Making a change in your academic career can be scary, but is it dangerous? On this episode I’m helping you recognize when deciding not to make a change might be the danger.
I’m an avid podcast listener. I recently heard a story on the How I Built This podcast about an investment banker whose doctor told her that if something didn’t change, she was going to have a stroke, or a heart attack. Staying in that job, for her, was exceedingly dangerous. This got me thinking about our careers in academia, and dangerous versus scary career moves.
Making a change, speaking up, or creating new boundaries in your career can feel scary. At times, these things might even feel like they are dangerous. Will I lose my job? What if my income changes? What about my identity as ‘an academic’? But I am here to tell you, that staying in a toxic, frustrating or overwhelming situation just because it is scary to leave or create change is where the true danger lies.
“So although it’s scary to leave, it’s not actually dangerous to leave; it’s dangerous to stay.”
If you’re feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, or anxious in your career, here are 3 questions to ask yourself to begin to assess what your next steps should be, even if it feels scary to take them.
1. What specifically is making me feel this way?
You might feel general malaise or anxiety, but the first step is to get very specific about what is making you feel that way. Write it down, make a list. See if you can zero in on the thing (or things) that is making you feel the way you do.
2. Can I change this thing?
Take stock of what you’re in control of, and what increased influence you might have if you are willing to step up or speak out. It might feel scary to do these things, but it could be dangerous to your health to stay quiet.
“You deserve [for] your career to be great, not just good enough.”
3. What Have I Created and What Am I Creating Now?
I’ve talked about this idea before, and I’ll continue to: you and your work are separate from your institution. You are making contributions to your field that are uniquely yours. Take stock of those things, spell them out. Is your current situation helping you to bring that to fruition, or is it stifling?
Once you have the answers to these questions down in black and white, take some time to reflect. Remember that staying in a situation where you feel undue pressure, stress or expectations that don’t align with your personal mission can become an actual danger. Make a plan, even if that involves taking steps that seem scary at first.
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