One major issue that many new faculty face is Impostor Syndrome. ImpostorSyndrome is the feeling that you are a fraud, that they made a mistake in hiring you into this position, and at any minute they are going to realize it. ImpostorSyndrome affects women and men, but can be especially stressful for those who are a minority in their field. Unfortunately, women are minorities in many fields of science at the professorial level.
Just to put your mind at ease: this is a common feeling, and you can’t always believe everything you think. ImpostorSyndrome can hit at any level: upon entering college, entering graduate school, starting a first postdoc, your first tenure track, after achieving tenure, after being admitted to the National Academy… the list goes on.
Remember: they hired you. They wanted you out of the 300 candidates that applied and the 6-12 that they interviewed. They negotiated and spent money on start-up for you. You proved yourself in your Ph.D. and your postdoc and your interview to earn a place to be there. You deserve to be here because you are awesome. Think positive.
My solution: “Fake It Until You Make It.” This means that you just act like you belong. Even though inside you feel weird, you just pretend that you know what you are doing, and everything is OK. In fact, you probably do know what you are doing, and everything will likely be OK. As part of FakeItUntilYouMakeIt, keep your eyes open and see what others are doing and act like them.
FakeItUntilYouMakeIt does not mean that you should bumble around doing things wrong time and time again pretending that they are right. People are sure to notice if you are confidently wrong all the time.
I recommend: if you are unsure about something specific, ask your NearPeers how they solved certain problems. NearPeers are people 1-2 years ahead of you who have already gone through the same stage. I actually went as far as to ask my SupportiveSeniorColleagues about how they solve certain matters. I stress Supportive. Since they were supportive, they saw this as WomanOfScience addressing problems quickly instead of WomanOfScience doesn’t know what she is doing.
Another good group to consult are AcademicDynastyPeers. AcademicDynastyPeers are peers who have an academic in their family, usually a parent. They grew up knowing academia from the inside, and they feel pretty comfortable with the process that you are undertaking. Most AcademicDynastyPeers are open about their ideas of the job, and willing to share if you just ask.
After a while of FakingIt, you will forget that you didn’t know how to do that thing, and you will have MadeIt.
Are there other solutions to ImpostorSyndrome that people want to share? Comment or make a guest post.
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