You just have to decide what kind of crap you can put up with. By that I mean: there is no perfect job. There may not even be a perfect job FOR YOU. Every job, every position, has its issues. Your goal is to find a position where the positive aspects greatly outnumber the negative aspects. When the negative aspects start to increase, this is when people burnout or have anxiety and other mental health challenges. Here are some variables to consider when evaluating any position’s crap.
- Leadership. Who is in charge? What is their leadership style? Do they micromanage or are they impossible to find? How are decisions made and how are those decisions communicated? Ideally, good leaders should seek outside input and try to develop consensus, and decisions should be clearly communicated from the leader. Going through intermediaries, making decisions by fiat, and sheltering themselves from others in the institution are all pieces of crap you may need to put up with.
- Co-workers. Are people happy to come to work? Are they overworked? Are they underpaid? Is there a morale problem? Is there frequent turnover? One institution where I worked had the philosophy that they took poorly trained techs and trained them up to the point where they could get a better job. This was because the pay was so poor, we could only get entry-level technicians. That frequent turnover was supremely taxing on everyone. Are the people GOOD to work with? Do they communicate about problems, are they approachable, are they respectful, are they RFHBs? Just because people are unhappy doesn’t mean it’s not a decent job- just decide if this is crap YOU can put up with.
- Job duties. If you LOVE teaching but HATE research, maybe academia isn’t a good fit for you. But if you LOVE teaching and just DISLIKE research, maybe this is crap you can put up with to get the thing you love. What are the working hours? What are the on-call expectations? What are the expectations for work after hours (how often do you have to take work home with you)? Do you have to deal with angry people and conflict? Are there any job tasks you will dislike doing? Are they few enough that the positives outweigh the negatives? My wife worked a retail pharmacy position in which many of her patients were confrontational and aggressive. Many pharmacists believe this type of environment is worth tolerating due to the salary that retail pharmacists make. My wife didn’t feel the high salary was worth dealing with conflict so often, so she went into academia and is now much happier even though her salary is lower.
- Bureaucracy/Organization. How are decisions made? What is the process for making improvements or changes? What are the traditions of the place, and do they interfere with your ability to get work done? How long does it take to get things done? If you don’t care about making improvements, you could probably do fine in circumstances where it’s very hard. If you care, you need to decide if you can tolerate the obstacles you will face.
- Treatment. How will you be treated? Will people respect you and your opinion? Will they acknowledge the value you bring to the position? Are they excited to have you fill the position? Will you get the validation and regard you need to be a fulfilled human being? Will you earn an amount of money which shows respect for the value that you provide? Some people are fine just going to work, doing their job, and getting a paycheck. I don’t think that’s most veterinarians. I think most of us like feeling as though we are making people’s lives a better place by helping animals. If you don’t get that validation, is that OK?
It helps to reflect on what you want out of a job and what makes you happy. The crap I can put up with is a large bureaucracy, overworked people, lots of staff turnover, difficult to approach people, doing classroom teaching, working long hours, and being on call a fair amount of time. These aren’t characteristics of my current position, but ones I have put up with in the past. The crap I can not put up with is narcissistic leadership, not being appreciated, and lots of conflict. When you identify a position, try to figure out what the crap is at that place and if you can put up with it. Just like there’s no ideal position and no ideal applicant, there is crap everywhere. You have to decide what crap you can put up with to be happy.