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September 15, 2012 7:12 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to be happy in a low-level office job if you're working for a cause you’re passionately devoted to?

Sorry for the hideous length; I honestly tried to edit this down as best I could.

I’m in the dissertation stage of a doctoral program for a degree I no longer particularly want, since I’ve realized academia is not for me and there are few, if any, uses for a PhD outside of academia in my field. Of course, ideally I’d like to finish anyway so I don't feel like I wasted the last six years with nothing to show for it. (I could get a “consolation" MA, but MAs in my field are a dime a dozen and it would be humiliating to emerge from six years in a rigorous doctoral program, ABD, with a flimsy two-year degree that any moron can get from the University of Phoenix. I'd almost rather leave with nothing.) I’m still plugging away for the time being, but the funding clock is ticking, I’m not at all invested in my dissertation project, and it feels like an impossible task. I’m growing more and more frustrated and depressed and I feel like I’m on the wrong track in life, pursuing a dead end.

With the encouragement of my sister and a close friend, I’ve started looking/applying for jobs in an advocacy field that I’m deeply passionate about and involved in as an activist on my own time (completely unrelated to my academic field). The idea of working for this cause excites me, and I think it could be the path to fulfillment that I had hoped to find through grad school. The jobs in question are mostly in writing, communications or development, which I think I could do well enough, although I’ve never been interested in this kind of work before (well, writing, I've always wanted to do; PR/communications and development, not so much). After college I worked for a few years as an online marketing assistant and an office manager, which I didn’t like, mainly because I didn’t like the people I worked for and couldn’t give a rat’s ass about selling people shit they didn’t need so my rich bosses could buy another vacation house.

Recently, though, I saw a job opening for an administrative assistant at a wonderful, important advocacy organization in the city I want to work in, and I’m thinking about applying for it, or one like it. From where I stand now, I feel like I could absolutely be happy and fulfilled even in such a rote, low-paying position because I'm so invested in the cause. I would be directly involved in the real, quantifiable work that this organization does, which I see as the most imperative work there is, and one of the few things I can conceive of devoting my life to (another being teaching, but I have many and serious reservations about that path). And I actually like the idea of a clearly-defined job that I never have to bring home or stress about too much. I've always said, only half-joking, that I would be quite happy as a career barista. I have problems with anxiety and I despise networking, self-promotion, office politics, ambiguous social interactions, etc.—I would never want to be a manager of other people, for instance. One draw of academia was the relative autonomy of the work. So in a weird way, an admin position seems MORE appealing than a higher-paying, more demanding communication or development position that requires a college degree. The money is a non-issue, as long as I can pay my rent—I’ve spent my entire adult life in poverty and I’m fine with that, if it means not being miserable at a job I hate. It’s a tradeoff I’m more than happy to make for the privilege of doing work that feels meaningful. I do have student loans but I plan to do income-based repayment. I don’t want kids and I don’t particularly want to own a house, and I’m not overly concerned with saving a ton of money for retirement because I don’t plan on living to be 80.

But I wonder if my thinking is clouded by my current desperation to get out of grad school and into this particular field. Is it ludicrous to want to leave a PhD program ABD for a job that only requires a high school diploma? Would I even have a shot, or would my resume go straight into the trash? If I do apply, should I leave my graduate work off my resume (probably not, since I'd need to account for the time)? What about accolades such as summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa? Would they work against me for a position like this?

TL;DR: I know you’re not me, but do you think it’s possible to be happy and fulfilled in a low-level job if it's for an organization you respect deeply and a cause that means everything to you? (I can’t overstate the importance of this cause to me—I’m like the people on Whale Wars who would die for the whales.) Any other guidance/insight/tough love also welcome! Thanks!
posted by désoeuvrée to Work & Money (26 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Apply. If you get it, you'll have a chance to discover if it makes you happy. If you don't get it, no problem.

And if you don't get the PhD, do take the consolation master's. There is no reason to refuse it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:28 PM on September 15, 2012

Possible in the short term? Probably. Possible forever? Probably not. But no job is forever- you'll either outgrow it and move onward and upward, or grow to hate it with a passion and move outward and onward. I will say that if you value autonomy in your work, being an administrative assistant is going to get old really quickly.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:29 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

In a simple way, sure, yes a cause you like as a job can be fulfilling.

