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In the Vault

Candid Answers to your most Candid questions

A Safe Place to Ask Candid Questions


Every professional - entry level, mid-career, and experienced - faces situations where they wish they had someone they trusted who would listen to their challenge and thoughtfully suggest solutions or offer a new way to consider the situation.   In the Vault is a safe, anonymous space for you to submit questions and receive candid practical advice from Sophia Confidential for even the most sensitive of issues.  


WHO IS SOPHIA CONFIDENTIAL?

Sophia is an experienced professional who has worked in a variety of fields. Ask her anything. Sophia is not HR, your boss, your lawyer or your therapist. But, she IS the person who will tell it to you straight, even if it’s difficult to hear.

Submit a Question

Submit your question or situation anonymously, and our team of experienced international educators will post it with our best answer.

Watch  this space as well as LinkedIn and our e-newsletter for your answer!


SOPHIA SAYS....

  • 05 May 2021 9:30 AM | Anonymous


    Dear Sophia,

    Working remotely is great for so many reasons. It can also be tough to stay connected to the home office and colleagues, and truly be/feel part of a "team." How can I help my manager/director make the best decision possible post-COVID for new office policies? Are there any guides you can offer or questions to consider? I am trying to be a good employee and think about what would help my boss pitch this to her boss!

    Sincerely, 

    Pajama-Clad in Pittsburg

    Dear Pajama-Clad in Pittsburg,

    First, congratulatulations on taking the initiative on this important topic! Now’s the time to begin working on a plan, but this is uncharted territory which can make it feel like both a grand opportunity and a daunting task. But getting started is often the hardest part so let’s jump in. 

    Things will never return completely to the way they were and that’s a good thing. This is an opportunity for managers to re-engage teams and re-imagine the workplace. You are on the right path in starting this process and supporting your manager in these transitions. So share your ideas with your manager and let them know you’re willing to help if needed. 

    Your manager can start by assessing your organizational chart and deciding if the right people are doing the right jobs. The last year has changed the way we work, along with many job descriptions. Now is a great time to make sure the team is the right group doing the right tasks. Next, do a survey of staff work styles, perhaps as a casual conversation over Zoom, or via formal survey. Many people love working from home, but many do not, and many more like a hybrid. Help your manager get a sense of where your workforce lands on that scale. Keep in mind most children will go back to school so most parents will no longer be home-schooling and working at the same time. Therefore, it’s likely okay to require standard working hours even for those working remotely. Maybe your manager is fine with people setting their own schedules but make sure that whatever the policy is, be sure it is set with consistency and clarity.

    Next, your manager should map out roles and responsibilities within your company and note the jobs that require more on-site time and the ones that don’t. Are the people that want to work remotely the ones whose tasks are suited to that? If not, return to the organizational chart. Consider the challenges that have been most acute over the past year: are they a result of remote work or are they symptoms of other concerns that need to be addressed?

    There’s also the question of office infrastructure. Once there’s a plan for where everyone will be working, consider the physical office space. Do you still need that many desks? Would a more open, shared space promote productivity and be useful for hybrid workers? Do you have adequate audio-visual equipment to accommodate meetings with a group in the room and a group off-site? These may seem like potentially expensive considerations but your goal is a healthy, happy workforce with optimum productivity so this investment may have significant payout over time.

    Finally, your manager should continue thinking about the physical and mental health of staff as you make these transitions. Clear communication as to what changes will be made, along with when and why, will help ease the tension of rolling out a new model. Evolutions of this plan may need to happen and that’s OK--staff should know that management is open to feedback. It’s also worth thinking about ways to support staff down the road after the initial transition has been made and a natural cadence is underway. Is there one day a month when everyone is on site and you have lunch together? Are there professional development opportunities that bring pods of people together in person? How about group volunteering in the community? There are many suggestions online to support this exploration so factor it into your planning.

