How to Work your way up in Research Administration

Sarah Musavi, CARA member


I was reading the book Steer Your Career by Sarah Lampson and Katie Porter. There is a lot of information there to help all levels of research administrators find their way through the maze of this career.

The 10th point “Create a Growth Mindset” in chapter 2: Early career goal setting and progress, had me thinking, wondering, even a bit sad, reading a story from a manager’s perspective.

This was the story of a young bright student in the administration office, whom the managers were very impressed with. They wanted to see him progress. They offered him more responsible roles, so he could gain experience.

How many of us can bask in such an opportunity? More importantly, how many of us would have seized such an opportunity with gratitude, excitement and with an eye to the long-term haul in this profession?

I would’ve absolutely thanked my stars if I were in those shoes.

The story has a really disappointing ending though. He was caught in the short-sightedness-money-for-time mentality. He wanted more pay for the work. He was not grateful for the opportunity, because he was not looking at it with a growth mindset. He complained about the extra load of work. He compared himself to some other staff members who were not working hard enough.

The student did not heed to the advice of the manager who wanted to show him the path of long-term opportunities if he worked hard at the more demanding projects. He did not believe in the potential of honing his skills so he becomes indispensable and nor did he enjoy the work. For him, it was a means to pay his bills. That goes without saying.

However, to steer your career in research administration or for that matter in any field, one has to have a growth mindset that lets us become a problem solver, someone who takes the work as their mission and commitment. The same work then transforms from a chore to a path of fulfilment.

The student went on to another institution for a little more money, but even after five years, he was still in the same role with no growth options. The manager was still quite sad that had he stayed with them, there was a world of opportunities opening up, but he could not see beyond the short term. Sadly, most of us are caught up in the pay bill cycle rather than earn a fulfilling career growth mindset.

This single point in this book is worth its weight in gold. Its very important to create a long term goal and be willing to take up more responsible roles to become a problem solver. That will help in achieving competency and skills that will make us more employable. Additionally, we will enjoy working in this career by being involved in a variety of projects.

For those who like to travel, those opportunities may also come more often, if we carefully craft our art and start enjoying each project with an eye to the future.

After an initial phase of working on a variety of projects, we can comfortably start choosing which areas to focus on and move up the ladder with an understanding of more functions. That way, we will have a better understanding of the whole process and be able to build better relationships and excellent customer service.

Comparing, Complaining, Criticizing and Competing are the 4Cs that spread like cancer and have no room in a growth mindset!