"The money is a non-issue, as long as I can pay my rent—I’ve spent my entire adult life in poverty and I’m fine with that, if it means not being miserable at a job I hate. It’s a tradeoff I’m more than happy to make for the privilege of doing work that feels meaningful. I do have student loans but I plan to do income-based repayment. I don’t want kids and I don’t particularly want to own a house, and I’m not overly concerned with saving a ton of money for retirement because I don’t plan on living to be 80."

Against reality? I doubt you really can assume all these will be consistent for decades to come. You don't indicate your age, but you seem young and uncertain. That can be a nasty shock after we find you like your new "cause" job barely, but wanted to actually do more in your real life side of things. Poor income, debt, and restrictive life choices can make for regret.
posted by Bodrik at 7:30 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can't get the job if you don't apply.

If you do get it, though, you should know that it's unlikely that anyone will care about how deeply you feel about the cause. You're going to work - for the same money - with people who could care less, and be told what do to by people for whom it's just a job.

Also, office politics. Who ever said that doesn't happen in advocacy?
posted by Prof Iterole at 7:37 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's possible to be happy almost anywhere. Happiness is a lot more internal than external.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 7:42 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes, it's possible. Also, you might wind up growing within the organization. You never know.
posted by Vaike at 7:48 PM on September 15, 2012

Response by poster: I'm 30. Too old to be this confused, I realize.

If you do get it, though, you should know that it's unlikely that anyone will care about how deeply you feel about the cause. You're going to work - for the same money - with people who could care less, and be told what do to by people for whom it's just a job.

Just to clarify that for the positions I'm talking about, there is no one there for whom it is just a job. These aren't big organizations; they're small offices with a handful of workers who make next to nothing. And I'm not concerned with whether anyone else cares about how I feel. The point is that I want to feel invested in what I'm doing.
posted by désoeuvrée at 7:49 PM on September 15, 2012

Best answer: You can be as happy and fulfilled as you want to be, regardless of what job you have. You are not your job. I have known many smart and talented people who have chosen to work at jobs that meet exactly the criterion you mention - "a clearly-defined job that I never have to bring home or stress about too much." Generally they have been people I respect very much for making a conscious decision and understanding their needs and limitations.

Also, don't automatically dismiss an administrative assistant as a "rote, low-paying position." You could wind up doing a lot of very interesting things if you don't have a strongly pre-conceived picture of what an administrative assistant does. And the work can be very valuable to others who do want to be managers.

No job is free of "office politics, networking, etc." I am a lifelong introvert and I have learned to cultivate rapport and to work well with people at all levels of organizations without drinking the kool-aid. As an administrative assistant you can expect to have a lot of interaction with people, though you can probably have a lot of that autonomy you prize.

A very interesting and quick to read book about exactly the question you are asking yourself is "The Enlightened Gardener" by Sydney Banks.

If you are willing to live simply on a modest income, you have an incredible level of freedom to work at something that is meaningful to you. I have financial obligations that do not afford me that freedom, so I envy you. A lot of my current focus is to reduce those obligations to increase my freedom of choice. I have often thought that "If I won the lottery...I would pay myself a modest salary and go to work at getting universal health care adopted in the US.

As to your PhD, there are probably a lot of PhDs out there who are doing "rote, low-paying jobs." And there are plenty of people without degrees doing demanding complex jobs. I don't have a bachelor's degree and I am very well paid for the work I do. One caveat, I am an autodidact and have no trouble learning what interests me or what I need to learn to get a job done. Why spend any more of your time and money just to finish something that no longer interests you? Look into your heart and you will find what you need to know.
posted by Altomentis at 7:50 PM on September 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm a very overqualified person currently working as an administrative assistant at an NPO that does work I'm pretty passionate about. I've worked for NPO's for the past decade, after a 15 year career in training and corporate communications.

You have a good grip, I think, on the upsides. Here are the downsides:

- Money. Sure, you've lived without money for a long time. But NPO salaries are even lower than regular admin salaries, and raises are few and far between. Where I am now, I live in constant fear that the organization is going to suddenly go under, because our funding sources are unstable. I was at my last job for 24 months, and the job before that for 18 months, and left both due to financial issues at the organization (one I left prior to an enormous downsizing, and the other my position was eliminated and outsourced to a company who was willing to do it pro bono.)

