Due to the fact that it’s November, I’ve been communicating this phase of my career and my sense of readiness for whatever will come next with the analogy of the turkey timer. For those of you who may not have encountered the turkey timer before it’s a simple mechanism installed in some turkeys to make it easier for home cooks to gauge when the bird is done. When the turkey is the right temperature, the timer pops out. You’re ready for dinner.
I would like to think that when I am ready for the next phase of my career, I will just know, and it will be obvious to everyone as a turkey timer. My skills, experiences, and abilities will just pop out and I’ll be perfectly ready. This isn’t true but it’s funny.
I don’t know if I am ready to be a director or a dean right now, but a recent episode made me more reflective than usual. A longtime acquaintance with whom I was enjoying a drink at a conference related that when a recruiter discussed a rather prestigious job opening with them and mentioned my name as someone they were thinking about, they let the recruiter know they didn’t think I was ready.
I was floored. And offended. And I told them so. Then I tweeted about it, because you know your girl. I get up in my head about things. Earlier that day I’d been lectured about my role as a midcareer leader in libraries, not using my platform for frivolous (haha) opinions. I’ve been stuck in the middle a lot recently, and I succumbed to frustration.
About today. Reminded (repeatedly) that I’m still simultaneously too young for library leadership and too old to be early career. Libraries, you’re tough. How do you expect to cultivate new leaders? Who do you want for this work?
— Lindsay Cronk (@lindsonmars) November 7, 2019
Midcareer is hard in ways I had not expected. I had not foreseen I would not be the primary assessor of my readiness. And other people would also be assessing this on my behalf in ways that, to my mind, undermine professional authority and agency.
Of course, I have been asked flavors of this question about others- for volunteer opportunities and for jobs- but I haven’t ever presumed I knew about their “readiness.” In reflecting further on the term and the tendency towards infantilizing newer professionals within the profession- something I’ve written about and my brilliant colleague, Ashley Krenelka Chase, has made a centerpiece of her research– I want to encourage anyone reading this to challenge themselves not to cut off opportunities for others even (especially) from a place of love.
You’re not doing anyone a favor shielding them from opportunities they might not be perfectly ready for. Better to spread opportunities around, better to let folks judge for themselves, better to support than to judge. I am wary of what I increasingly perceive as a culture of assumption and paternalism.
I also think that this experience, deeply wounding as it was in the moment, has forced me to challenge my own turkey timer analogy as well. If I am waiting for my readiness to be obvious, then I am waiting on other people’s judgments of my own contributions and experiences. If I am cooking this turkey, I am the one who will know when it’s done. I mean my career. This is a ridiculous analogy, but I am committing to it. Gobble. Gobble. I’m sorry.
So let me close by wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving- whatever you’re thinking about doing, you’re probably more ready then you know.