My passion, at arm's length
December 31, 2016 1:10 PM   Subscribe

Seeking perspective: Am I going to regret it if I take a job in my favorite subject matter but am not going to ever interact with said subject matter?

Let's say that one of my two undergrad degrees is in Tuvan throat singing. Since graduating, I have not held more than a project/temporary-level job related to Tuvan throat singing, but remain engaged with the field, consuming books, blogs, criticism, and recordings, absorbing the latest news from the Tuvan throat singing world, engaging in some amateur throat singing and song writing of my own, and otherwise maintaining interest and enthusiasm for all aspects of the field, not simply as a passive listener to the music.

It may matter that the jobs I've had since graduating have been pretty negative and even toxic experiences at times, but I have used them to learn a lot.

Imagine my delight when the local Tuvan throat singing department of an institute of higher education advertises a position in its office, supporting instructors, students, and related staff. Between my education/passion for Tuvan throat singing, my other, non-Tuvan throat singing degree, and my past work experience since graduating, I feel that I am uniquely qualified for the position based on the outlined tasks. Everything I have studied and endured in my previous jobs has prepared me for this.

I am further excited when I am selected to interview for said position. The interviewer asks me why I feel that I am qualified for this position, because I don't seem to have enough experience. Internally, I am confused (why ask me to interview if you don't think I'm qualified?) but I also take it as a challenge: I truly believe that my education and experience do make me qualified. I begin to outline my experience, starting with my education in Tuvan throat singing, but then the interviewer stops me: the position is office-based, not academic, they say. Your Tuvan throat singing degree is not at all germane.

I apologize, state that I did not believe I was going to be teaching throat singing in the position, and continue on to discuss my work experience, and answer all other questions given to me. The interviewer takes many, many notes. I leave the interview believing I have appeared to the interviewer to be nothing more than an under-qualified Tuvan throat singing nerd with a hodgepodge of work experience. I had even included (as an extra after other, more recently acquired entries) my former Tuvan throat singing master as a reference, whom I remain in contact with. I feel foolish.

Imagine my surprise when I am asked to return for a second interview. The interviewer states that the department intends to quickly wrap up the search process and are only considering "the most serious candidates".

Of course, this is no guarantee of a job. I know this. However, I am applying for multiple jobs at the same time, with unusually positive results given my recent number of interviews, and feel that I must consider the prospect of having to choose between job offers.

Jobs having anything to do with Tuvan throat singing are rare where I live (not Mongolia). Part of me continues to not understand how my Tuvan throat singing degree won't ever have relevance to the position (maintaining a library and purchasing materials are part of the position's duties, for example), but the rest of me knows I must take the interviewer's word for it that it will not. I would not have applied for the position had it been in the department of some other subject that I did not have a background/interest in - the actual daily tasks of the position alone are not the draw for me. To the job's credit, the benefits would be excellent, and there may be other future opportunities for advancement, growth, and transference to other areas of the institute of higher education, which is a well-respected, interesting, and prestigious place to work in my area.

I worry, however, that I will be bored or unfulfilled if I were to accept the position, having no connection to the daily tasks other than that my previous work history (partially?) qualified me for them and no connection to the employer other than that they seem like a good place to work or have worked, or that there will be some future conflict because I might apply my background in Tuvan throat singing to my position in an unauthorized way. I am aware that no job owes me more than a paycheck for services rendered, which I do need, and I have worked for years already without having any way to apply that aspect of my education to what I do most of the time. If possible, I would like to enjoy and feel enriched by the thing I am obligated to spend most of my waking life doing in order to keep body and soul together in the first world. I realize that my thoughts on the subject are colored at least in part by the negativity of my past work history, in which I have spent most of the time bored, depressed, or terrified. I feel that my work history has only been about me careening from bad situation to bad situation, guided by what skills and education (my non-Tuvan throat singing degree) I have been able to offer up and the desperate need for income, with no end in sight.

