It’s a funny thing, trying to ‘achieve’. It’s usually not about fame or making a name for yourself. It’s usually much more about contributing to the greater good. Doing something worthwhile. Making the world a better place. Most of us aren’t driven by narcissism, we are genuinely nice people trying hard to be nicer to each other.
In higher education there’s serious problem on the horizon. Hundreds (or even thousands) of very over qualified people fighting over shrinking opportunities in lecturing or senior administration management in our universities. Where previously a Masters degree and plenty of teaching experience would be enough pedigree to get you through the door and into a new job, you must now have the PhD, plentiful academic papers published in ‘peer-reviewed’ journals, endless conference presentations and most of all, past experience in a ‘proper’ organisation. And with all these hurdles to get past, you’d think it would be enough to select the wheat from the chaff. No.
New barriers to progression are required to help choose who can really do the job, deliver that project, achieve something ‘great’. Qualifications and writing academic papers just doesn’t cut it anymore. Anyone can write a paper (given a few skills), anyone can get a Masters degree or even a PhD (I’ve heard it said).
So how do we select the right person for the job, the challenge, the responsibility? We set traps.
Having worked hard for several years at something, the very worst thing to encounter is the brick wall. Women sometimes refer to this as the glass ceiling, perhaps men just see a barrier and don’t feel the need to give it a name. Whatever it is, it’s the big red stop sign, the road that has become a cul-da-sac, the one way exit, the dead end.
How we react when we encounter this is perhaps core to who we are as individuals. Downsize and accept defeat, convincing ourselves that a better life awaits with less work and less stress? Fight on, oblivious to the cost to our personal selves and those around us? Return to the lower ranks and admit we were never cut out for anything truly challenging in the first place? Opt out and go for total career change? Decisions like this are not easy. But this is the trap that has been set and must be overcome if we are to progress to the next level. It’s like any game, the higher you go, the harder it gets, and the easier it becomes to fail.