Vincy Workplace
September 21, 2007

Defeating the crab in the barrel

You know that old saying about crabs in a barrel never letting another crab crawl out? It seems a few crabs always hang on to the rising crab and pull it back down.

Is your career suffering from that “crab in the barrel” mentality?{{more}} Do you sometimes feel isolated or ostracized when you approach friends and family with some of your goals and aspirations? If you’re not sure what the crab in the barrel mentality is, let’s look at two examples, one for readers abroad and one for local readers.

You came for the opportunity-so, take it! Most people who aspire to migrate to America want to live in Brooklyn, as that is where many of our emigrants go. Yet, while the United States may be filled with opportunity, Brooklyn and communities like Brooklyn make moving up very difficult. The minute someone tries to break away from the pack and do something new to advance his or her career, they are ridiculed.

Because West Indians generally value family and friends, many prefer to stay close to home and take a job they are familiar with, instead of stepping outside their comfort zone. West Indians who do buck the trend are often referred to as “bourgeois” or “stuck-up”, when all they are trying to do is take advantage of opportunities. Yes, family is important, but you must leave room for new ventures.

In order to really push your career to the max, you have to meet and socialize with people who are different, people who have no ties to the Caribbean; and you need to do so on a regular basis. That’s called networking. Don’t think twice about attending an event where you might be the only black person; about attending the opera, playing golf, going to a baseball or hockey game; about venturing out with work colleagues or having dinner at the house of a coworker.

In the United States, as in the Caribbean and around the world, many hiring decisions are made through referrals. The best jobs are never advertised, so if your network of friends is limited, your career opportunities will be limited as well. You have to decide, enough of the tired old familiar party scenes with the same conversations about the same people and their same personal lives. Branch out, explore, and get yourself on track. Take advantage of all America has to offer.

It’s never too late: Adult Education is slowly becoming more popular, but it’s still not always accepted. Why shouldn’t a woman in her 40s, 50s, or even 60s, whose kids are gone or in school decide she wants to go back to school to broaden her horizons? She would probably be met with comments like: “What is wrong with you?” or “Girl, your days done!” or “What you trying to play?”

Sad, but true-not many women would consider returning to school. She would more likely stay in the job she’s had for years and simply wait for early retirement alongside her friends . . . because that’s what keeps their relationships, their conversations going. Should she decide to break out of the pack, she might no longer have a desire to talk about the same things, and the new ideas she gained from school would mean nothing to her old friends. Instead of risking her friends and their ridicule, she stays in the same old rut.

Or imagine a man who is a tradesman trying to convince his friends on the block that he wants to put down his tools and go back to school to become a bank employee or salesman. Crazy isn’t it? Or is it?

Too many people let their friends define them and limit them. Opportunities are available, but only for those who can shake the crab holding on to their feet. Funny thing is, if you help one crab out, that might be the one to come back and release the rest, those who remain physically and mentally trapped in the barrel.

Karen Hinds President/CEO – Workplace Success Group,
Toll Free: 1-877-902-2775; Tel: 1-203-757-4103
Creator of The Workplace Success Program (TM)