Should I be considering this job at all? Should I withdraw, or should I have withdrawn, my name from consideration for the position, knowing what I now know? Would it be foolish to do so, given that the position could be my foot in the door to better opportunities in the institute of higher education? Has my only real mistake so far been in pursuing Tuvan throat singing as a career field at all?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Important question: how long have you been out of school?
posted by cakelite at 1:18 PM on December 31, 2016

Most people who study a niche discipline never get a chance to have a job even remotely related to it. Most jobs are boring. If you like the job and the offer is good, and it gives you a chance to be close to something you're passionate about (I'm assuming your other jobs are all completely unrelated), what's the harm?

The department presumably is NOT going to require you to sign a blood oath if you take the job, right? If you take the job and find out you hate it, you can leave. If you're an attractive enough candidate now that you're turning down job offers, you should be able to find another job later, too.
posted by phunniemee at 1:27 PM on December 31, 2016 [27 favorites]

Go for it! Unless you have another very good looking bird directly in hand, go for it and give it a year or two.
posted by sammyo at 1:30 PM on December 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nthing that unless you've got a better offer waiting in the wings, go for it. Jobs aren't marriages, and if it isn't a good fit, you can look for something else while still getting a paycheck in the meantime.
posted by Aleyn at 1:32 PM on December 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh man, this is a tough position to be in! I've been there and it sucks. In my experience unless you are very, very lucky, you will always feel on the sidelines and will not be fulfilled.

Additionally - but perhaps more importantly - I would walk away from this particular offer because of your interviewer's comment that your education in the field is not germane. That is... troubling. Even if this role only touches Tuvan throat singing indirectly, your background knowledge would help you do the administrative work more effectively. That they can't see that makes me think they would treat administrative staff poorly. They should be happy to have an applicant so enthusiastic about the field.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 1:32 PM on December 31, 2016 [16 favorites]

At my institution of higher learning, employees can do a part time Masters for free. If that's the case at this one, perhaps you could get a a Master in "Tuvan throat singing"? Also they are usually nice places to work -- at least in my experience.
posted by Lescha at 1:36 PM on December 31, 2016 [16 favorites]

That is... troubling. Even if this role only touches Tuvan throat singing indirectly, your background knowledge would help you do the administrative work more effectively. That they can't see that makes me think they would treat administrative staff poorly.

I would think the contrary, that it means they take administrative work seriously and don't want to mistakenly hire someone who thinks that experience doing the actual work that admins do is of lesser value than a passion for the field they support. It's a sign of respect for admins and an attempt to verify that the OP has similar respect for the actual work they will be doing, not just the work they will be surrounded by. They also don't want to hire someone who will rapidly be disillusioned and leave.

I don't doubt that you can do the work, anonymous, but if you "endured" your previous jobs that gave you your actual qualifying experience, you will be enduring this one too. That's no reason to turn it down -- you need to have a job, this one probably has better benefits than a lot of places, you'll get to overhear interesting conversations and maybe participate in them, maybe free tuition -- but admin work is admin work.

I got the interview stage to be an English department secretary one time (my degrees are elsewhere in the humanities but I had a similar feeling of: well, I've read everything and I care about everything the professors know about, more or less, so this will be a good place for me.) but I would have choked on the resentment and jealousy and it's lucky for me I got a different job instead. Also, I am brilliant but I can't e.g. keep track of supply orders or handle difficult personalities all demanding unrealistic things from me or make travel arrangements or schedule meetings or distribute mail without losing it, and all the degrees in the world would not improve me in that regard. you are bound to be better than me but it is not surprising the interviewer tried to press you on the realities of the job, because it is not rare for bright people with obscure interests to be a little not great at keeping offices running. If the unfairness of being surrounded by academics but not being one isn't going to get to you, you'll be fine. Working for a university has plenty of great benefits no matter how dull the actual job may turn out to be.
posted by queenofbithynia at 2:03 PM on December 31, 2016 [21 favorites]

My experience with trying to fill these positions is that if the candidate only has an undergrad degree in $foo and seems to continue to be really keen about it, being so close to $foo research but not actually being able to do it can result in resentment in a lot of people.

On the other hand, having a bachelors in $foo to be a support admin for $foo research can be a lot more useful than the same candidate with an unrelated $bar background. However, there's the issue of knowing enough to get into trouble, whereas someone with a $bar background can be trained up to par to be effective in the position (and no more).

