The Women in Housing series is a project featuring the voices, stories, and experiences of women who currently or formerly work in housing and residence life. Today's post was written by Susannah Turner.
I’m going to talk about envy… professional envy. I am writing about the kind of envy that’s hard to talk about, the kind that tweaks your sense of self, and reminds you that despite your best efforts, sometimes you are jealous of others. The others I am talking about are other women. The women for whom life and career seem to arrive at their doorstep with little effort. They are bold, confident, sure of their next step in their career because they are sure of their final step. They are the women that I often respect and admire and am grateful that their rise to seemingly meteoric heights casts a shine on others that allows us to see our own way. But… and here’s the hard part to admit… sometimes I’m also so envious of them that I have a hard time understanding how I can simultaneously feel respect and pride for all that they have accomplished.
I am not someone who has ever had a five-year plan. I have never known “what I wanted to be when I grew up”. I don’t seem to have aspirations to a particular position or stage. I have always looked for the next position only when I find my current one to have a lack of challenge or spark. I have never compared myself to men and what men did or did not do in their careers or personal ambitions. I have always compared myself to other women and I am bothered by this. I don’t want to the person who begrudges anyone in my tribe who achieves greatness. I don’t think that I am alone. I have known strategic geniuses that have mastered conversations or political negotiations that I have watched in amazement. I have known kind, wholehearted givers that have shown me the way in which to treat others with kindness and warmth when that is the hardest option. I have celebrated each and every success of these women because I know that their success encourages, guides, and honors those before and those yet to come.
And yet, I still feel envious. I still question whether I should be doing something different. Should I be more engaged in the professional network that is available to me? Should I volunteer more for stretch assignments? Should I pursue the next degree that will open more doors? Should I make a 5-year plan and follow it? If I did some or all of these things, would I have the title, accolade, or level of respect that others have? All of these questions usually precede a period of intense self-doubt, negative internal dialogue, and stagnation. Then, I begin to remind myself of something that has always held true for me: Follow your values.
Early in my career, I had a hard time managing that envy and I had to learn that if I made decisions that aligned with who I am and what’s important to me, my career and my life will work out in a way that aligns with who I am and what’s important to me. See how that works?
I remind myself that I am someone to whom relationships are most important. Doing work that allows me to foster relationships and build on those is soul-fulfilling, so I make choices about what I volunteer to do based on my ability to foster relationships. I value a strong, but small, network, so I focus my networking energy on individuals, not groups. These are just a few examples, but being able to remind myself that there will be women, that I greatly admire, who will get elected to an office or have a title or own a stage that I will be envious of, but we are not in competition because I don’t actually want that “thing” that they have earned. They are excelling in who they are and that stands alone and is not in comparison to the work that I do. So, for those of you that might struggle with this little voice of envy, I hope to remind you that we are all doing good work. We are all finding our own way and shining our own light. Follow your values.
Susannah Turner currently serves as the Director of Student Affairs at the College of Dentistry at The Ohio State University. She misses her residence life work, colleagues, and friends, but is enjoying learning new and challenging things in her new work home. In her free time, she enjoys playing with her two kids, hanging with her husband, and is currently training for her first triathlon. Wish her luck!
The Women in Housing series is sponsored by Adirondack Solutions.