It’s the beginning of the university term and many are wondering if this will be the last year they stay in academia.
But also people are tired and burned out and are weary and not looking forward to trying to make applying for jobs another full time job!
Something has to give… you either need keep the job application work ticking while you work on lesson plans, research, grant applications etc, or you need to keep the academic job ticking along while you focus on yourself.
Gaining self-knowledge and doing a deep dive on what you really want and what will make you feel fulfilled. And then translating your skills for the new job market.
You will be more enthused about doing this work when you focus on growth mindsets, a positive outlook, and a zest for the journey. Rather than giving it the energy you’ve used to get on the tenure-track!
Get rid of the “no pain, no gain” mindset.
This idea that you have to work hard to make it is based on capitalistic and colonialist ideas that I have found the courage to reject recently.
The idea that hard work pays off, will fulfil you, and the big lie that “work will love you back” stems from patriarchal and colonial ideas that (paid) work will fulfil you, and it capitalizes on our striving for achievement.
I also remember the narrative that suffering is a “rite of passage” that is like walking up the marshmallow stairs in the movie Amityville Horror House just to climb up to more horror and a vengeful pig.
I‘m reflecting on all the hours I put in at work to fulfill my boss’s needs for money, prestige and reputation. The struggle through the PhD for the promise of tenure in the future. The struggle as a lecturer for that golden chalice of professor.
But I realized that it was based on MY reputation and MY scholarship, with the fruits of my labour going to the top university managers, and the promises of promotion didn’t come. Further, it was taking place while violating what really mattered to me as a Latin American.
It took me a long time to get the courage to make a change and really be honest with myself about my need for achievement, to feel needed and valued, to feel like I was doing something worthwhile.
But it was a double-edged sword. I did work hard for the achievements I got, but I also felt I was lucky. I couldn’t feel like a good mentor and coach without acknowledging the opportunities that presented themselves and the privilege I had.
Remember Groundhog Day? He does some amazing things just because he’s lived many lives essentially and things were bound to fall in his lap.
The real growth happened when he sought to improve himself. And he’s a white, cis, heterosexual man with many privileges, so not the greatest example! But it shows the ways that we take opportunities and what we choose to do with them… what we learn from mistakes.
And, to be honest, I had to reflect on why I had been uncomfortable with using me and my experiences as examples of success. The reality is that Latin Americans who grow up in poverty don’t have very many opportunities, no matter how hard they work.
It’s because I could live my same life 100 times and I bet most of those times would end with me staying within the bounds of the socioeconomic status I was born into. Many first-gen students do not progress to a PhD. Many do not own a house in the suburbs.
Plus, the result of my struggles in getting a permanent job in academia was that I left academia with over half of my student loan debt. I didn’t get a career for life with the investment I made.
So, with this new awareness, I realize that my great mission in coaching is to help other people become aware of systems of power and to impart the knowledge people need to make their own career path a success… without following the “shoulds” and expectations that were driven by other people’s desires and goals.
My other valuable lesson was that hard work and struggle is not the way I want to live my life.
Life is too short to not choose joy, contentment, and ease (see ,here for more on making conscious choices in your day).
So, as you look to clear away the weeds that obscure your path forward, taking moments to gain self-knowledge and self-acceptance will aid that clarity. You can choose to do this with ease.
Which means: You can either apply for jobs with great struggle, tension, and frazzled energy.
OR you can choose to approach the application process with ease, contentment, and assuredness.
I can tell you this often comes from a mindset about worth and the idea that you have to work hard for what you want. You work hard, you get rewards, money, satisfaction.
Again, I sometimes equated struggling with discipline, care, and integrity.
Oftentimes, I thought work had to be difficult to count as work. I thought activism and protests were most effective when I struggled for them. I even felt that I needed to struggle for job applications or else I wouldn’t be successful; I applied to all the jobs I saw and stayed up late preparing the forms.
Struggle and working super hard meant = “I’m not taking my eyes off the prize, even for a second, because otherwise the prize will be lost.”
It’s odd, but while I was doing yoga, I thought, is there a way I can do this pose with more ease, with fewer muscles to recruit? Because it’s a sure-fire way to tire — to do a pose with added tension.
BUT what if it’s like a paper boat along a stream? You can give it a slight push and then let it glide without worry, safe in the knowledge that it will move along and coast to a destination. Set it up, let it go, and then bask in the positive energy that you know is coming back to you.
Some questions to ask yourself
Where does your need to work hard come from? School? Parents?
Does your mindset around work influence your work day? Do you find yourself filling your calendar with work that is not essential but it makes you feel busy?
Do you feel like your work day can’t be finished until you feel tired? Like the work day isn’t over until you’re done a “full day’s work”?
Do you believe you could do work with more ease and still be successful?
Take this learning to other areas of your life:
Making actions into a struggle won’t get you there quicker!
You don’t have to struggle in order to “deserve” the rewards.
You don’t have to struggle to show you care.
You don’t have to struggle to make a difference.
You don’t have to justify the ends by showing how much you struggled.
The following tips have a lot of support in the research literature:
I call them T.R.E.E.E.
Trust, Rest, Ease, Execute, Energy
Trust – You know what you’re doing so trust in the process. Doubt and overthinking have no place here!
Rest – Be sure to let the boat coast!
Ease – Approach the task with ease and flow.
Execute – You do need to take the first steps toward your goal, consistently and without judgement on whether the steps are perfect or not.
Energy – Embody the energy you want to have. Your energy should match the outcome you want – be the person with the fulfilling job now, not when it appears in your life. If you want happiness, be happy now, regardless of the outcome. Why does your happiness need to be tethered to the object of your desire. Your happiness is more important than an object. You are worthy of it! HINT: Your energy will match the outcome you want when you find the things that already fulfil you; embrace them and add more of them to your life.
Also, don’t try to go at this alone. One of my clients said she appreciated the Pivot with Purpose program because of the “sense of community and talking about stuff in a small group” created a social connection and reduced the loneliness of the journey.
I also talked about this in the Chronicle of Higher Education, such that social media and Facebook groups have been instrumental to healing from academia. If you want to join my free Facebook group – go here: https://www.lunaleadership.com/facebook