- Professional respect. Probably the hardest part for me is when things happen like I'm described as "the girl behind the desk". Admin jobs are important, but most people will assume that you're not well educated and/or not really capable of doing more. I won't say that's universal, but it's been a consistent experience for me.

- You say "I despise networking, self-promotion, office politics, ambiguous social interactions, etc.": Being an admin is full of those kinds of issues. You need to be cheerful and pleasant to everyone, no matter how insanely stupid their request or how lousy your own day is going. You learn stuff that you're really not supposed to know, but have to pretend you don't. People will tell you things (because you're "just the admin") and you have to navigate all those kind of office politics type things while still being helpful and pleasant. My day is actually full of ambiguous social interactions, both with my fellow employees and (more important) with our donors, clients, and supporters.

- As an admin, I absolutely take my work home with me, both in the literal and figurative sense. Part of working at an NPO involves long hours anyhow, and I'm expected to keep an eye on my email and be available to take calls pretty much at any time folks are in the office. On one memorable occasion my infant son had to have surgery in the morning, and I was expected to be back at work in the afternoon to help prep for our organizations Annual Meeting which was taking place the next day.

Now, despite all that, I've stayed in NPOs for the past decade, although I'm still trying to fight my way out of the pink collar ghetto I'm in and get a more responsible position (which is hard, because people at NPOs tend to stay put for a long time. Moving up in an organization can be pretty rare, at least in my area. I do it because I love working for cause-driven organizations, and find it much more professionally satisfying. You say now you'll never want a house or a child, but money is useful - especially since NPO health insurance isn't exactly the best. Passion for a cause is great, and will keep you getting up in the morning for a while, but eventually the rest of the world will put some demands on you, and that can be very stressful.

If you do decide to apply, I would probably downplay your education. I'll also say that where I've worked, we're often pretty wary of people who seem to be a little too passionate about the cause we're working for, unless they have some very personal connection to it. Do they accept volunteers? The best way, hands down, to work there would be to start as a volunteer, but it's probably a little late in the game now for that.

Feel free to MeMail me if you have specific questions.
posted by anastasiav at 7:53 PM on September 15, 2012 [9 favorites]

Everything depends on the actual organization, its internal culture, your personality and how it meshes (or doesn't) with said culture, and the huge unknowable variable of whether you are capable of being consoled by the abstract contribution to the big picture if you are not personally engaged with it.

I was able to turn an administrative assistant position into a fairly accomplished career as a professional activist & organizer, but I began with that as my goal and also got lucky at least a couple of times along the way. I believe that the majority, but not all, of the administrative staff I have worked with have shared the organizational ideals and haved shared emotionally in organizational victories & defeats.

There are politics, frustrations, lunatics & assholes in any group, including those that do amazing positive work, so don't expect your days will be filled with inspiring do-gooders all the time, though they may be some of the time.

On preview: since you are looking at smaller groups, you will be closer to the action and have greater opportunity to transition to an advocacy role, should you so desire, and if you demonstrate talent & initiative.
posted by univac at 7:58 PM on September 15, 2012

Best answer: Without going past the first half of your first sentence - "Yes". But not quite like you phrase it.

Every job has its crappy sides. I personally love what I do (programming), but hate just about every aspect of doing it for people with no appreciation of what I put into it ("Oh, yeah, I guess those numbers look okay... Can you make it more blue?").

I always keep my eyes open for a dream job. And maybe, someday, I'll find it. As I near the halfway point of my working career, though, I don't really hold out much more than a glimmer of hope of ever getting there.

Instead, l just focus on the reality of my situation, rather than counting the ways it falls short of my fantasy - The checks keep cashing, I do enjoy programming, and overall, I have a pretty damned cushy job in an air-conditioned office with the liberty to read MeFi pretty much any time I want as long as I get a certain amount of work done during the week. My job doesn't seriously limit my free time, leaving me free to seek "real" satisfaction in my own time. Which I do!

