Earlier this year I celebrated my seventh anniversary at Wharton External Affairs. This milestone is significant for me because it is almost twice as long as I’ve worked anywhere else. I’ve often asked colleagues that have been in roles for five-plus years about how they stay professionally engaged. Usually, they say something along the lines of “the job is always changing” or “every day is different” or “I love the challenge to do the same projects again.” I appreciate their perspective, and admire them for it, but I can’t relate; generally, once I do something, I don’t need to do it again. So since reaching this milestone at Wharton, I’ve wondered if maybe it isn’t that the role needs to change — perhaps I need to change how I am perceived to create new opportunities and reinvent myself within the context of my current job. But how would I do that? How do I get my peers, team, boss, and organization to see me in a new way?

When I framed my musings to associate management professor Samir Nurmohamed, he said he’d never heard the question asked that way before. We discussed research focused on personality, self-monitoring in the workplace, authenticity, and job crafting, then we paused on motivation. Perhaps, Samir speculated, my desire for something new stemmed from my extrinsic motivators (such as compensation) and intrinsic ones (such as curiosity and fun) being low at the same time. The only way I saw to increase both was with new experiences only found in a new job. Was there a way to do that in my current role?

To answer that question, Samir suggested that I consider the following:

  • Is there a way to increase my variety of experiences? New developmental experiences will stretch me in ways to keep me engaged, particularly because I thrive in situations with a very high learning curve.
  • What is the risk associated with these new experiences? Consider risk to myself, my team, and my organization. It’s important to be realistic, particularly if that “something new” I might want to do sits in another person’s portfolio.
  • Which experiences have the appropriate risk level? My boss must support my growth and the organization will need to adapt to my new responsibilities.

I’d like to say I solved my problem — that I have figured out how to “get a new job” without leaving my current one — but the truth is that I am still working on it. As we continue to reengage with alumni around the world after the pandemic, my team and I created some unique ways to leverage those events and set new goals for our communications plans. Those enhancements have provided some variety to my role, and they’ve helped me understand the importance of providing similar opportunities to my team. It’s also opened my thinking to how my colleagues’ perceptions of me can evolve, and that in itself is a new experience for me.


Katherine Primus is executive director of communications and donor relations for Wharton External Affairs.