    This is only a start but you’re on the right path just by asking the question. How your company handles this recovery phase will be recognized by staff, clients, vendors, investors, supporters, and partners. For that and so many other reasons, it’s worth doing well.

    Confidentially Yours,

    Sophia

    P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have for Pajama-Clad in Pittsburg? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself, ask here!


    Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.

  • 21 Apr 2021 8:29 PM | Anonymous


    Dear Sophia,

    The Covid-19 pandemic hit us like the hammer of Thor in 2020, pummeling us from every direction and ultimately affecting our financial life. Where do I go from here? How can I reinvent myself? Do I nurture only my strengths or build upon my weaknesses? The fear of failure in a career transition is very real. I want to be happy in my choice of employment but in a pandemic, following your passion does not guarantee profitability. Relocation seems almost a certainty to land the perfect job. How can I truly trust the long-distance move (once found) will work out? I know that with failure comes inevitable growth. I do not want a career transition to be paralyzing. I am an educated woman with many talents! I volunteer locally. I extend myself on social media platforms and online groups. The fear of the unknown is real. I ask myself: (a) Don't they see my talents? (b) Where is that perfect job? (c) Do I need to relocate to find my next employer? (d) What am I doing wrong? (e) Am I doing enough?

    Sincerely,

    Slowly Sinking

    Dear Slowly Sinking,

    The pandemic has, indeed, been a pummeling experience! I can’t name one friend who felt totally prepared or anyone who didn’t want to jump off the roller coaster ride at some point. It’s understandable why imagining a career transition strikes you with fear of failure. You’ve already identified you have lots of talents, education, and networks at your disposal. To minimize getting overwhelmed, let’s break this down into some bite size pieces:

    • Write down your priorities. What do you want most in a new job? Is relocation really necessary? Can you widen your search to include more types of positions in your current area? We have the pandemic to thank for more fully remote positions so be sure to consider this option too. I suggest focusing on a defined geographic area and remote positions first and dedicating more energy to identify transferable skills desirable in a wide variety of positions. Focus less on looking for the “perfect” job and more on the skills and talents you bring or can learn in a new role. 

    • What’s a potential timeline you are working with? Do you need a new job now, or do you have time to explore? If you need a new job quickly, then move to tailor your resume, LinkedIn profile and endorsements, and/or personal website to highlight your accomplishments and transferable skills. If you have more time, review several resources like books or podcasts centered on the topic of career alignment and transitions. Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans is a book I really liked. It teaches design thinking to use “prototypes” and test them to build a career and life that works for you. Don’t forget the Global Leadership League’s Career Connections matches League members to explore and discuss career paths. Never forget the power of asking your friends or colleagues for insight--they might have perspective on your skills or personality that you can’t easily see.

    • Does the perfect job really exist? It’s tempting to seek certainty that a job change will match your expectations. Stay focused on the knowledge you did your research to match your skills and capacity for growth, align the new role with your values, understand the organizational culture, etc., and you’ve made a well informed decision. If the new position doesn’t work out you’ve no doubt learned new skills, and built new networks that position you for the next opportunity. Don’t be afraid--once you clear the hurdle of preparing for a job change you can get excited to reinvent yourself!

    • How can you demonstrate your talents to potential employers? Once you’ve identified some possible new employers, use your network to request an informational interview to ask questions and share about you and your talents in 15-20 minute conversations. Informational interviews give you exposure in the hidden job market, boost self-esteem, and prepare for a future job interview.

    Try to look at the steps above like exercises that will define your muscles by increasing your self-confidence and gearing you up for what’s next. Eventually life will begin to feel “normal” again thanks in part to the vaccinations and the resumption of some of our pre-pandemic routines. Before getting too settled, consider the suggestions above. In my experience, the exploration will continue to serve you well no matter what is going on in the world.

    Confidentiality yours,

    Sophia

    P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post have to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have for Slowly Sinking? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself, ask here!

    Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.

