Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Accepting where we are and looking forward as best we can

Today’s guest blogger is Deanna Ratnikova. Deanna is the Women and Education Programs Administrator with the American Physical Society. In this role, she works on the Women in Physics program and provides administrative support to the Education and Diversity Department. She earned a B.S. in Chemistry at Austin Peay State University and a Master of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh.

I've recently interacted with many people—both young and old—who feel disappointed (or even angry) with their career path trajectory. Whether it's the economic climate, the environment for female scientists or workplace politics to blame, the common thread is that everyone had high expectations for themselves, worked hard to reach those expectations but still fell short.

Not too long ago, I was also discouraged with my career path trajectory. During grad school I made a plan for how I'd get to my "dream job", but then reality set in and I had to take the opportunities which eventually led me to my current position. I struggled with self-acceptance and being happy with my career progress because it didn't conform to what I had envisioned.

Eventually, however, I came to an agreement that maybe this is where I’m supposed to be. I realized that it was possible I wouldn't even like my "dream job" if I did achieve it (this is what happened to one of my grad school buddies who I envied for a couple of years before finding out how unhappy he was in his "dream job").

After accepting the career that I had, everything began to change for the better. Not only did my career outlook improve, I developed a more positive perspective on life in general. Of course, there are still days when I wonder where I could be in my career had I done one or two things differently, but those moments are becoming short-lived.

The point I wish to make with this post is that we’ve all got different reasons for why we feel cheated in our career, but when we find ourselves dwelling on our disappointment or anger with the situation, we should ask if we are actually cheating ourselves by focusing too much on these issues and not moving forward as best as we can.

It took me a while to build up my ambition again after seeing my "dream job" get further and further away, but if we reach out to others (like the Women in Astronomy community), we can find ideas for how to keep moving forward in our current career. Sometimes it takes just a brief talk with a family or friend to help yourself realize how far you've actually gotten and that you should be proud of where you now are in your career.

If you’ve got tips for overcoming disappointment or anger with your career path, share it with the community in the comments section. Let's help each other work through difficult times and realize our potential despite trying situations.