Dr. Kim Burns

Women everywhere are struggling.

You may have heard of the women in Boston who gathered for a collective primal scream. I get it. This sucks. Women faced gender-based barriers at work before the pandemic. Now, everything is just so much more difficult. I have such deep empathy for all women, especially for moms of young children trying to get through each day in a pandemic that is entering its third year without the necessary support in place.

I conducted a highly scientific poll (!) and texted some of my higher ed friends from around the country and asked them what they were struggling with at work. The question resonated because the texts came pouring in.

Here’s how they described their most pressing struggles

  • Lack of alignment between the amount of work expected of me vs. what I can get done
  • Being all things to all people
  • Everything is urgent & there is no time for long-term planning or creative projects
  • Poor boundaries between work and home
  • Frustration with lack of flexibility and limits on remote work
  • Empathy fatigue
  • Not being heard, not feeling appreciated or supported by employer
  • Lack of meaningful connection with colleagues; feeling lonely
  • Pandemic-related stress

I remember saying to myself early in my career, “I just want to get off the bus for a little while.” I wasn’t on an actual bus. I was on the struggle bus of overwhelm, frustration, and self-doubt. This was many years before the pandemic. I was in my 30s, working full-time as a college administrator, working on a doctoral degree, and parenting two young boys. Too often, I was miserable. I loved my work, but there was just too much of it.

Higher education needs to change, which is a subject for another post

You can glance at Inside Higher Ed or The Chronicle of Higher Education for opinions on how and why change needs to happen. Women and people of color are needed at the table to make this change and we need to be able to show up rested, clear-eyed, and as our authentic and confident selves to do this hard work.

What can we change that is within our control? Essentially, the only real thing we have control over is ourselves. We can influence, role model and make decisions guided by our values and personal mission. We can unapologetically show up as our authentic selves at work.

For the next several weeks, I’m going to focus on aspects of what trusting ourselves at work looks like. I’m going to talk about what’s in our control to change such as developing self-awareness, identifying your purpose, knowing what your professional needs are, aligning values with time and energy management, how to create networks of support, and ways to build resilience.

All of these topics will be discussed in a group coaching program I’m launching in March for women working as college administrators. You can find out more on my website or schedule a 20-minute Q&A session with me to learn more about it. All of these topics can also be explored further in private coaching sessions.

If you’re intrigued by the idea of a primal scream, join us for a Winter Goals Walk and Group Primal Scream on Saturday, February 5 at noon. You can sign up here.

What are you struggling with at work? What strategies are you using to bolster your resilience?

I would love to hear from you. You can email me at drkimburns@gmail.com; connect with me on LinkedIn, Instagram or Twitter; or sign up for my monthly newsletter.

Do one thing today that is just for yourself. You won’t regret it.

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