  • 07 Apr 2021 7:00 AM | Anonymous


    Dear Sophia,

    I am often invited to meetings because I am a senior woman - the organization believes in gender diversity in committees, councils etc. However, that does not mean there is equality in discussion. When I am in a meeting with mostly men (particularly faculty) there is rarely a way to get a word in. Sometimes they take over the conversation and only when they have exhausted all of their breath do they stop and ask the women around the table if we have any last words. Meaning, we feel like we are expected to be quiet until summoned or we have to somehow insert ourselves which ruffles feathers. And, if we try to disagree or add a new perspective, we have to be forceful/dramatic with our words to be heard. How does one interrupt or interject in these situations without being seen as a bully or disrupter?

    Sincerely, 

    Keeping Quiet... but Not For Long

    Dear Keeping Quiet... but Not For Long,

    Taylor Swift wasn’t lying when she said “I'm so sick of running as fast I can, Wondering if I'd get there quicker If I was a man.” Let me tell you, we all feel it. And for those that need facts, research confirms that women continue to be silenced or consistently interrupted in the workplace. In addition, women are very often perceived negatively for doing things that are praised in men. If a man interrupts and speaks up, he’s confident. If a woman does the same, she’s aggressive. This is completely ridiculous, but a part of the hypocrisy rooted in systemic issues that need to be addressed if the organization is seeking a culture of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. So knowing that it's not all in your head, what can you do?

    First, recognize that you have authority. You wouldn’t be in the position you are in if you weren’t smart, resourceful, committed, and powerful. You may not feel like you’re these things in situations like the one you’ve described, but don’t let anyone take away your power! Own it. 

    Second, have you pointed out the issues of inclusion of women to leadership? It’s not fun and the men in the room will probably get uncomfortable and potentially defensive, but it's important to do. Change needs to come from the top down and if you have some level of authority, use it. Consider building this into larger scale strategic initiatives for the organization. I’m going to sound like a broken record when I say this, but trainings on unconscious bias and DEI make a difference if the organization is fully behind them. 

    If the above all sounds too tough or too slow for you right now, that’s okay. Here are a few things you can start doing immediately:

    • Don’t wait for the men in the room to ask you to speak, just do it. We are conditioned to be polite and to wait our turn but speaking up doesn’t mean you are or need to be rude. For example, when you get the opportunity, say something like, “Great suggestion, Chad. That brings me to my point...” This will naturally give you space to speak. Do the research, come prepared, and create the opportunity to be heard.

    • Support other women. Build a shared understanding with the other women in the office. If a female colleague is speaking and she gets interrupted, step in by saying, “Sorry, Maya, you were saying...” Or, if you see another female colleague hasn’t had an opportunity to speak, ask them directly what their opinion is. Give them the floor. Create a culture where everyone has their voice heard by supporting each other. There is power in numbers.

    Build male allyship. Share your experience with the men in the office. Have them join your efforts to bring about change. I hate to say it, but the men that are perpetuating these biases will most likely listen to other men more than other women, so use that to your advantage. It can feel exhausting to have to teach others all the time, but if  you have men in your office that are open to having the conversation and change, then allow them to do so.

    Remember, it will take time for these things to change but don’t worry about feeling like you’re interrupting. Interrupt. Have your voice be heard! Own your power. You have a seat at the table that another woman may not. Use it!

    Confidentially Yours,

    Sophia

    P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have for Keeping Quiet... but Not For Long? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself, ask here!

    Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.

  • 17 Mar 2021 7:30 AM | Anonymous


    Dear Sophia,

    As I fully appreciate the toll that COVID-19 has taken on global education and the overall economy, I am grateful every day to have maintained a job, a routine and structure throughout this challenging time. I am reluctant to object to any additional responsibilities that have come my way as a result of our current crisis, but I am currently overwhelmed with covering the responsibilities of a staff position we could not backfill, in addition to my own role. Management continues to set expectations that I take on new challenges and growth-oriented tasks as if these were "normal" times. I have reached a limit and do not know how or whether I should push back for fear of appearing unappreciative or not a "team player" while we are all challenged to do more with less right now. Is this something I should address, given the situation we are currently in?

