What’s in a name?

I defended 7 years ago this month…. and I’m still a Research Scientist 1.  I had hoped to be up for a promotion last year because I felt like I kicked butt all year. When I had my year end review, my supervisor said I did great and was up for the top merit bonus… but no mention of a promotion.  I mustered up the guts to ask how I was doing “in terms of career development” and he said “Great! You’ve only been with us for 2 years and it usually takes ~5 to get a promotion so you are right on track.”  I was bummed but I was also 5 months pregnant (and sick as a dog) so I had other things on my mind and I let it go.
It took me a little time to get back into the swing of things once I came back from leave in September.  But now I feel like I’m back and ready to take on really juicy interesting projects. I’m also looking around and seeing that other people in other departments are getting promoted and I feel like I am getting left behind. I’m starting to worry about my ability to transfer to a new company… will it be held against me that I’m still a Research Scientist 1?
Some days these thoughts/worries motivate me, make me work harder and try more.  I skip pumping sessions and pick up the baby late so I can squeeze more data out or be at a meeting hoping my presence and input might be the little bit extra to push me over the edge into an “early” promotion.  Other days not getting a promotion makes me question my ability and value as a scientist. Should I just quit and stay home with my new baby? Open an Etsy shop?  Paint?

I recently started talking with a new mentor in the Contracts and Alliances group who suggested I might be able to try out her group or Project Management. I thought about it long and hard (and after some twists and turns) I talked to my supervisor about it. He was supportive but also encouraged me to stay the course if I wanted to stay a scientist. I decided not to pursue it at this time but I still feel torn. It’s hard to move forward when I can see so many interesting options and feel under appreciated (sometimes). I think the idea of not being a scientist anymore is also really sad/scary to me… who would I be?  Would I be happier in a different profession?  For now I’m just trying my best at work and sorting through the options hoping for the patience to take the time to see how things go in the new year.

One response so far

  • JL says:

    Thank you for sharing. Since you posted this online, perhaps you don't mind if I make a suggestion: why don't you talk to HR at the place you are to find out what the regulations and standards are in terms of promotion. Note that those are different. For example, it may only be required that someone is 3 years in a position before a promotion is considered, but they "prefer" to be 4 years. It may or may not be up to your boss to decide when or if to give you a promotion. I know that where I work, I have little say in promoting someone. I can, however, block their promotion. This is really unfair. I am director of a lab in R1 university.

    This does not make it fair or right, but it could help you measure what is slowing your promotion.

    Another option is to directly ask your boss what is needed. This only works if you think your boss will be honest in telling you, and then in honoring it. Otherwise it's a recipee for them to demand the moon and take advantage of you. Only ask this after you have talked with HR.

    Note - DO NOT take the word of the boss instead of talking with HR. It's easier, but the may not know, or may not tell you correctly.

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