Best case scenario, you take the job, you learn the admin skills and do an excellent job. If there is flexibility to do so, sit in on journal clubs/invited speakers/poster events; get to know all the profs in the department. Above all, be competent - and appear to be, too.

After a year or so, evaluate whether your admin position really is a full time one or not (or if you can do it part time but also supervise work-study/co-op undergrad student(s) to do the rest of the work).

If possible, likely through a sympathetic faculty member, see if you can do a masters in $foo part time and see where that leads.
posted by porpoise at 2:06 PM on December 31, 2016 [4 favorites]

My guess is they sometimes get applicants for staff positions who are secretly hoping that once they get a foot in the door, they can transition to an academic position. Usually this isn't feasible because there are strict requirements for who can be hired for the academic roles. So, the interviewer wanted to make sure that wasn't your motivation.

I imagine you're right in thinking that your interest/background in Tuvan Throat singing could be helpful in the position. Just go into it eyes open that it won't give you a chance at a teaching position.
posted by msbubbaclees at 2:07 PM on December 31, 2016 [10 favorites]

Are you employed right now in a job you can stand that pays well enough to live on? Or are you not?

Whether or not you're going to be happy about being sidelined from Tuvan throat singing aside...are you job hunting from a good or a bad place? If you are in a good place, I don't think I'd leave it for this job because it doesn't sound mind-blowingly awesome. But if you are in a bad place or no place at all, feeling sidelined on throat singing probably is a minor issue compared to that.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:11 PM on December 31, 2016

IMO, telling us if this is history or linguistics or physics or entomology or whatever would actually probably help, and not really give away any of you personal info. Because sciences and humanities and arts all have different feels, and your potential ability to leverage experience or be depressed because you aren't really part of the field will similarly vary.

Your "Tuvan" experience is really NOT that relevant. If I have a BS in physics, but spent all my work history in retail, that does not help me administer as a mid-level bureaucrat in a physics department at State U.

However, depending on field, this could be seen as an asset. Even if not directly relevant to job duties, having familiarity with the topic may help you interact with students and faculty, etc. Feeling like you're facilitating something you enjoy may help you stick around and care about the work more (or so they may hope).

Staff administrative work can absolutely be learned on the job, and clearly they have some interest in you. Academic staff jobs tend to be fairly laid back, fairly stable. Often they have decent benefits, and decent holidays. Also, regardless of any opportunities to take classes or work toward degrees, you can almost certainly get to see the odd visiting speaker/colloquium/seminar/etc.

I see no reason to not pursue this. If you get an offer and decide you can't take it, that is also your prerogative, but worry about that IF it happens, not before.
posted by SaltySalticid at 2:14 PM on December 31, 2016 [2 favorites]

OK so this job, as you know, is not in the field of Tuvan Throat Singing. It will not give you experience in that field. It will give you experience in the field of academic support, which in my experience is a worthwhile area that can lead to better and more interesting positions and generally tend to have good job security and benefits (if not huge paychecks). I am currently enjoying 10 paid days off for the holidays that do not count as part of my already generous PTO benefits because I am staff at a university. But these other higher ed positions will also not be in Tuvan Throat Singing.

I'm curious as to what your field actually is because an undergrad degree in... most things (especially the humanities) these days is not enough to actually work in that field full time as a professional. If you have a degree that will never lead to an actual full time job in the field, take this job, be excellent at it, and perhaps take advantage of educational benefits to either get that terminal degree that you need to for real work in your field, or reconsider your desired career path.
posted by soren_lorensen at 2:19 PM on December 31, 2016 [6 favorites]

Part of me continues to not understand how my Tuvan throat singing degree won't ever have relevance to the position (maintaining a library and purchasing materials are part of the position's duties, for example)

This could mean a lot of things depending on the institution's resources and other staff, but most likely means that professors give you a list of what they want and you use the budget to get as much of it as you can without making people mad at you. Selecting the publications yourself/making judgment calls is unlikely to be part of it, unless the field's so small and the department's so underfunded you'd be doing the job of a librarian along with your other duties. and in that case they'd probably demand an MLIS in the job listing and most likely get one, job market being what it is.