So, can a low level office job make you happy? I'd say you've asked the wrong question to start... A low level office job can satisfy your basic material needs in a kinder, gentler way that what 99% of all humans who have ever lived had to put up with to meet those same needs. As for true happyness, only you can make you happy. But not starving to death makes a good start. :)
posted by pla at 8:04 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

My initial reaction to your question was "yes", but I feel I need to qualify my statement.

Disclaimer: I have a PhD in a field I don't work in. I do work that is largely viewed as administrative, although I'm not a receptionist.

Having something you're passionate about is fantastic, and being able to direct your passion to that thing while "putting in time" at the other place is great. You feel energized, and a lot of the shit that happens in the place you'd rather not be just rolls right off your back.

From this perspective, what you're proposing sounds the short term.

Spare a thought to what happens once you graduate, though. You're no longer saddled with a PhD to finish, and you can devote your time 100% to your cause. That's when things could get difficult. As someone mentioned above, it's likely that no-one at your NGO is going to care quite as much as you do about the cause. That could lead to some clashes down the road - if the leadership of the NGO doesn't have the same focus as you, or deems compromises necessary in order to get something done, you may find yourself defending what you see as an important cause against people you don't see as caring enough. If you allow yourself to get that emotionally invested in the cause, you could leave yourself open to being the victim of office politics.

This happened to me, just as I was graduating from my own PhD. And boy, I got royally screwed by it.

As someone who can get intensely focused on things, my suggestion is to always have more than one endeavour going at all times. By all means, keep working at your passion, but keep another initiative (unrelated to the first) going. This way, your emotional involvement isn't 100% in either endeavour, and you don't run as much of a risk either way. And one becomes a refuge from the other if things aren't going the way you'd like them to.

It's more work than your average person takes on, sure, but you're a PhD candidate. You're no stranger to work.

Good luck!
posted by LN at 8:54 PM on September 15, 2012

Best answer: I think this is a "grass is greener" problem. There is nothing rote, independent, or 8-to-5 about being an admin assistant at an advocacy NGO. The more passionate the cause, the more bitter the office politics, if only because everyone thinks their vision is right and is totally pissed that everyone else can't see it and must not really care about the mission as much as they do. A whole heck of a lot of people leave that world to pursue higher degrees, actually.

Most workers at strapped NGOs will make a joke about how the "duties as otherwise assigned," line in their job description has evolved to be the majority of their duties. Multiple that times 10 for admin assistants and make sure it's all the jobs that nobody else wanted. Not a people person? Managing up is the main competency for any admin assistant.

That is all to say, successful assistants don't go into the interview because they want to run away from other ambitions. Successful assistants are there to support the mission and to hitch their star for greater things. That's why the right answer to the question, "where do you see yourself in five years," for a job like this is not, "nowhere special, stuck in this low level office job is just fine." Without a higher ambition, one would burn out.

You sound like you need to take a hiatus and do something truly rote and hands-on for a while... Think: migratory organic farm work, teaching English abroad, tutoring, etc... Is there any chance to leave your dissertation and pick it up later? Planning to work some unambitious job until you keel over and die is no plan at all. Follow your passion if you must make a new start, but half-heartedly wishing for a dead end job ... Well, sounds to me like that's just you trying to bargain your way out of actual, diagnosable depression.

Which is all to say, maybe you should make no change at all until you have that depression treated. Does your school offer counseling?
posted by Skwirl at 10:03 PM on September 15, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you all for the wonderful answers so far. Yes, I think therapy is a good idea. I am also planning to see if the career center on campus can help me. (But mental health counseling should probably be a first priority.) I've actually considered both WWOOFing and teaching English abroad. I can take up to a year off without actually leaving the program.
posted by désoeuvrée at 10:29 PM on September 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Of course you can do it if you're passionate about it.

But often these things are just about running away from the tremendous levels of responsibility because you're burnt out.

I have massive deadlines every week for the next six weeks with no break. So I'm obsessively researching in intricate detail the holidays I can take in 12 months time. Obsessively. As if my life depended on it. (And to a certain extent it does - I'm overcommitted and burnt out and I'll never take on this much work ever again but I will holiday more).

It is not logical in the slightest but it's my brain's way of saying - wouldn't it be wonderful if we were somewhere else entirely different right now - where you don't have write an obscene number of words in the next 6 weeks?

