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I am currently working a part-time temporary position as an Instructor, which has good hourly pay but limited hours, so it is meeting my very modest expenses, but that is it. I have to pay for my own healthcare insurance, which is a significant expense. I took this position after relocating a few years ago and starting an entirely new career, after being burned out in a previous career, and being let go from a highly paid position before that due to an acquisition. I tend to be fearful that I could lose this position and end up on the street, quite literally. Last year I had major surgery, and I currently take several strong medications which tend to lower peoples' energy and in some cases cloud their thinking. I am coping OK with that. I feel that I probably do not have enough energy to work a full-time job, as I often come home after 5 or 6 hours (set by my workplace) and sleep.

The issue is that although I have recovered mostly from the surgery and I can think clearly and do a days' work, I am not always very sharp and certainly not achievement-oriented. I feel conflicted that I do not feel driven, but that is part of what burned me out before. I am afraid I will lose this fairly ideal job (high hourly pay, interesting work and limited hours) and then be in a worse position. But no one ever talks to me about my performance. I have basically no reviews, and it is a laid-back place to work. As long as I get things done, it is basically up to me. I spend some time researching areas that are peripherally related to what I teach, and learn the current state of the field so that I know what I am talking about. But I don't feel like I'm "working all the time" that I am there.

Am I putting too much stress on myself, thinking that I must "perform", when I am getting my work done and nobody is concerned about it but me?

  • Who are you thinking/ expecting to talk to you about your performance? What sort of instructor are you? If your primary deliverable is teaching a class, for example, are you hoping that someone will sit in the class a couple times a year and provide feedback? Does your supervisor know enough about the subject area and teaching pedagogy to be able to offer meaningful feedback? – Justin Cave Oct 19 '15 at 22:01
  • @JustinCave: My supervisor does actually sit in and watch me teach occasionally. The Supervisor decided to do that, it was not required. I don't teach most of the hours I am at work, so it is the non-teaching time - reserved for preparation - that I am uneasy about. Also, there are only a few Instructors, and they all teach different things, so I can't ask them what I should be doing. – user37746 Oct 19 '15 at 22:08
  • I'm more confused now. What feedback could your supervisor offer about how you spend your prep time? Unless your supervisor is an expert in your field, how would they know what books you should be studying, which papers are interesting, whether a particular online discussion is likely to be illuminating, etc.? The end goal is the class, whatever you need to do to make that successful is the goal. Offering feedback on the process you use to do that preparation seems like a really bad idea. – Justin Cave Oct 19 '15 at 22:25
  • @JustinCave Rochester Hills... Maybe it is like PTSD. When I feel isolated, it gets worse. I co-teach, and talk with the more experienced instructor. We alternate teaching and prep time. I'm introverted, but do better with more interaction than I am getting. Classroom teaching is not enough interaction. I feel lost. Doing a good job is no guarantee of anything. I was an exceptional programmer, long ago. Now I don't know what I am. There is no category, so how can I do it correctly? – user37746 Oct 20 '15 at 12:57
  • Is the problem that you just want more human interaction at work? In which case, the answer is probably to have more discussions with your co-teacher who presumably has more insight into what sort of things you can improve upon. You can ask students for feedback at the end of class. It doesn't sound like you're really lacking feedback from your supervisor on your job performance, it sounds like you're just a bit lonely and depressed and might benefit from talking with someone. If you teach at a college, there are probably free or very low cost mental health options. – Justin Cave Oct 20 '15 at 15:19
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You should always be aware of how well you're performing, but it's important that you don't get too stressed about it - because that will only hurt your performance.

A simple answer for you - I have quite a few employees that work for me. If one of them was under-performing, I would certainly talk with them about it. Any decent employer is going to bring it to your attention because it's important that their staff is doing their jobs right :)

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My suggestion here would probably be to get out ahead of this; instead of letting this fester and potentially become a problem.

I'd start by soliciting some feedback from your peers and colleagues to get a sense of where you stand. Ask questions like "How do you think I'm doing?", "What am I doing well?", "What areas could I improve in?" (etc.)

These types of conversations should probably help you figure out where you stand. As for the stressing yourself out part; take a deep breath and relax. Most likely there isn't an issue (as nobody's said anything to you yet); but taking the steps above should help. I've worked with many developers who at 50% are churning out 3x the work of some of their colleagues, but their own high standards of themselves were causing them stress. A little chat to "talk them off the ledge" usually worked wonders.

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From what you've said it sounds like you're doing satisfactory work. I suspect you are being too hard on yourself. But I can certainly understand why you're worried, and feeling financially insecure. I have a few suggestions that may help.

If you haven't done so recently, visit your doctor and check that your recovery from the surgery is going as expected. The doctor may want to do some blood tests to verify that it's just the medication making you tired; that there isn't another problem like an iron deficiency contributing to your lack of energy.

After a long period of low energy and reduced activity, it's not easy to return to full activity. Even if you were back to 100% energy tomorrow, it would still take time to regain muscle strength, etc. You might ask the doctor if it's OK to do some mild exercise, like walking. Even if you can't go far, just making a habit of some sort of exercise may help.

Getting a bit more financial security will lower your stress level. However, it sounds like you don't have the energy yet to take on additional work. But I think you're onto a good thing with the research you're already doing. Keep learning. Learn things that you're interested in, and also gain skills that will make it easier to get a job in case you need to. Having a plan and working slowly but steadily toward a goal will probably help you feel more secure about your finances.

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