on the off chance you do actually get to read publisher's catalogs and make your own lists of what to acquire, you will be set and do great. but that seems like too much fun for this kind of job.
posted by queenofbithynia at 2:21 PM on December 31, 2016 [3 favorites]

My sister has a criminal justice degree and does administration/facilities/logistics work for the state police in her state. Her understanding of the field helps her be better at her job and it's a good secure union job with benefits which is huge for her. i think part of this is really what your hopes and dreams are about and what is realistic. As others have said, it's not going to get you closer to a career in Tuvan throat singing research/education/whatever but it might be TTS-adjacent in a way that makes it fulfilling for you.
posted by jessamyn at 2:41 PM on December 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

Imagine my surprise when I am asked to return for a second interview. The interviewer states that the department intends to quickly wrap up the search process and are only considering "the most serious candidates".

Mm, don't do it. If they're trying to hire someone like a house on fire, there is probably a reason. This is mixed messages, no? I think if you didn't think the interview went well and you still got called back, you should check in with your gut about why. You may find that you might not like this job that much, regardless of their willingness to hire you.

Also, I understand why they would warn you that you will be doing admin and not doing Tuvan throat singing, but I would internally balk at this. How did you get to the interview stage without them expecting you to know this, and you having this expectation made clear to you? Complete red flag. If communication is this bad during the interview, it won't improve.

My 2 cents.

Additionally - but perhaps more importantly - I would walk away from this particular offer because of your interviewer's comment that your education in the field is not germane. That is... troubling.

Yeah, this is also not a super nice thing to say. Tuvan throat singing is not germane to many jobs, but a support role in a department of tuvan throat singing is one of them.
posted by benadryl at 4:11 PM on December 31, 2016 [4 favorites]

I work in the marketing department of an arts discipline something like Tuvan throat singing actually (after some time in the dream job that wasn't), and I have the equivalent of like a high school course in it and it helps. But I will observe that the people in my organization who wish they were singing, but instead are managing schedules or selling throat singing sometimes do seem less happy than people who wanted to do the work itself.

Also the actual throat singers are often worse to the 'failed' throat singers than those of us who clearly came in with experience in our job-related fields because they are perceived as throat singers that didn't make it and therefore can't be that amazing. This is totally unfair but man is it a thing. So if you're hoping for camaraderie, that may not happen. Although I will say we have a lot of fun geeking out on some of the Tuvan in-jokes anyway.

This: the actual daily tasks of the position alone are not the draw for me.

Is what would concern me. I don't think you have to love very job, but doing tasks you really don't like in order to be around Tuvan throat singing is a recipe for burnout. If there are worthwhile perks etc. then that's great, but I would be careful about considering the subject one of them.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:45 PM on December 31, 2016 [4 favorites]

I would approach this as if it were NOT a job in the Tuvan throat singing department but in something that enjoy but have no background in, like maybe history or political science or something. Would the job still be interesting to you? If it would be, then you should pursue a second interview. If not, I probably wouldn't continue to go after it. Because having a "passion" for the departmental subject will bring absolutely no benefit to you in terms of being good at the core functions of your job except that it might make certain routine tasks more interesting to you. I think your interviewer was trying to convey this to you, perhaps somewhat bluntly, but it sounds like they really do not want a Tuvan throat singer who happens to be doing admin work, they want an admin, and if the admin really enjoys Tuvan throat singing, that's nice.

I see this sometimes in my work. I'm a physician, and I work with medical assistants in the office. Some of the MAs don't have any higher ambitions, which is fine; they're good at their work and they go home to their families at night. Some of them want to go on to be nurses, NPs, PAs, or physicians. I like working with those folks, who tend to be bright and ambitious, and I try to teach when I can, but every now and then we get someone who feels like the actual work of being an MA is too dull and wants to spend all his time observing procedures or talking about physiology and it's like, dude, I'm running behind, please just get my 2:15 roomed and give Mrs. Jones her flu vaccine. When they're able to combine the two--efficient execution of their MA role as well as interest/ambition in the other stuff--it's fantastic, but offered a choice between the extremes I'd take the person who's just there to do their job over the person who thinks the job is beneath him.

