I feel like I am blocked from advancement and have gotten frustrated. Am I over-thinking this?

I do apologize if this comes across as a rant. I wouldn’t say these things to co-workers, as it is a very gossipy environment and you never know who talks to who. But I am seeking advice on my path and am wondering if I am just over-thinking things.

I’ve been in higher education for about 8 years now, mostly in student-facing roles in administration. I’m currently 31, if that makes any difference.

I switched jobs internally once before after almost 4 years in the role, and my bosses tried to convince me to take a 30% pay cut to stay. I am proud to say I was very efficient in my department, improved workflows, and there was a measurable increase in positive outcomes. Needless to say, I moved on.

It’s been 3 years in my current position, and I feel like I am at a point where I have learned and done all that I can and, with my experience, I am now looking to apply to different jobs, either internally or externally. As part of taking this role, I was promised a lot of opportunities for professional development, but I have not seen it be the case in practice. In truth, it seems “professional development” amounts to administrative tasks the supervisors themselves do not want to do. I am also used as a problem solver. When there is an upset parent or student unhappy with the work from one of my colleagues, I am asked to step in to resolve the issue, which I can do the vast majority of the time.

In monthly and annual reviews, my boss always talks about my willingness to go above and beyond, about the quality of my work, and what an asset I am as a worker and as a person of support for my colleagues, but they will only ever select “Satisfactory” under the review as “no one gets ‘exceeds expectations’.”

A few positions have come up, but there is an internal candidate 90% of the time that essentially has the job description and qualifications customized to their experience and qualifications, as HR policies require a search.

I recently spoke with my boss about an upcoming opportunity and he essentially back-pedaled, at first seeming to think I would be recommending someone for the pool, but when I stated my interest in the role, the tone changed and he started kind of flubbing his words, saying there might be an internal, he could check, he didn’t think so, but maybe, but actually, he thinks there might be. It was a very awkward conversation after that.

I should state I have my boss, who is essentially my supervisor. The department has another 2 of those supervisors, and then one director. So there are 3 supervisors for about 20 people.

When I have asked them to provide references for other job applications, they always seemed surprised I was looking into other roles, either internal or exernal, and not all that encouraging.

I have asked for specific opportunities regarding committees or special projects that I feel would be relevant to gaining experience in other aspects, but nothing comes of them or they are given to someone else.

I don’t know if I’m just reading too much into things, or if this is normal and just how it goes, but I am at a point where I just feel very frustrated. A lot of my co-workers seem happy to stay where they are as the money is okay, but I want to do more.

I haven’t ruled out re-training or a second master’s, but I am just not sure as to what. I have looked into programming, but I just don’t have much interest in it. Data is a possibility, as are things like research compliance, but I’m just not sure where to go.



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