    Sincerely, 

    Over-employed and Under-appreciated

    Dear Over-employed and Under-appreciated,

    First of all, kudos to you for starting your question with a gratitude check! Particularly in times like these, recognizing what you do have is essential, even though it might not be perfect. Second, I’m here to tell you you’re among friends. I know many professionals who are in this same situation. And while that may not seem comforting, it at least means you’re not alone in your struggle. So let’s dive in.

    Let me state right away that I see no reason to suffer in silence in the workplace. It doesn’t serve you, and it certainly doesn’t serve the organization. I hear you loud and clear about not wanting to appear as the unappreciative anti-team-player, and complaining about feeling put-upon and overextended can very quickly hurl you into that camp. So here are a couple of suggestions you might want to consider:

    • Think about solutions you could offer up. What are some things that, despite the current COVID-induced limitations, could provide relief? When something isn’t working, it’s generally better to say, “hey, this isn’t working and here are some changes that I think could help” versus “I’m overwhelmed and frustrated and I just can’t do it anymore.” Are there other co-workers who could help you brainstorm possible fixes to this problem? Be specific in outlining creative ideas. Even if you learn that these ideas aren’t possible to implement right now, you’ve opened the door to a thoughtful and progressive conversation - one that shares your concerns and demonstrates how much of a team player you actually are.

    • The tried-and-true Golden Rule. If you were a manager at your organization and you too were feeling overwhelmed with the demands of the job right now (probably true), how would you want to be made aware of a staff member’s concerns? What would make you feel compelled to validate their position and help them with solutions? Chances are, your boss isn’t aware of all the pressure that is landing on you. And if they are aware, then all the more reason to share that you want to give this organization your best but you’re in danger of not being able to. This could shed important light on the balance within the whole organization that needs to be addressed so it can thrive when “normalcy” returns.  

    I don’t need to tell you what happens when you let yourself down by ignoring self-care and taking up martyrdom. You and your organization will lose on every front. People who are capable, nimble, and responsive are always the ones who get piled upon because they can be counted on and they’re good at what they do, especially in times of crisis. So take that as a compliment, and then set your limits with grace and clarity. Thank your management team for trusting you and giving you these opportunities, and then outline where you’d like to find alternatives. It may not happen overnight, but you will have set the ball in motion.

    Finally, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: There will always be a reason not to address your concerns and it will never be the right time. As humans we are highly skilled at avoiding perceived conflict, not rocking the boat. So COVID is only one of hundreds of excuses we have for waiting to tackle that escalating issue. While these times are unprecedented and perhaps, we do need to remain more gentle and patient with ourselves and others, that doesn’t exclude improving a failing situation. You have what it takes, and you deserve to regain your balance at work. I’m with you all the way!

    Confidentially Yours,

    Sophia

    P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have for Over-employed and Under-appreciated? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself? Ask here!

    Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.

  • 01 Mar 2021 7:30 AM | Anonymous


    Dear Sophia,

    I am a relative newcomer to the field and - like many just starting out - took a position I was somewhat overqualified for just before the pandemic hit, in order to make ends meet. Because of all the craziness, I've had the opportunity to take on far more responsibilities than I was originally hired for - which I'm thrilled about -  but my compensation and title have not changed accordingly. The middle of a pandemic (in which people were being laid off/furloughed left and right) didn't seem like the best time to ask for a raise, but months down the road I wonder if I should have done so as soon as I was approached to take on these new roles. Did I miss my opportunity? If not, when is a good time to ask for proper compensation for the jobs I'm already doing? Any insight - especially from managers -  would be greatly appreciated! 

