Why Am I Afraid of Elevating My Job Title to Match My Skills: Exploring My Fears

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My recent job search has revealed a number of issues, which prompts exploring my fears related to applying for more senior level jobs.

Why Am I Afraid of Elevating My Job Title to Match My Skills: Exploring My Fears

Originally, I was going to compose a post about how to switch up my job search strategies. I was going to focus on how I chose jobs in the past, what my current plan is, and what I expected to do in the future. And that seemed like a good idea. Until I went to bed and my internal voice said “you’re avoiding something in that post…what are you avoiding?”

Even in my attempts to be transparent and vulnerable, I have blind spots. Or a reliance upon measures to protect my ego. So I ditched the 500 words I had written and decided to listen to my gut and explore what I fear.

With some reflection, my original post topic should have been “Why are you so afraid to elevate your job title to match your skills?’

And right now, I have no answer to that.

And I am okay with that.

Perhaps exploring this topic, with some objectivity, will help give me some clarity so I can move on.

Why Am I Afraid of Elevating My Job Title to Match My Skills: Exploring My Fears
Sometimes, my job search feels muddled and lacks clarity. I am hoping that putting my thoughts and fears into a post will help give a sense of clarity. Photo by Tumen Dondukov on Scopio

Exploring This Fear (Part One)

I have written about the need to call out poor supervision. Its impact can last for the entire length of a persons career – in my case for two decades. Having a supervisor tell you that you should leave your field, where you earned a graduate degree, and that elevated job titles may be out of reach due to a lack of skills, well that experience just sticks with you. And it pops up when I least expect it.

For instance, it has popped up in 2022.

And I had that one-on-one meeting back in 2003!

I have since proven, back then and other times, that my skills are valuable within my field. Its only been recently that I have struggled with getting through the interview stages. I have a nagging feeling that that feedback is lingering in the back of my mind when I am looking at job postings. I am hearing that supervisors voice when I look at skills that I aspire to learn but don’t currently have. And I am talking myself out of applying for jobs that would otherwise be a terrific match for me at this point of my career.

Right now, my own internal negative voice is louder than the normal cheerleader voice I keep.

Why Am I Afraid of Elevating My Job Title to Match My Skills: Exploring My Fears
I need to amplify the voices that provide direction and clarity, and avoid listening to the voices that cripple and sabotage my efforts. Photo by Abhishek Sharma on Scopio

Exploring This Fear (Part Two)

My last two jobs since working in higher education have been in a new industry. To be honest, I feel a little rusty. I’m certain that it would be like riding a bike were I hired in a new college office, I have wondered lately what I know about college students nowadays. Especially since this current generation has experienced pandemic-enduced changes that didn’t impact my own life.

It almost feels like the field I knew as an expert made a 90-degree shift and I am not sure in what direction it is now going. Since my expertise was from personal experiences, I am without four years of expertise to put back into practice.

Why Am I Afraid of Elevating My Job Title to Match My Skills: Exploring My Fears
I feel like I was given a map but no directions on how to find my way to where student development and engagement has ended up post-pandemic. Photo by alex penfornis on Scopio

Sure, I could ask friends and former colleagues for help and whatnot, but that won’t make up for the lack of current practice.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter, right now, that this is all in my head. The fear feels real enough to impact my actions. So it’s worth acknowledging, despite its lack of reality.


Exploring This Fear (Part Three)

Most of my friends in the higher education world who I have known for more than a decade have spent their time focusing on their careers. They have Dean, Director, and Vice President titles. I learned a long time ago not to compare my career journey with them, for fear of feeling jealous of their success rather than excitement and joy on their title changes. That I left my last stint in higher ed as a Director says a great deal about my leadership skills. And that I lost the job because the college closed rather than a lack of judgment or poor performance should indicate the good standing I still have.

But I also know that I do not aspire to a more senior role, like a vice president role. My love of direct service has always driven my professional goals, because they highlight my strengths the most. And I know that the most senior roles would not satisfy those skills, no matter how many walkabouts I made daily.

I have been asked if I was overqualified for jobs I was a finalist for at least a half dozen times in last couple of years. Previously, I chose to focus on how I was enough for the role. But perhaps I need to give myself room to grow into a role. Maybe its not the most senior leadership role, but perhaps an assistant dean or vice president role isn’t so far outside my strengths and skills. I haven’t applied for those roles, in the recent past, because I feared that it spoke about ambitions I didn’t have.

Not only am I enough for the jobs I know I have previously applied for, I have to believe I am enough for the jobs that are just out of my current skillset. Photo by  Martin Greene  on  Scopio

Anticipating Solutions to My Fears

I am discovering that I need to anticipate these narratives and share my goals early and often. What those goals are, nowadays, isn’t very clear. But I past the point of frustration about being told I am over qualified. Or letting a 20 year conversation sabotage my career ambitions, as they are. And letting my blind spots be the focus rather than areas of growth.

I need to remind myself: I am stronger than my fears! Photo by Nour Chamoun on Scopio

I plan to explore these areas over the next few weeks. I have no immediate solutions. Thankfully people have addressed some of these issues – and I will look at their advice in the coming weeks.

It is stressful to be so transparent about these issues. Because I make these posts available both on my website and social media. I know that employers have asked to read through my website, as they are curious about my writings.

Thankfully, dealing with these issues becomes less stressful when I lean into the discomfort. And get feedback that others experience similar emotions. So let’s dive into this together and all move up and beyond!


Career Coaching for the Mid-Level Career Professional

I have worked with entry-level and mid-level career professionals for nearly ten years, helping them reconsider their strengths and ways to answer questions during a job search. Plus I have also helped professionals focus on their employability and skills during their job searches. I believe I can help you as your complete a job search at any point in your career.

Schedule an introductory meeting so we can discuss a plan that works best for you.

About Post Author

Joseph Rios, EdD

I am Joseph Rios and I believe that leadership is an expression of our values
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