1. Working with a list of 30 students and a list of 30 TA positions to figure out how to best match the students to positions.
    2. Creating a new database query
    3. Organizing the qualifying exams.
    4. Preparing a presentation.
    5. Organizing orientation.
  • I like working with information. I like databases and statistics. I like taking in opinions from many different people and writing a synthesis that makes sense of it all. Writing meeting minutes does this so I should like it, but the reality is that I'm bored with writing meeting minutes.
  • Though I like working with databases and statistics, measurement and quantification is not the answer to everything. For an enterprise to work smoothly, you need people talking to each other. You need to listen to what someone has to say, not just ask them to fit their opinions into a multiple choice question.
  • I like interacting with people to get their input, to explain policies and procedures, and to provide a service. I don't like interacting with people to persuade them to do something. I don't want to be in sales or law enforcement.
  • I like working with a defined community of people, as at a school, where you can have a list of all the people you want to reach. I don't like recruiting prospective students who have not already expressed an interest in the school because it involves an undefined community and because it involves persuasion.
  • I'm good at organizing things because I keep track of things and follow up on things. If I'm running a meeting, I'll make sure everything gets on the agenda that needs to, I'll gather the background information for the agenda items, and I'll send a reminder to the committee members about the upcoming meeting. Sounds simple, but a lot of people seem not to do a good job on it.
  • I don't like making decisions for other people about physical things like food, furniture, and decorations. I f I'm going to make a decision about such things, it should come from my synthesizing information about people's preferences, not from me thinking of an idea. On the other hand, I can make choices about less concrete things, such as people, schools, procedures, policies, curricula, and writing.
  • I need time to collect my thoughts. I express myself best in writing, giving a prepared talk, or in a focused one-on-one conversation. In a meeting at which ideas are flying all over the place, it's hard for me to respond immediately because I need some time to digest before making my response.

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