    Sincerely, 

    Pandemic Pushover

    Dear Pandemic Pushover,

    Great news, you’ve highlighted something I’ve also noticed recently: some of us are finally in a place where we have the perspective and capacity to look objectively at our work and lives. We know that clarifying long-term expectations about pay or title before taking on new responsibilities is ideal, but not always realistic. Fortunately, it’s never “too late” to review responsibilities with your supervisor and work to establish an appropriate pay or title change. 

    Speaking of, when was the last time you looked at your job description? Please, tell me you’ve had a 6-month or an annual performance review. While financial outlook may not be great, managers know that replacing an employee costs money and I bet yours knows you’d be able to find a job elsewhere. No one is a better advocate for you than you! Make a formal performance evaluation happen first. Once you have detailed performance feedback from your supervisor, you’ll have the foundation for your negotiation. 

    A survey I read reported 43 percent of respondents negotiated their salary in their current field, and 75 percent of those who asked received some sort of a raise. The gains from any small salary increase snowball over time. It’s worth your time to try! Negotiation is a lost art that requires practice to become a habit. Here are some thoughts on what you can do:

    • Preparation, evidence, and professionalism are essential. Look over your job description and write out your responsibilities; include those extra responsibilities you’ve been doing. Also include accomplishments and contributions noting the impact at the unit and the institutional level. Highlight the mission-critical activities and any specialized skills or knowledge you have, especially those that went beyond the minimum and preferred qualifications.  

    • How critical is the extra work you’re doing? Ask yourself, if I’m not doing X, Y, and Z who would be? Then compare the scope of your responsibilities to other positions within the organization. Is this list public at your organization? If not, talk to colleagues in similarly situated roles and a few holding a higher title to compare. Were you hired without a supervisory role and are now supervising students, interns, or professional staff? What are the titles of the employees at your organization who supervise? By looking at your own work but also comparing your work scope to others with higher titles you will help to make the case for a compensation review or a change in title (or ideally both)! 

    • Clearly demonstrating your contributions during a time of limited human resources should result in you being taken seriously. Don’t forget to time your request well and state up front that you’d like to discuss your goals and future with the organization. During the meeting, be direct about your desire to grow in the company and be clear you are seeking for your pay and title to align with your work. Once you see the results, you’ll become more comfortable establishing clear expectations about your job and making negotiation a priority. 

    Be prepared to be told no AND don’t let your supervisor off the hook entirely. Ask if anything can be done outside of salary or title, and get their ideas for improving in your current role and positioning yourself well for the next. Decent managers who recognize the value of employees like you want to find solutions. With diligence, you can work toward a promotion even if you can’t get it right away. 

    Confidentially Yours,

    Sophia

    P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have for Pandemic Pushover? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself, ask here!

    *Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.

  • 27 Jan 2021 8:00 AM | Anonymous


    Dear Sophia,

    I’ve never connected with the League before. It’s a new year and I’m trying to establish some new self-care routines but I’m at a loss. I’m feeling overwhelmed. I see others around me in the workplace seemingly going on with their day-to-day. How am I supposed to go about my daily work when it feels like the world is falling apart?

    Sincerely, 

    Overwhelmed and Unmotivated

    Dear Overwhelmed and Unmotivated,

    You mean 2021 didn’t fix all of our problems?! Grab a drink, this could be a long conversation! First, let’s acknowledge how you’re feeling. The world is a bit of a dumpster fire right now and I would be worried about you if you weren’t feeling overwhelmed. On top of our individual life stressors, we’re all living with a pandemic along with political and economic instability. Even writing this is starting to stress me out, but behind this computer screen you can’t see that. 

