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I think I’ve hit a glass ceiling at my university. After advancing through positions in my office in the last ten years, I now understand that since I don’t have a Ph.D, and do not have faculty status, there is no ‘next step’ for me. My family is not mobile, there are very limited international education positions in my geographic region, and most of these are below my current level. I love my job and university, and I want to continue to advance through my career. Is there anything I can do to position myself and my office differently? Do I have to leave international education? Give up my aspirations?
Bouncing Off the Glass Ceiling
My first response is a question back to you: How do you define advancement? What are you seeking? Different people see advancement differently: a higher title, a larger salary, more authority, different responsibility, more visibility, new skills, new knowledge. Once you have decided what is important to you, you will be better able to identify what skills, credentials, and experience you need to get there.
Given that you cannot consider opportunities outside your geographic area and love your job, I have three suggestions.
Since it sounds like you have outgrown your current position, consider whether it could be expanded or a new one created that would give you greater challenges while also providing needed support for the office and university. Present a solution to an issue the office is facing; propose a new initiative and offer to lead it; find a challenge that no one else is addressing. This type of ambition can open the door to discussions with your supervisor about growth opportunities.
If a new job within your office is not in the cards, take a look at what positions are open at your institution; sometimes a move - lateral or otherwise - within your institution can give you the kind of advancement you seek. You can gain new perspectives on international education and facilitate new connections between your new area and international education. Or scope out areas of the university that are trying to expand their international activities and talk with them about creating a position focused on internationalization efforts where your skills and experience could be especially helpful.
If you are seeking new skills and knowledge, look outside your work. Take some classes or get involved with professional associations and other organizations. Or volunteer for committees on campus that will offer you not only new perspectives but also potentially bring an international education perspective to new areas.
Keep in mind that many workplace skills translate into new environments. In new fields, you may gain new skills that are considered valuable further down in your career path. If you decide to transition to a new field, you may have the opportunity to transition back into IE at a later juncture in your career.
Consider reading for new perspectives to guide your decision-making for what is next in your career pathway. A few recommendations: Radical Candor by Kim Scott, What Motivates Me: Put Your Passions To Work by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, or Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.
And don’t forget to take advantage of the League’s two other safe spaces for encouragement - Career Coaches and Mentor Circles - for more support while you make this transition. You can also attend a League webinar to increase your skill set in areas such as negotiation.
Growth often comes through sacrifice, so I encourage you to consider what sacrifices you are willing and able to make, then go for it!