Along the lines of my post the other day “Why I’ll Never Ask for a Raise,” today I decided I really don’t want an increase in job title ever again. While I’m sad that my earning potential is likely at its plateau for the rest of my working career, minus a few cost-of-living raises here and there, I’m fairly set on the reality that my abilities stop at this level.
What I’m not is a manager of a big team. I’m not someone who sets strategies and has other people do the work. I do the work. And that’s ok. It’s ok, because I feel in control of the output. And I don’t want to take credit for anyone else’s contributions. The best way I can help an organization is by getting shit done. My biggest challenge is not overcommitting, and focusing on adding value doing what I do best.
I’ll never be a true rockstar either, but I just want to maintain my job. Even at this level, I’m incredibly stressed and afraid I won’t be able to remain employed. As long as I keep contributing and keep my head down, maybe it will be ok. I care a lot. Maybe too much. I just want the team to see me as a highly-valuable player. I’m not a leader. I don’t want to be a leader.
It’s tough to see the next 30 years of my working life “stuck” at this level, because we’re taught we should be trying to get ahead and climb the corporate ladder. The cost of living here is ridiculous and in order to afford it, a VP title and the comp that comes with it would be more than helpful. But, what can I do? That’s not me. And it isn’t everyone. Not everyone can be a VP.
I wonder if I will feel the same way in 5-10 years. I think I will. Then, I’ll have a child in elementary school and, possibly, one even younger. Why would I want to be in a more senior role then? With all that pressure. And the women VPs I know seem to have to swim harder and faster to stay afloat. Because they still do everyone’s dirty work but then have to play ball. The men can just sit back and manage. I don’t have the ability to play that game. Why should I want to or try to?
Yes, it all comes back to the money. The fantasy that I can afford that $7000 a month mortgage payment for a basic home with a backyard. The endless hours wasted on Zillow and Redfin admiring homes within a reasonable driving distance of my office and in an area with good schools and nice parks and all that.
I still don’t want a promotion. I don’t want more expectations. I’m struggling as it is. Maybe people don’t know how much. Maybe they do. Everyone knows I’m doing too much. I take on too much. But then there are projects that get finished that are meaningful. There is the opportunity to show what I can do. It’s not like my last few jobs when I couldn’t catch my breath. In a bigger company, people are expected to focus and do less, but there’s still so much to do. I do what I can. I try to not be annoying. I try to bite my lip when I know I have an idea that everyone might not like. I smile and nod and say yes and do what I’m told. I know that isn’t the right behavior to be promoted to senior leadership. But who cares.
I mean, I’m sort of in senior leadership, but then I’m not really, because I have no one who reports to me and I’m very much an independent contributor with no clear path for growth. And I don’t care but I do care. I do care because I wonder what it means when I’m in the same company in the same role four years later. Is that a huge success? For me, probably. In the corporate world, that’s pretty bad–four years without a promotion. But, is it? Or, is it ok to just stay in the same exact position–same level, same responsibilities, same pay for the rest of my working years?
I just know I won’t ask for a promotion or raise ever again. I’m unsure if I’m offered one, if I’d find the gumption to turn it down. But that’s an issue for, maybe, two years down the road, if I still have a job. I’m fighting hard to keep this one. I may not be everyone’s favorite coworker and I may never make friends at the office but at the very least I’m not on everyone’s “fire first” list, for now. My job, my only job, is to keep myself off that list. I can’t avoid mass layoffs, of course, but no more getting fired. No more being told “you’re really good at your job but you suck at communication and we’re letting you go.” No more, “you overcommit and the shit you get done is great but you don’t get enough shit done on time.” Yea, ok, so that’s old me. And, it’s still a bit of current me. But I’m trying really hard for it not to be. I’m trying to focus on my best qualities — I like to help other people. I enjoy teaching new employees how things work. I’ll be that person everyone thinks of as not a leader, but that person you want on your team, even if they’re kind of weird and you wouldn’t invite them to a dinner party. Woohoo, that’s me.
So, maybe there’s a good 4 years, or 6 years, or 10 years of this that I can maintain. Hold my breath. Get my work done. Try to come up with good enough ideas that make me worth keeping around. I do wish I had a career where this wasn’t the actual goal–to survive–but that’s my life and I will fight to survive this. I have more reason to now, with a child the way. This isn’t for me anymore. It’s for him.