    This brings me to my second point. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean others around you aren’t feeling it. We all express ourselves differently. Use social media as an example. Do you really think all of the people who are posting pictures of how much fun they’re having are happy ALL THE TIME? Nope. They project an image of themselves for the world. We all do this. Your coworkers are doing this. A part of this is because we’ve been conditioned to separate our emotions from the workplace. We’re told, “You need to be professional! Don’t show you’re overwhelmed or sad or mad,” or anything else negative because that may be perceived as unprofessional. But you even asking this question is courageously demonstrating that vulnerability is important in all aspects of our lives, including the workplace, and these feelings should be normalized so we can support each other. So props to you for starting the conversation.   

    Now, how do you actually deal with how you’re feeling and take care of yourself? Unfortunately, as you probably already know, there isn’t a playbook for this, but I have a few suggestions:

    • First and foremost, do what you need to take care of yourself. If that means taking a mental health day, half-day, hour, whatever, do it! Give yourself space and allow yourself to feel whatever emotions you’re feeling. This will likely entail having a conversation with your supervisor who is hopefully understanding and supportive. If they aren’t, well, that’s a whole other conversation, but at the end of the day, you won’t be very productive at work if you aren’t taking care of yourself, so decide what makes sense for you.
    • Second, taking a day for yourself here and there can be great, but you also want to think about what you’re doing regularly for self-care. Establish a routine. Are you able to take some time every day for yourself to, for example, exercise, read a book, or have a glass of wine? None of these things sound appealing? No problem. Do what works for you! There are so many things you can’t control, so focus on the tangible things you do have control over that you can remove (e.g. social media) or build into (e.g. meditation) your routine and add these to your calendar. This can be hard with competing priorities from work and personal life, but still important. Maybe you’ve never been a big calendar person, that’s OK too. What works for me may not work for you. Try tapping into a friend to hold you accountable to this new routine with the occasional strongly worded text message or two. Motivation can be hard. Trust me, I know! Find what works for you and make it a priority.
    • Finally, having a community that you can turn to and be open with is important. Try asking a colleague how they are REALLY feeling about things and perhaps that will lead to a larger conversation in which you can be vulnerable. Or, if work isn’t the place for this, then look towards family, friends, and other forums. Try seeing if there are any local organizations you may want to join. For example, I have colleagues in the San Francisco Bay Area that love BAYPIE (Bay Area Young Professionals in International Education). It’s local, intimate, and they have lots of happy hours and events for international educators to connect. You also don’t have to be in the San Francisco area to join considering everything is remote now! Of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t put in a plug for The Global Leadership League which is my go to for building a sense of community and connection with colleagues in International Education. The Mentor Circles and Career Connections Program come to mind as solid opportunities to share with colleagues how you’re really feeling and, more importantly, to gain perspective. Wherever you turn, just know there are people out there who are feeling similar to you and are looking for the same kind of support you are. Take time for yourself, establish a routine that prioritizes you, and be vulnerable as you seek to connect with others.  

    I said this could be a long conversation but will stop myself here. If we were sitting together we’d be ordering our second drink! Keep me with you in spirit as you do some of these things to ease your feelings of being overwhelmed. Remember, it’s normal to occasionally have days like these. Own it and do what you need to in order to bring yourself back to center.

    Confidentially Yours,

    Sophia

    P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have for Overwhelmed and Unmotivated? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself, ask here!

    Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.

  • 24 Jul 2019 11:30 PM | Global Leadership League ADMIN (Administrator)

    Dear Sophia,

    As most of us know, we do not work in the field of higher education to become rich but we should still be able to make a livable wage. I have recently found out I am the third-lowest-paid director on my campus and one of the only ones that is required to be accessible 24/7 for emergencies abroad and at home with our international students.

    I do understand there are differences in positions and that some directors have been in their roles longer than me. Taking this into account as well as researching salary data put out by the Chronicle of Higher Education, I feel I am being underpaid. My university is located in an expensive area, and in my estimation I should be making approximately $10,000 more than what I am currently making.

    I have brought this to the attention of my supervisor - the fact that I am one of the lowest paid directors and that salaries should take into account the cost of living of the area - and she told me she would look into it but not to expect anything because we have budget issues. I was also told it would be better if I had another job offer in hand because it would give me more leverage.

