The fact of the matter is that so many companies aren’t set up to support your success and yet, YOU HAVE TO SUCCEED ANYWAY! So, if you’ve acknowledged that as your reality let’s move on to another common mistake some people make: Putting all their eggs in one ‘Institutional Basket’.
I realize that it’s incredibly difficult to get a decent paying job these days that we feel extraordinarily grateful to our jobs for simply employing us. In addition, many of us were trained under parents or supervisors who spent their entire careers at ONE institution and taught us this is “the way things are”. Regrettably, the result is that some employees behave as if their very life depends on that one job! They bend over backwards to please everyone at work, invest large amounts of time in projects that they’re not even interested in and will accept poor treatment from their superiors out of a desperate hope that they will be deemed worthy of a job they are underpaid for!
The problem with this approach is two-fold. First and foremost, you don’t know whether your current institution is going to make a long-term commitment to you (via tenure and promotion), so why invest 100% of your emotional energy, identity, and self in that outcome? More importantly, this desperate stance puts you in a powerless position because you are, in effect, handing all the power over your future to your employer (instead of assuming some control over it yourself).
How your seniors at work treat you is out of your control, but there are several important factors that are fully under your control: 1) your productivity, 2) your emotional investment in your current institution, and 3) promoting your work beyond your current situation. Below are just a few concrete ways that you can identify your power and use it to invest in yourself –
Cultivate A Professional Attitude
One of the best ways that you can ‘hedge your bets’ is to shift your reference group from the “local” colleagues to the broader arena of your discipline. Extending your network to get out there and mingle with others who share your goals can help maximize your productivity. This will help you increase the possibility that you will be marketable later in life and have the ability to decide whether or not you want to stay in your current position (as opposed to whether or not others will allow you to stay).
Make A Top 10 List
Make a list of the top 10 people in your profession and then make it your business to connect with them over the course of the year. Developing your top 10 list is critical for two reasons: 1) this will help you uncover a whole new network; and 2) you can always study them to see how they got to where they are.
Once you have identified your Top 10, figure out how to connect with these individuals. You could invite them to coffee, go hear them at a panel discussion, approach them at a conference, send them some of your work with a personal note, etc. Some will be nice about it & maybe even approachable and others will completely ignore you. What’s important is that you begin proactively connecting with people in your discipline who matter to your future success.
Feel free to do whatever you think will help introduce others in your field to your work, such as giving talks, great presentations and letting other people know when you have accomplished something they might find useful. The point is to let as many people know about your work as possible while making targeted efforts with those who are likely to help you succeed.
If You Are Unhappy, Do Something About It
Nothing puts your current situation in perspective like dipping a toe in the water! If you get that itch to do more or contribute in other ways, then start doing it! Volunteer somewhere to showcase your skills (or to stretch them), or grab a mentor who can show you other things you can do. When you start to work more towards your goals & can provide evidence of that, then you are a far more attractive candidate. This will cause you to likely generate more interest than if you were doing nothing other than your normal routine.
Sometimes even visiting a friend at their work can invigorate you to begin looking for new challenges. It can make you wonder why on earth you have been stagnant for so long and give you the motivation you need to try something new. Either way, it can be a valuable experience to help you make the mental shift from dependency to independence.
Life at a job that you don’t like can leave you feeling powerless, vulnerable, slightly angry or even a little depressed. This week, claim your power, use your imagination to see beyond your immediate context and pray for peace to face your troubles.