That said, if you think that maybe this job isn't the most interesting but it might open up avenues at the university, I wouldn't discount it, but it also sounds like you've got some other promising things on the horizon and so I wouldn't give the throat singing too much weight in the decision.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 7:53 PM on December 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yep I have an undergraduate degree in Art History and a graduate degree in arts management / administration and I see this ALL the time. Every interviewer I've ever had wants to make absolutely sure that I understand the job is administrative and office-based and that I will not be able to use it to become a curator. Luckily, I do not want to be a curator and I enjoy museum administration, and thus I have been happy in my career. You want to hit the sweet spot where your degree will be helpful to the work (by providing a baseline where you can "get" the culture and the references, interact with academics or artists, make the work or the organization more interesting, maybe make you able to make some judgement calls on your own) BUT where you can show that you enjoy the work itself and are good at it.

Because museum jobs are pretty few and far between it's very common for people to apply for anything and everything, thinking they'll use support staff jobs to get a foot in the door and become a curator / conservator / exhibition designer or whatever they "really" want to do. When I've been involved in hiring processes you can usually spot these people a mile off. If they do manage to get that foot in the door, they are usually unhappy. Very occasionally, it "works" in that they can leverage the resources of the institution to learn more about what they actually want to do and then apply for internal openings like it's going out of style. But they have to be pretty damn good at the job they were hired to do, to get that far.

If I were you I would continue to pursue the job (depending on what else you have in the pipeline, of course). But the big big question you have to ask yourself is whether you will be able to handle supporting the staff who are doing what you want to do, even if there was no chance of you ever getting to do what they do. Because I think your interviewer has thrown a pretty big hint that it's not encouraged.
posted by cpatterson at 12:22 AM on January 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

Also, I understand why they would warn you that you will be doing admin and not doing Tuvan throat singing, but I would internally balk at this. How did you get to the interview stage without them expecting you to know this, and you having this expectation made clear to you? Complete red flag.

Not even slightly a red flag. You underestimate how common it is for desperate aspiring throat singers to delude themselves into thinking they can take a throat singing adjacent job and spin it into a throat singing career for themselves. This is such a widespread thing, I can't even tell you.

There are more people being trained in throat singing than there are throat-singing jobs out there. These excess grads are deeply committed to throat singing. They've incurred substantial amounts of debt from pursuing throat singing in higher education. They've spent the best part of a decade focusing on becoming one of the ones who makes it. They've been either fighting with unsupportive family members and trying to convince them that throat singing is a genuine career path that will lead to more than just a job at McDonalds or else having to handle the unrealistic expectations of pushy parents who don't really understand the job market for this field and can't understand why their kid isn't a platinum-album-selling throat singing superstar yet. The urge they have to take a throat singing adjacent job just so they've got a comeback for their asshole cousin Terry at Thanksgiving when he starts giving them shit for not doing a STEM degree is very, very strong.

So they take the job, but of course it isn't really a throat singing position and their cousin Terry continues to needle them at subsequent Thanksgivings and so they start to exaggerate about the scope and prospects of the job with regard to their own throat singing career. They make it sound just a little more shiny and engaged in the art of throat singing than it actually is, but that means at work they're constantly comparing the invented job to their actual job. They start pushing against the bounds of the job description, stepping on toes within the department by taking on work that's outside their purview or half-assing the stuff that doesn't interest them. They're constantly trying to have collegial conversations about throat singing with the department's pro throat singers and 80% of the time those conversations are interesting to both parties, but 20% of the time they come off as a little patronising to the pro throat singers who have been in the field for much longer in a more active role and they are annoying to management 100% of the time, because the time spent pursuing these conversations - which are often the only bright spot in the frustrated throat singing grad's day - is time when the goddamn rehearsal schedules are not being compiled and printed. Also a rift forms pretty quickly between the frustrated grad and the rest of the support staff, who have no experience in throat singing themselves but who usually have a deep appreciation for throat singing as audience members and for whom throat singing administration is in itself a vocation. These support staff resent the grad's attitude that their chosen career is a stopgap and that the grad is taking up a job that could be filled by somebody like them who genuinely wanted it. So suddenly there's all this office politics bullshit happening in the support team until the frustrated grad either makes their peace with the support role, has a successful audition for a throat singing gig or moves on to a job which is still unrelated to their training, but which at least offers more money and less false hope. Meanwhile management swears that they won't let this happen again and that no frustrated throat singing grads will be hired for admin roles, but of course 80% of the applicants for any support job are frustrated throat singing grads because the job market is saturated with them and no matter how many times management emphasise it during the application process what it is they're looking for, there is always a cousin Terry somewhere fucking up the hiring process.