    Given all of this, what should I do in order to ensure I can make a livable wage for all of the work I am being asked to do?

    Sincerely,

    Exhausted on the East Coast

    Dear Exhausted,

    Have you approached your Human Resources department on this matter? I know at many institutions, if you ask an HR manager, they can do an audit of comparable positions and salaries in the area to see if your pay is on par with your colleagues’.  If your salary is way off from this data, you should have additional negotiating leverage.

    The idea of having another job offer in hand does have some merit. Another job offer motivates institutions in ways that a traditional raise request does not. I know that a job search is a lot of additional work (when do you have time time given what is already requested of you?), but it is good experience and allows you to reflect on what you love and don’t love about your current position.

    In the meantime, consider how you can improve your negotiation skills.  The League offers webinars and other resources to help members build new skills in this arena.  I would encourage you to continue to strategically build your case about salary negotiation with your supervisor.  Be sure to always frame it within the context of the level of responsibility you have as a Director and provide data (such as salary comparisons) that may bolster your case.

    Confidentially yours,

     

  • 28 May 2019 11:31 PM | Global Leadership League ADMIN (Administrator)

    Image by Pixource from Pixabay 

    Dear Sophia,

    I think I’ve hit a glass ceiling at my university. After advancing through positions in my office in the last ten years, I now understand that since I don’t have a Ph.D, and do not have faculty status, there is no ‘next step’ for me. My family is not mobile, there are very limited international education positions in my geographic region, and most of these are below my current level. I love my job and university, and I want to continue to advance through my career. Is there anything I can do to position myself and my office differently? Do I have to leave international education? Give up my aspirations?

    Sincerely,

    Bouncing Off the Glass Ceiling

    Dear Bouncing,

    My first response is a question back to you: How do you define advancement? What are you seeking? Different people see advancement differently: a higher title, a larger salary, more authority, different responsibility, more visibility, new skills, new knowledge. Once you have decided what is important to you, you will be better able to identify what skills, credentials, and experience you need to get there.

    Given that you cannot consider opportunities outside your geographic area and love your job, I have three suggestions.

    Since it sounds like you have outgrown your current position, consider whether it could be expanded or a new one created that would give you greater challenges while also providing needed support for the office and university. Present a solution to an issue the office is facing; propose a new initiative and offer to lead it; find a challenge that no one else is addressing. This type of ambition can open the door to discussions with your supervisor about growth opportunities.

    If a new job within your office is not in the cards, take a look at what positions are open at your institution; sometimes a move - lateral or otherwise - within your institution can give you the kind of advancement you seek. You can gain new perspectives on international education and facilitate new connections between your new area and international education. Or scope out areas of the university that are trying to expand their international activities and talk with them about creating a position focused on internationalization efforts where your skills and experience could be especially helpful. 

    If you are seeking new skills and knowledge, look outside your work. Take some classes or get involved with professional associations and other organizations. Or volunteer for committees on campus that will offer you not only new perspectives but also potentially bring an international education perspective to new areas.

    Keep in mind that many workplace skills translate into new environments. In new fields, you may gain new skills that are considered valuable further down in your career path. If you decide to transition to a new field, you may have the opportunity to transition back into IE at a later juncture in your career.

    Consider reading for new perspectives to guide your decision-making for what is next in your career pathway. A few recommendations: Radical Candor by Kim Scott, What Motivates Me: Put Your Passions To Work by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, or Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans.

    And don’t forget to take advantage of the League’s two other safe spaces for encouragement - Career Coaches and Mentor Circles - for more support while you make this transition. You can also attend a League webinar to increase your skill set in areas such as negotiation.

    Growth often comes through sacrifice, so I encourage you to consider what sacrifices you are willing and able to make, then go for it!

