All posts by Sara Hinkle

Work/Life Balance: Revisited

I know- you’re reading this title and saying, isn’t this topic old and tired? What more can we say about work/life balance that hasn’t already been said?  Haven’t we been told time and time again that balance is bunk?  I know, I know.  However, a variety of experiences I’ve had over the past few months have sparked my interest in revisiting this topic.  Humor me.  Here goes…

I recently attended a wonderful on-campus session focused on women in leadership. Everyone on campus was invited to attend a lunch and subsequent panel session, which included women who held or had held various leadership positions in higher education.  One panelist was a president emerita; another, a retired assistant vice president for student affairs; two were chief academic affairs officers; and a fifth was a vice chancellor of our state system.  As we asked the panel various questions, the inevitable questions came up about work/life balance.  How do you manage it all?  After the question was asked, the panel grew uncharacteristically silent and looked a bit sheepish.  “Not very well,” admitted the former AVPSA, a rumored workaholic.  The retired president offered up something about a seesaw- sometimes career is up and sometimes personal life is up, depending on the period of life or time of year.  Okay, fair enough. The others sort of hemmed and hawed. What became clear from this panel of very successful women is that balance is hard to achieve and some women (and men) eschew balance in order to achieve success. It didn’t leave me feeling optimistic.

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Reflections from a Pregnant Professional

By Sara Hinkle

As I contemplate my latest post for this blog, it’s clear that I should write about the subject that’s closest to me right now and at the forefront of my mind: my pregnancy. As I write this I am closing out my 39th week of pregnancy and eagerly/anxiously anticipating the arrival of my first child.  The road to this point has been a long and slow one, for the most part.  As I reflect, it occurs to me that, while balancing parenting and career is something that both men and women deal with (in theory if not in practice), pregnancy is a condition only experienced by women.  I will take this opportunity to reflect on how I’ve balanced the physical and mental challenges of pregnancy with my professional responsibilities as an assistant vice president for student affairs.

First Trimester

The first trimester can be both a time of excitement and uncertainty.   On the one hand, there is the thrill of getting the positive pregnancy result, hearing the baby’s heart beat for the first time, and, perhaps, seeing the child via ultrasound.  On the other hand, the first trimester is a time of high risk, as many women miscarry during this time.  This, coupled with the stress of planning for a new life with a child, can be the source of great anxiety.  Women also experience potential physical discomforts, such as fatigue, nausea and “morning” sickness.  Further, many women choose not to disclose their pregnancy during this time, as they would rather wait until they have moved out of the “high risk” phase.  As a result, it can be a lonely time, during which you’re not able to share your condition with those you see every day (e.g., your colleagues), but it’s still taking a toll on your physical and mental health.  Further, you’re not able to receive support from the workplace.

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It’s Lonely at the Top

by Sara Hinkle

I have long considered myself an extrovert, bolstered by several rounds of MBTI results and my personal experiences. I’m a social person, I appreciate situations where I can collaborate with people, and I draw my energy from being around others. This applies not only to my personal life, but to my professional life as well. At my very first student affairs job as an area coordinator, I had fellow ACs who were hired at the same time that I was. Their jobs were slightly different from mine, but we were peers and contemporaries. I appreciated the experience of being able to consult with them, share ideas, and (occasionally) commiserate about the joys and frustrations of being a live-in professional. I worked at a tiny institution where the staff was lean, but many new professionals have a wealth of peers within their institution at their similar professional level with whom to interact.

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The Invisible Single Woman

by Sara Hinkle

As I synthesized the messages of various books and articles focused on women in leadership and considered how they applied to my own life situation, I came to a realization: as a single, childless woman in my 40s, my point of view is not really being represented at all. The messages out there are primarily targeting the working mom. As Kerry Hannon noted in Forbes in a critique of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In,

Sandberg spends the lion’s share of her book on the challenges facing working women with young children. But the plight of women without kids in the workplace is virtually ignored, even though nearly 1 in 5 American women exits her childbearing years childless.

Indeed, Hannon echoed my feeling that my perspective was not being captured. Further, I’ve found many of the messages being delivered to be frustrating and even insulting at times. Allow me to elaborate on the plight of the invisible single woman.

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Overcoming the Imposter Within

by Sara Hinkle

While I’m sure I had this sensation at earlier points in my life, I felt it most acutely when I began my doctoral program 14 years ago. That is, the feeling that I was an imposter, a fake, that I didn’t belong. I was in a top-notch Ph.D. program surrounded by sharp classmates, all of whom seemed very focused and confident about their research interests and career direction and very assured of their place within the program. I, on the other hand, was just feeling lucky to be there. In contrast to my perceived experience of my peers, I felt rather unsure about what I might research, what career direction I might take on the other side of Ph.D., and whether I belonged there at all.

Now somehow I persevered. I wrote some well received papers, passed my qualifying exams, co-authored some articles with my faculty advisor, won some research grants, and landed a spot as a research associate on a major national research project. Despite this, my doctoral experience was peppered with fear and doubt. With every success came that feeling of, “I’ve fooled them again.” Even after I’ve managed to turn my ABD into a Ph.D. and land a series of progressively higher leadership roles within student affairs, the imposter syndrome still haunts me. Sometimes I sit at meetings and think, What the heck am I doing here? Do people really expect me to know what I’m talking about? Continue reading Overcoming the Imposter Within