(But I've been banging this drum on Metafilter since 2009 or earlier, at least as it relates to roles in theatre. Only Anon has sufficient information to make an honest assessment about the extent to which it applies in their own field. Best of luck, Anon!)
posted by the latin mouse at 6:13 AM on January 1, 2017 [23 favorites]

Many excellent points above, particularly cpatterson's. Some background: I've worked at a prestigious University in a staff role in my undergrad field of study for a year (Box Office Manager for the Theater Department) & as an Academic Administrator (a fancy way for saying "departmental secretary") for an Anthropology department for three years, never having studied Anthropology at all. I learned a lot about Anthro performing my duties, which included putting together an annual newsletter, processing applications for the graduate program and faculty positions, and managing the logistics of several lecture series, & believe an Anthro background would have helped me excel even further in that role.

I think your initial interviewer made a point of this being an admin position & *not* a Tuvan Throat Singing position simply to ensure that you didn't expect to transition to an instructor role or slide into the graduate program, especially at an elite University, without going through the normal application process. If you were to apply to the professional degree program, you won't receive special consideration for being an admin &, in the event you apply & are rejected, it may become awkward. S/he went a bit far saying it wasn't at all germane & does have a whiff of "you are not now nor will ever be our peers," which may be hard to swallow if that's the actual attitude of the people you are supporting. I would be surprised if that's truly the atmosphere, however, & think it's probably a weeding out tactic since it's such a niche field with limited opportunities, especially if your enthusiasm for it shone through. That said, your knowledge of the field will help immensely when dealing with faculty & students alike regardless of what this interviewer said.

Especially since you are on the hunt for a job, I don't see a downside to pursuing this further &, if offered, accepting the position, presuming the compensation and benefits are satisfactory. If you land the gig, you may love it but you may discover that this is not the job for you. In either case, this experience will increase your understanding of that world, probably afford you the opportunity to take a class here and there for free, & allow you to foster connections with others in that field, should you choose to entrench yourself in Tuvan Throat Singing further. The great thing about having a job is that if you don't like it, you always can look for another one and take your time choosing the best position for you, which will be informed by your experience with the job you want to leave.

If you have any questions about what it's like to work in an academic environment or have a role similar to my Academic Admin position, please feel free to MeMail me. Best of luck!
posted by katemcd at 6:39 AM on January 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

A few comments above have alluded to this, but I think it's important to point out that as an admin, you'll probably not have as much opportunity as you'd like to participate or be fully accepted into the intellectual life of your department. This is what your interviewer might have been trying to clumsily get at, but I think the issue goes beyond this a bit.

One of the things that's tricky about being a Tuvan throat-singing enthusiast in a support staff role is that you're not well-positioned for professional socialization into the Tuvan throat singing community, but you'll be close enough to that community that you may have trouble seeing those boundaries. It's a minor thing that might make some of your work interactions awkward or breed resentment, and I wonder if that's something that's playing into you having found your previous jobs to be "pretty negative and even toxic". The long-run effects of this dynamic aren't good for your career, and it sounds like this job might be a hothouse for making these issues worse.

It's unclear if you're in a truly niche field or simply one that needs a graduate degree as the entry credential of choice. In both cases, though, I think you need to adjust your expectations for what support staff work looks like. People who always feel that their work is beneath them (or misaligned with their curiousity) don't mature professionally, and if you're only a few years out of school that's something you really need to watch out for.
posted by blerghamot at 8:48 AM on January 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

There is simply no way of knowing. It could be an incredibly good job for you; I think their interview questions/comments are quite reasonable, but so are your concerns.