As you're in a position to do so, take some time off, do something different, and breathe. You'll have a different perspective after you've done that.
posted by heyjude at 2:50 AM on September 16, 2012

Don't do it. Being an admin at an ngo is anything but autonomous, clear-cut, and free of office politics. Plus you get paid crap, and there are usually no internal promotions. You can use it as a springboard to other things, but does not make sense otherwise.
posted by yarly at 3:43 AM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Out of curiosity, what does the advocacy organization do? What inspires you about their work? There may be other related jobs that you'd prefer. I'll agree with everyone here who's pointed out the downsides of NGO admin jobs (though I'll add I had an entry-level comms/admin job at a nonprofit shortly after graduating from college, and it was pretty great in terms of leaving work at the office. I think this is pretty variable, and a lot of the difference comes from the other people in the organization). Depending on the size of the organization, admin jobs can be pretty stressful, I think, because they can involve a lot of work and a lot of responsibility.
posted by three_red_balloons at 5:03 AM on September 16, 2012

Best answer: I'm an educated person (summa cum laude) and I have been an assistant* for ten years, not even for an organization I care about (although I do work in the wine business, which is fun). I sort of fell into this work while my husband was in grad school, and had intended to go to law school myself, but as it turns out, I love being an assistant. I think you should go for it. If you're someone who despises politics and isn't particularly ambitious, it could end up being a really good fit for you. You may not have room to move up with that office, but it could lead to other things.

*Caveat: I've always worked as the Executive Assistant to the CEO, which is different in a lot of ways from a lower level person - namely, in salary and the level of respect with which I am treated. However, the work itself is not much different from what the other admins do at my company, and with a degree you will quickly rise to higher level positions if you choose to stay in administrative work.
posted by something something at 6:18 AM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm pretty smart, and most of my work experience is as an admininstrative assistant. It suits me, I've found jobs that allowed me to be fairly autonomous, and you can find/make interesting projects once you show that you're competent.

However, working full-time for causes I'm passionate about burned me right out. Twice. And each job was only a year contract. It was pretty heavy to contemplate that if I do my job poorly, children might go hungry vs. be fed. At some level you need to start viewing it as just a job, or it will wreck you.

It sounds like you're looking for a way out of your PhD program (please, do try to finish and take the MA if you have to). This job might do the trick, but be prepared for it to be a short-term situation. Definitely do some reading about burnout and (if relevant) vicarious traumatization before you take the job.
posted by momus_window at 7:56 AM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: (I could get a “consolation" MA, but MAs in my field are a dime a dozen and it would be humiliating to emerge from six years in a rigorous doctoral program, ABD, with a flimsy two-year degree that any moron can get from the University of Phoenix. I'd almost rather leave with nothing.)

A word of warning.

I've hired a number of admin-type positions for exactly the type of organization you're referring to. If there's even a hint of the above attitude in your resume or cover letter, you'd immediately be redirected to the 'no' pile.

Entry level in a small organization can be a good opportunity if you use it to prove yourself and move up. It will probably end badly if there is any indication that you think you are somehow above the job or the other people who do the same work, or that as a former PHD candidate, you somehow have all the answers to how things should be done because you're smarter than the other 'morons'.

In terms of getting around the fact that in some respects you are overqualified, don't be afraid to point out the reasons why you do need this as a development opportunity (i.e. - experience is mostly academic, need to gain real-life experience, would like to change paths and recognize that such a move will require a few back-steps career wise). Anyone doing the hiring will want to know that they're not going to invest only for you to move on in a month.
posted by scrute at 8:52 AM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Totally. I know people who have been. Also, if it is a low-end gig then it is a low-paying gig, so your enthusiasm for the cause will help keep you sane on bad days, or while you look into a better job that pays more.
posted by davejay at 11:00 AM on September 16, 2012

Oh yeah, and that ego-around-your-degree/people-without-degrees-suck attitude is very much a bad idea. People make their degree, not the other way around.


I've worked with tons of brilliant peers, some of whom have PhDs, and I found out recently that a guy I've worked with for years -- and who says very nice things about my capabilities in public and private -- has a PhD. Somehow we managed to work together, support each other, fill in each other's gaps and produce excellent work, despite him being a PhD and me not even having a college degree of any kind.

