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July 17, 2011

When did it all start to fall into place professionally? That’s a paraphrase of a question Female Science Professor asked a few months ago on her blog. Or specifically in her case, when did most people start taking you seriously (as a science professor)? I am not and never have been a member of the communist party or a science professor. But I did wonder at what point my career would start to feel more solid. When I would feel like I was being pulled up not dragging my broken body up and clawing my way past obstacles and attacks?

I still wouldn’t say I’ve achieved some magical level of respect. When I started working in a technical field I got treated very differently from my clerical days. And when I first started getting mistaken for an engineer (though I wasn’t one at the time) that was a big boost to my confidence.

I’m an ambitious person. I’m not going to be a shrinking violet or hide that under a bushel(which apparently some yahoo named Matt originally coined in something called The Bible, who knew). I mean look at this freaking mandarin fish, do you think he gives a @#$ about what you think?

He doesn’t. But moving up can be tricky. I’ve had to employ an almost reverse psychology method of maneuvering the corporate world. Sound like you are too interested in extra responsibility and a couple of things can happen:

  1. Your immediate supervisor/lead will feel threatened and try to hold you down.
  2. People will think you are an arrogant ass, not want to work with you, and management will think you are demanding.
So I’ve had to tread water carefully (boy is this post getting fishy with its analogies). But it seems to be working. I’ve had to focus on projects and pretend like I’m not interested in their promotion potential, visibility, or in any credit I might receive for doing the work (monetary or just the thanks and positive feedback that I think all employees appreciate from their superiors). It seems to be working. If I look glum when they suggest me as a backup, I pretend I am so overloaded and treat it as just another onerous task, the more they seem to make me want to do these things. 
I think managers must have some higher level of sadism than ordinary people. Appear too eager for something and they won’t give it to you. Only when you grudgingly agree to take it on as a humble and hardworking employee do they suddenly see leadership potential. So nothing yet, but I seem to be having some initial success gaming the system. Which of course means I’m going to be just like them some day: unrepentant, self absorbed, narcissistic, sadistic asshole. So not much will change really.
2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 17, 2011 6:11 pm

    Yes to 1 & 2. Yes to all of these.'m not taken seriously. I'm over 35 but look like a co-ed. My new strategy. I'm going to stop speaking. I will have no input, not a peep. If you want me to speak, there have to be a direct question. One sentence reply. And it will probably make no sense whatsoever. This technique is used by supervisors all around me, so I know it works like a charm. This is what gets promotions. jc

  2. July 17, 2011 6:27 pm

    FrauTech, I wish someone had told me sooner to act like everything was onerous. But I think you still have to do the work. Being passive-aggressive and lazy won't get you promoted, so it seems like some kind of "show not tell" approach works best, maybe?Jc, Me too. Although from what I can tell, this is somewhat context dependent. Some people seem able to look past the appearance issue, it turns out, but only so long as you seem not to care about getting a position appropriate to your skills. I started the "stop speaking" approach a few years ago during my postdoc. Doesn't work. But I still do it. At least now I don't feel so much like I'm wasting my breath on people who don't listen. I say only what seems necessary, I try to be saintly patient about reminding people of what I told them when they've ignored me, and they get maybe 2-3 chances to forget what I said. After that, they can hang themselves. Turns out the smart people do listen. The secret is finding people smart enough to know good advice when they hear it. Oh yeah and being in a position that is completely non-threatening. Anyway yeah good for FSP that people take her seriously and her career "fell into place". The rest of us are still treated like clowns, and our careers fell into… a deep, dark hole.

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