Issue #26: Career tips from a powerful female Smithsonian director


Hello for the first and last time for the month of December 2018! Due to the holiday season, expect only one Capital Women newsletter and podcast for the remainder of 2018. During this brief delay, we will still be here, keeping our eyes peeled on any news and events that may be relevant to you. Before 2019 creeps up on us, though, we want to hear what our dear readers and listeners have to say about Capital Women, itself. It’s been over a year since Capital Women started, and it’s time to learn your thoughts on our progress, visual style, and anything else you believe is worth sharing. Please fill out this Google Form to offer your feedback.

So far, we’ve already gotten a few responses, one of which was, “More events! Send the newsletter more often.” Because of this, here is one new change you can expect for 2019: a bigger emphasis on events in the newsletter. Whether or not the bi-weekly newsletter will switch to weekly will also be up to you and any new responses we receive. In the end, you matter, and we are only here to please.

Thank you as always for subscribing to Capital Women, and I hope you have a very happy end to a very turbulent year.


I think my boss hates me. Well, maybe “hate” is a strong word, but he doesn’t seem to like me. At first, I just assumed we needed to get to know each other and break the ice, but his one-year anniversary was last week, and it made me realize how little has changed. He’s not mean exactly, but he definitely doesn’t trust me with big projects. When I ask what I could be doing better, he just says I’m doing fine and not to worry about it. What should I do?

Ugh, that sucks. I’m sorry. Our relationships with our managers tend to be kind of make-or-break experiences. Because we (mostly) spend more time with them, and they (mostly) have a lot of power over our careers and day-to-day lives, even a slightly rocky relationship can make a job intolerable.

The first step is to start looking for a new job. Honestly. I don’t think you absolutely need to leave this one, especially if you can live with it if this is what your relationship looks like with your boss forever, but it’s been a year. That’s a long time. And I’m especially concerned that you’ve brought up the issue (even if indirectly) and gotten the brush-off. Even if a manager doesn’t love you like a bestie on a personal level, most are happy when their staff ask openly for feedback and seek to improve. That should warm his heart, professionally speaking!

Beyond that, I think there are a couple approaches you can take:

Live with it. If you’re not an especially ambitious person (which is OK!), maybe this is fine for you. If you’re making decent money and just feeling bored with boring projects, it’s OK to decide that that’s good enough if you think it’s good enough. You’re not obligated to bend over backwards to repair this relationship.

Be friendly and helpful. Maybe some strange thing happened early in your relationship that soured him on you. It’s tempting to shut down in this situation and just stay out of his way, but if you want to repair the relationship, start engaging more.

Ask for feedback more directly: “Elena was assigned Project X, which I’d really been hoping for a chance at, since X is my specialty and I’d like to deepen my skills here. Can you tell me what I need to do to get the next project like that?” If he says you’re doing fine, continue to be honest: “That’s what you’ve told me before, but I still am not getting assigned these projects. I’m really not sure what else I can do, but I really want to be on the next Project X.”

Heck, you could ask straight-up: “I get the impression you don’t like me much. Can we work on that?” Maybe you’d at least get an answer, which might allow for some resolution.

I’m not totally confident any of this will work, though, which is why I opened with looking for a new job. There’s only so much you can push before you make the situation worse. Assuming you’ve been doing great work, I don’t see much value for you in trying to make this work if you’d rather just move on!

If you’ve got a work, job-search, or networking question for Kim, hit her up at or find her on Twitter: @ranavain

  • Here are 10 career tips from the first woman to lead the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. [Forbes]

  • A new photo exhibit at the Arlington National Cemetery casts light on women’s under-recognized military service. [The Washington Post]

  • Historic call boxes in Downtown D.C. will be transformed into art celebrating women. [WAMU]

  • D.C. Council pushes forward bill to end statute of limitations for prosecuting sexual abuse. [Washington City Paper]

  • Here are 12 stunning, locally made and inspired gifts, perfect for beauty buffs and fashionistas. [DC Refined]

  • December 6: The Goethe-Institut Washington will be hosting a feminist-themed edit-a-thon workshop, co-led by Dr. Hester Baer of the University of Maryland and representatives of Wikimedia D.C.

  • December 6: In Silver Spring, Maryland, there will be a talk and reception at The Open Gallery for Mojdeh Rezaeipour, a brilliant local artist and storyteller whose latest exhibition exposes a familiar language of individual and collective resilience.

  • December 7: Inspired by the resurgence of the women’s movement, artist Bradley Stevens is honoring women advocates with a new series of paintings now featured at the Zenith Gallery.

  • December 9: Any female-identifying freelancers reading this? Kramberbooks & Afterwords Cafe has a brunch specifically for you.

  • December 14: Do you like to talk about sex, but are worried about your friends sayings its TMI? Behold, your next favorite event: Women Uncorked (the holiday edition).

  • December 18: Shirlington, Virginia’s Busboys and Poets will offer a film screening of the 1976 documentary, “Union Maids,” which is the Oscar-nominated story of three women who fought to form industrial unions.

  • January 7: The PLEN seminar will allow college women to explore how to influence the policy issues they are passionate about. Also, networking with female leaders!

  • One last (unrelated) thing: If you’re wondering what to do with family over the holidays, consider checking out the dazzling Georgetown GLOW and Navy Yard Light Yards exhibitions.

* Dear readers, expect more of an emphasis on events in 2019! Thank you to the anonymous reader with this great suggestion!

Michelle Goldchain and Kim Stiens contributed to this newsletter.