I've worked in newsrooms a lot. There are always newsroom assistants, who hold a very different role to the rest of the editorial staff. Almost without exception, the newsroom assistants have little interest in becoming journalists - I believe they are screened for this. However I've seen quite a few instances of a newsroom assistant being so liked and respected that they are offered editorial opportunities (only very rarely a formal editorial role, but certainly a pathway). Obviously newsrooms are very different to academia, but there are a few lessons here.

It will come down to the culture of the place, and your own personal ability to deal with it.

If it's a pervasive culture of "admin staff are 2nd class service-providers to the staff who really matter" then yes, it will be challenging, and you'll have to manage yourself carefully (more below). However, as others have said, university jobs can have great perks and you can always leave - so this risk isn't worth turning down the job imho.

If it's a respectful and collegial culture, who knows? At the very least, you should be able to build personal rapport with the academics. And it doesn't seem unrealistic that you could pursue further studies in your favoured area.

Take the job, if you can. But be very very mindful of the culture and interpersonal dynamics. Listen, observe, and befriend people rather than trying to impress them with your enthusiasm and knowledge of the subject matter. Above all, BE PROFESSIONAL and do your job well. Be friendly and sincere and charming or however you build rapport. Don't hide your enthusiasm for the subject matter, but don't try to impress them until you feel it's safe.

Older and more experienced people can get really, really annoyed at younger enthusiastic colleagues - even without the demarcation issue. I've been on both sides of that one.

Good luck!
posted by 8k at 1:37 PM on January 1, 2017

Nthing the "this isn't the interviewer being a jerk, it's them trying to ensure that they hire someone who actually wants this job, rather than a different job in the department" comments.

I work in a "prestige" industry, and sometimes, we need to hire an admin. Not an aspiring something else: an admin. Someone who wants an admin job and is going to focus on being a good admin instead of trying to impress us with their potential for a job we're not hiring for, who isn't going to leave in 6 months if they get a job offer to be a something else--but an actual, committed, professional admin.

So yes, having a degree related to what we do is, in theory, a plus, but in practice, it's often a sign that someone's applying for a position we're not hiring for under cover of one we are trying to fill because we desperately need someone to fill that position.

There are stepping stone positions: junior positions, assistant positions, etc. But often office manager/administrative assistant/etc. positions aren't intended to be stepping stone positions. A good hiring manager understands that a really good admin isn't an entry-level worker, and that that skill set is complementary to, but not the same as, what the team they're supporting does.

Some departments may treat their admin positions as entry-level, well, entries into a career in whatever the department does. That's fine, but it sounds like the department to which you're applying doesn't.

I would not have applied for the position had it been in the department of some other subject that I did not have a background/interest in - the actual daily tasks of the position alone are not the draw for me.

Then this job isn't the right fit for you. They're trying to make it clear to you that they want someone who wants to do the job they're hiring for, not something else. That's not you.
posted by ElizaDolots at 5:04 PM on January 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Well I guess what I'm saying is this. It's not the fact that they brought up the Tuvan throat singing. You said the interviewer wasn't that impressed with your admin skills, and said so. Those two things together are the red flag.

The interviewer asks me why I feel that I am qualified for this position, because I don't seem to have enough experience.

That's weird that they brought you for a second interview. So they're not over the moon about YOU.

I would not have applied for the position had it been in the department of some other subject that I did not have a background/interest in - the actual daily tasks of the position alone are not the draw for me.

So you're not over the moon about the job. They TOLD you not to expect Tuvan throat singing. You have been warned.

I'd say if you've had a bad set of experiences career-wise (a history of jumping too fast at the first thing?), you should figure out something sustainable.

Why are you applying for a job that you're not interested in, and considering a job where they've said that they're not that excited about you? The BEST case scenario is that you have just been accepted into some random new line of work. You should be considering that, really, quite literally, as if Tuvan throat singing were not in the picture. Don't get sentimental now. If you're interested, take some time and learn about the field as such, and ignore the throat singing aspect. We have to assume they meant what they said. They don't want to talk to you about tuvan throat singing.

For specific other people in this scenario, this job could be a clear yes, but asker, I don't think it is for you. It definitely depends what your other options are.
posted by benadryl at 2:29 AM on January 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

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