    Confidentially yours,

     

  • 26 Apr 2019 11:32 PM | Global Leadership League ADMIN (Administrator)


    Dear Sophia,

    My boss (who is male) treats the women of our office different than our male colleagues. It ranges in scope from not taking our ideas as seriously to asking only the female employees to clean out the fridge.

    What can I do to call him out professionally and help change his behavior?

    Sincerely,

    Seething in Silence

    Dear Seething,

    The frustration you’re feeling is not surprising, and yours is sadly not an uncommon situation. One of your first actions, if you don’t already know, is to learn about your institution’s culture on EEO and TItle IX in the workplace (what policies are in place, what reporting is required, what resources are available to you and your office, along with any available training for managers and employees).

    Once you understand your institutional culture, several ideas come to mind for dealing with your situation - some “official” and some less so. The order you apply them will depend on your office dynamics and the policies and resources available to you.

    You can request a confidential meeting with HR. Any documentation you have of specific incidents and dates - from a factual and observational perspective, leaving out assumptions and emotions - will probably be helpful. HR should have processes for dealing with inappropriate behavior of all sorts.

    Outside of HR and official processes, addressing what seems to be blatant sexism - especially from your boss with the added power dynamic - can be especially difficult because its visibility makes it appear to be widely accepted. Any discomfort by those witnessing it can remain hidden, further encouraging the inappropriate behavior. Or if the offender is unaware of his (or her) sexism, the opportunity is missed to address it. At best, you hope that your boss’s behavior and apparent biases are subconscious.

    One less official approach is to work with your colleagues to amplify each other’s ideas. This approach was used perhaps most famously in the Obama White House and has since been used in numerous offices. When one of you voices an idea, and it is ignored or downplayed, someone else can voice agreement with the idea, attributing it to the person who originally mentioned it and adding supporting thoughts.

    The second less official approach involves speaking up - either in the actual meeting or in a private conversation with your boss - to say, for instance, that the same people have been asked to clean out the fridge in the past, and you’d like to institute a system so that these types of tasks can be shared more equally among staff. You can offer to create a schedule or ask the group to do so. Depending on the mood of the room, you could try lightheartedly pointing out that it’s been all women doing these tasks. Such a discussion could potentially open the door for more direct conversations in the future.

    Confidentially yours,

     

  • 25 Mar 2019 11:33 PM | Global Leadership League ADMIN (Administrator)

    Dear Sophia,

    I am our campus Senior International Officer, managing study abroad, international student services, partnership development, and campus internationalization. I hold a Director title (and salary); however, have much more (and growing) responsibility (as well as 24/7 on-call duties) than peers in my division.

    How can I navigate a promotion request to accurately reflect my level of responsibility and duties? Such a promotion would break with a current structure that has existed for a very long time and I fear would not be received well despite my good work. However, I see this as an opportunity to step up, grow, show my value, and ask for a fair title and salary that reflects my role. I would love some feedback and direction.

    Sincerely,

    Onward and Upward

    Dear Onward and Upward,

    You find yourself in a difficult but unfortunately not unusual position in international education. The more data you have to support your request, the better off you’ll be. If you have actual data showing that your salary and title are not in line with others on your campus with similar responsibility, experience, and background, that’s a great start!  In addition, you can provide data on comparable roles at peer institutions.

    The history and culture of your campus community may also be an obstacle.  Try to align your request with other strategic priorities. Consider what dynamics may be at play if they promote you. Will your promotion be viewed as problematic to others at a similar level?  Is campus leadership concerned about additional staff requests once you’re promoted? Are they unaware of how the office structure is hindering your institution’s ability to be effective in advancing international education?

    An external reviewer may also be an option to make recommendations on staffing, structure, and operations; their report could make a difference to your administration.

    At the end of the day, be sure to value your own worth,  Taking the time to advocate for yourself and to improve your negotiation skills will be a critical component to a successful career.  Check out The League’s webinar on negotiation skills to get ready: webinar recording.

    Confidentially yours,

     

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