How to best handle professional advancement within your field?
September 28, 2017 11:50 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for best practices for handling how to advance professionally within one's own field. Particularly when that field is quite small, low-paying, and involves enormous politics.

I work in a field that I enjoy quite a bit. However, the organization I work for has proven to be very difficult to advance within and I'm really frustrated. A coworker and I are working on a side project for our organization in addition to our normal duties that we hope to get off the ground and turn into a full-time opportunity for me, but we don't know if that will happen or not because of the politics here.

I have been actively networking within my field for several years building relationships, which I love doing, so there's that. I continue to work on projects with colleagues from other institutions to further build those relationships and I enjoy that too.

I have asked my supervisor for opportunities to learn new skills that apply to what I currently do and my request is met with something along the lines of "You don't need to know how to do that". Really? Ugh.

When I talk with folks from other institutions, sometimes they'll say, "Well, have you checked (our association) job board lately?" I do apply for postings I see occasionally, but I'd also like to find out about opportunities that may go unadvertised.

So, I'm frustrated with the lack of clarity at how to advance in my career. Maybe I'm just incredibly dense. I don't know. But I do my current job as well as I can. I ask for new projects to add knowledge to what I currently do so I can do it better than before. I reach out to my colleagues to find out what they're doing and offer my time, etc. I ask for guidance too.

My questions are:

(1) Who is the best (or most effective) person or kind of person to talk with about professional advancement as it pertains to one's specific field? Especially if you might need to share something like e.g. frustration with supervisor, chronically low pay without appearing as a whiner or problem employee

(2) In the same vein as (1) Who might be the best (or good) person to talk with about how to advance within your field?
- I tried to find a mentor not long ago but it didn't work out all that well and unfortunately there are not formal mentorship programs in my field (suggestions for another approach welcome)
posted by strelitzia to Work & Money (1 answer total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I think the questions you're asking are really dependent on your field and even more so on the specific people you have access to. A peer, or someone a level or two above you, or even your supervisor *could* all be the right person to talk to about various different advancement-related topics, but it totally depends on the specific person and your relationship with them.

Taking a very oblique approach to your question - for what it's worth, I changed careers a few years ago in part because I couldn't see a realistic path to advancement or even just "greater than living wages" in my prior career, and because no one I talked to seemed to have any advice beyond "keep checking the job boards" and "pay your dues" (I thought I was!) or "make up your own thing and do it, regardless of whether anyone recognizes or pays for your work" (which sounded more interesting but also like more work than I was interested in getting involved in).

Some fields are really hard to advance in. Maybe especially low-paid fields, in part because senior people can't afford to retire so they keep the same job for 30 years! Likewise if a lot of people in your field are willing/able to put up with low pay and part-time work, sometimes that is just kind of the way it is. Sometimes there are structural issues with the field, the organization, or just overall society that make advancing extra hard. Higher-ups in a field are often *extremely* unaware of this, though, because survivorship bias makes them think, "I looked at the professional society ads and I got this job - all strelitzia has to do is be like me and they will get an equally good job," when actually what happened was they were both prepared and lucky.
posted by mskyle at 2:42 PM on September 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

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