This past week has been the time for the annual personal evaluation at work – a rather painful process. It’s also often the moment for the supervisor (in my case, the head of the office) to offer career advice.
One thing I find interesting about this process, that I wanted to mention here, is that underlying the advice I received, and a lot of such advice, is the assumption that one’s career path should look to be plotting moves to get up in the hierarchy and in posts with even more attention and greater power.
I came very close to stopping my supervisor short, and saying that really what I wanted was just to continue working in interesting places, as long I was allowed to live with my family, the team were friendly and the work wouldn’t be life-consuming. He might have fallen off his chair if I’d said that. In fact, he almost left me worrying that if I suddenly announce that I’ve accepted a post in some less important country he’ll be disappointed.
I do get that being closer to power can be more interesting. I enjoy that in my current office I’m frequently part of teams working on the most important things, and working closely with senior management. But I think at base, I haven’t tied my job to the centre of my life’s ambitions. In fact, I care much more about what people might think of my role in the Ivory Coast community, or in academic/journalistic/writing circles, than whether in my current industry I’m considered a top dog. I do want to have a reputation of being a good worker and attaining excellence, but I feel quite acutely the fact that on the day after I leave the industry, other things will seem more significant.
As an addendum to the above, I also discovered this week that if I move to a higher grade in the system, my salary will actually go up very little even if I’ve risen from the middling ranks to the more senior folks. If I go and work in a tiny insignificant country, the monetary reward will be basically the same.