Contrast that with another peer named Phil (name changed slightly) that I worked with for a time, who would loudly complain about how he shouldn't be "slumming in a place like this because he has a PhD" whenever work got frustrating or difficult, so we (including the previously-mentioned PhD guy) decided that "PhD" stood for "Phil Has a Degree." He wasn't well-liked, and he didn't last long.
posted by davejay at 11:05 AM on September 16, 2012

Working in admin at a non-profit doesn't always suck! But with your qualifications, you might want to look at several other types of npo jobs: you're in a rigorous phd program, that probably means you're good at: research, numbers, and writing. So jobs in grant writing, reporting, or QA might be options for you. Advocacy orgs often have policy wonks on staff, depending on your field of study, you might have a good background for that type of job too.

I've worked in npos for the past 10 years, and from my own experience, getting in on the ground floor in admin isn't a bad idea. Most npos are so strapped, that if you demonstrate skills in another area of work, and prove your time to be valuable, you may be able to leverage that into a new role within the org, or use your proven track record to apply for a different job externally.

Lastly, don't settle for the job title they give you. Many npos can't pay much, but they're often willing to negotiate on job title if you've worked there a while and proven that you deserve a better title. It won't put money into your bank account, but it could help in future job searches.
posted by nerdcore at 12:02 PM on September 16, 2012

I think if you can, take one year off from PhD thesis to do other jobs can help you gain new insight on your situation. You have to know that often in business, you need to cut lose for long term gain. Dragging on for a degree that is such a pain to finish is not worth it.
By the way, I want to say that this sentence "it would be humiliating to emerge from six years in a rigorous doctoral program, ABD, with a flimsy two-year degree that any moron can get from the University of Phoenix" sounds to me like a people who are prone to depression talking. Kind of you think you are inherently better than others and you can't stand that you fail.
posted by akomom at 4:16 PM on September 16, 2012

Hella no, it isn't, not without Kreskin-level feats of mental gymnastics.

Non-profit admin is dead-end, boring, unstable work, that means financial & emotional burnout for most, no matter how much you care about the cause. No job is perfect, but it's important to get at least a morcel of intrinsic pleasure from some aspect of your work.

You won't have the opportunity to exercise autonomy, creativity, or critical skills. You will have responsibilities (clear and unclear). You'll take orders and crap from other driven people, and have to smile through it (as mentioned). You'll have to be/become a 'team player'. You'll be defined by your role, and daily, actively reminded that the skills you've worked to hone all your life, and your native intelligence, do not matter here. You'll have to work to consciously split the vision of yourself reflected in your working day, and your self-concept.

It's unlikely you'll have a pension unless you do something about it yourself. You don't want to find yourself without one and chasing contracts at 50. Which happens, a lot.

Smaller organizations might sound attractive for reasons of atmosphere, but they're less stable than national ones, and do you fewer favours as far as your next job's concerned.

And frankly, your attitude towards masters' degrees (& MA-holders, by implication) is kind of snotty. If it reflects perfectionism & a sense of entitlement in other aspects of your identity, or spills over into other aspects of working life, I fear you'll suffer for it.

Would suggest volunteering in your spare time, if you're burning to serve, and finding a way into some kind of consulting work or profession for your bread and butter.
posted by nelljie at 12:19 PM on September 17, 2012

Response by poster: I'm sorry if I offended anyone with my rude and careless comment about the MA. I just meant that I would be frustrated at my own inefficiency for taking so long and sacrificing so much for the same degree I could have earned in two years with significantly less fallout and upheaval. I am certainly under no illusions that people with degrees are any smarter or better than those without! And I also didn't mean to put down anyone who works in admin. I know the work can be very demanding and complex, although the particular position I had in mind seemed to be on the lower end of the spectrum (the job responsibilities were mostly things like "answering phones" and "ordering office supplies"). But of course there is still the whole office politics/"managing up" side of things, which is challenging in itself regardless of one's official job duties.

I may have gone slightly overboard with the "best answers" and I wanted to choose even more than I did, which is to say that they were all very helpful and have given me a lot to think about! Thank you.
posted by désoeuvrée at 12:21 AM on September 18, 2012

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