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Setbacks and Ego.

2 June 2016

This year has handed me some of my first ever major professional setbacks. When my department was hiring a new engineer, I was initially in the running to be the person to whom that new recruit reported. Instead, they were hired as a peer. This means that my career plan being in charge of engineering for operational improvement at MECMC is in jeopardy. In fact, I think it has vaporized.

I am a program manager in a successful department at a prestigious research institution. You’d think I’d be pleased. But now, with the feeling of a ceiling above me being slotted into permanent place at my current station, I am starting to wonder if I shouldn’t be pursuing other options. Maybe I should be looking to move to be with BB. Maybe I should be considering different career paths.

Maybe I should accept that the occasional professional setback is normal and ordinary, and I should take it in stride. I’m not special. I shouldn’t expect to have an endlessly rising tone to my career. But I’ve had setback after setback this year and I’m feeling demoralized and frustrated.

What I need to couple that with is that I’m not a very good manager in this kind of department. I know how to be and academic mentor, but despite training and coaching, I’m just not very good at the management and organization of a department. And I don’t like it. It feels like constant busy work taking me away from what I’m good at. I want to keep ascending, but that takes me further and further from what I’m good and and into things I dislike.

I want to be important and I want to make more money and I want to have a position of influence, but I’m not good at the things I need to be good at to make those things happen. And I want it all to happen immediately and I have a bad concept of a time frame for these things. People have been elevating me and accelerating me my whole life and maybe I’ve found the place from which I should no longer climb.

Maybe I’m just being a spoiled little kid. “If they’re not going to catapult me upwards, I’ll take my ball and go play somewhere else.” My ego is like that. But I’m feeling like I can’t do what I’ve been given to do, at the same time as I want more responsibility and greater sphere of influence. I need to stop, quiet, and ease off.

Serenity comes from humility. Being right-sized for where I am and what I need. Right now, I need to get better at what I’m doing rather than try to continue accelerating upwards. That’s embarrassing. I feel stupid and incompetent. I’m not sure how to do what I need to do, learn what I need to learn, or achieve what I want to achieve. I need to practice my AA principles. Be humble. Practice acceptance.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 2 June 2016 12:00

    I’ve come to accept that I have a choice – I can advance in my career in the way that my ego wants, or I can be content with my job. Unfortunately, advancement would mean focusing on meetings and personnel and stuff like that, but I enjoy being a software developer, not going to meetings.

    So, I won’t have a big title, and I won’t make as much money. It bruises my ego a bit when I think about going to a high school reunion and not having a fancy job or accomplishments, but I don’t think the day-to-day annoyance that would be necessary for that is worth it, overall.

    Of course, I’m fortunate to be in a field (and country, etc.) where being a non-manager still earns a good salary. Perhaps my calculations would be different if that weren’t true.

  2. Syd permalink
    25 June 2016 11:54

    For every personnel evaluation I did, I would much rather have been doing research. So I minimized the busy paperwork as much as possible. Fortunately, I had great staff. I have to say that the Peter principle remains in effect at most places. I never desired to be a director. More money but many more hassles and ego driven ambitions.

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