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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 receive candid practical advice from Sophia Confidential for even the most sensitive of issues.  


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.

Sophia is on hiatus for now. Please check out the vast library of expert advice in the vault below! 


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  • 25 Mar 2019 11:33 PM | Anonymous

    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.


    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,


  • 24 Feb 2019 10:34 PM | Anonymous

    Dear Sophia,

    I've been at my job - being incrementally promoted - for eight years. My boss just left, and the organization has promoted someone to be interim while they do a search.

    My interim boss, who has for the last 4 years been very supportive of me and become a friend, seems to have become someone else. She finds fault with everything I do, has given me negative reviews (despite my outstanding reviews for the previous 7 years), and seems to change the rules from one weekly meeting to another so I never know what is being used to measure my success from one week to another. She focuses on my weaknesses, and I'm starting to doubt my own abilities.

    I love this job and the other people I work with, but I'm not sure I can stay here without damaging my career. My spouse wants me to quit and look for a new job, but I hate to leave this job that I love!  What do I do?!


    Betrayed and Confused

    Dear Betrayed and Confused,

    First off, do not let one person’s challenge of your abilities negate years of positive feedback. I am reminded of a motivational quote, “Your value doesn't decrease based on someone's inability to see your worth." You were clearly valuable to the organization for a long time, and you can be proud of the contributions you made! That said, there are always ways we can grow, and if you can identify some weaknesses, those could be areas that you can look at ways to improve or work around them.

    As for looking for a new job, consider your two choices. You can meet with your new supervisor, describe your passion for your current role, and inquire about clear steps for moving forward. It never hurts to advocate for yourself. Alternatively, you can also make the choice to start applying for other positions. While it can be difficult to leave a position and colleagues that you love, it is also challenging to stay in a role with a supervisor who does not value your skills and abilities. Sometimes moving on can be a new adventure and opportunity to grow both professionally and personally. Those beloved co-workers will become valuable colleagues in your next position!

    If you decide to move on, remember that the League also launched a Coaching Hub, so consider signing up to be matched with an experience Career Coach in our field to guide you.

    Confidentially yours,


  • 20 Jan 2019 10:35 PM | Anonymous

    Dear Sophia,

    I supervise a small staff. Recently one of my employees asked for a day off that I could not approve, since it was one of our busiest days of the year (a pre-departure orientation for over 100 students).

    This employee did not like the decision to not approve her requested day. She served her notice to HR, telling them I had gone back on my word over this day off after originally saying yes. I had never said yes, and the pre-departure orientation had been on her calendar since the beginning of the semester. She also told HR that I was difficult to work with and this was another factor to her leaving.

    Is there a different way I should have handled this situation? How should I move forward in my communications with the HR department without it turning into a "she said, she said" situation and still protecting myself?


    Frustrated in the Four Corners

    Dear Frustrated in the Four Corners,

    This is definitely a frustrating situation; hopefully you can view it as a learning experience.  Regarding the HR department, demonstrate that you are open to feedback and welcome any additional comments that might have been reported, or not. Additionally, many HR departments have learning and development programs that you may benefit from.  Consider inquiring about bringing the program to your office, such as work-style assessments and how that provides insights into your work style and your team.

    Consider a new system that provides clear, explicit guidelines about vacation ‘black-out’ dates. Meet with your staff and discuss office priorities together so that everyone is on the same page.  Something that might seem obvious to you (not taking time off on the busiest day of the year), as an experienced professional, may not be as clear to a young individual at the start of their career. Perhaps it is worth including such messaging during the on-boarding of new staff for the future.

    Confidentially yours,


  • 20 Jan 2019 10:34 PM | Anonymous

    Dear Sophia,

    Recently I have been part of an interview process to fill an advisor position in our Education Abroad Office. As the Assistant Director, I have had to lead the entire process of reviewing resumes, selecting candidates, and organizing the interviews (which includes inviting individuals from other offices to assist in the second round). It is a significant amount of extra work which my supervisor, the Director, asked me to do.

    After the final round of interviews, my supervisor and I sat down to review our top choices. One my top candidates was a male, who did not appear on my supervisor’s list, and when I asked his reasoning he said the male candidate was “overqualified for the position.” However, in comparing my top (male) candidate with his top (female) candidate, the two had exactly the same qualifications in terms of number of years in the field, degrees, international background, and other relevant areas. I believe that my supervisor’s decision to eliminate the male candidate due to overqualification was a sexist one, and I let that be known.

    How could I have better handled this situation? Following this interaction I am noticing other behaviors that include burdening me with additional work and undermining me when it is time to make a decision or take credit for something good. How can I work with my supervisor moving forward?


    Irritated in Illinois

    Dear Irritated in Illinois,

    This is indeed a difficult situation. Given that our field is dominated by women, one way you might have been able to advocate for the male candidate further is to express your desire to diversify your staff and encourage more males to study abroad through role model advising. You might also have asked for clarification of more specifics on where your supervisor saw differences between your top two candidates. It is also wise to navigate the conversation with calm and to resist being defensive.

    Possibly more concerning is the shift in your supervisor’s behavior after this interaction. Have you reached out to your Human Resource Department for advice or support? I know it can be difficult to trust the anonymity of these difficult conversations with internal colleagues, but HR is trained in this type of coaching for managing up or managing down. There are also online resources that provide guidance on these issues, if you are not comfortable talking with your HR department. The League also launched a Coaching Hub, so consider signing up to be matched with an experienced Career Coach in our field to guide you.

    Alternatively, if you feel comfortable approaching your supervisor, you might want to address the behavior directly. Approach the conversation with confidence and direct communication. This might make you feel empowered and allow your supervisor to face an uncomfortable situation directly.

    Confidentially yours,


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