I recently accepted a pretty dream offer at a respectable, but small R2. They have some pretty heavy research hitters in the department. I see myself as a very small fish in this large pond, and so this feeling of "I am an imposter and they've made a mistake in offering me the job" is setting in. I am sure some of you have felt this way before starting a TT assistant prof job. For those of you who did (do), what are some helpful things I can do that can help me keep perspective? Your feedback is much appreciated!
Date: 19 Feb 2015 03:18
Number of posts: 7
RSS: New posts
This happens a lot I think, and it's a throwback to the imposter syndrome of grad school.
Honestly, in this job market, be glad that you got ANY job, let alone your dream job. Seriously. I am sure that the search committee wouldnt have hired you if they didnt think you could hack it. Unless they are rather dumb or mean, in which case you've got worse problems…
Also, you and your skill level now isn't where you are going to be in the future. You're taking a fixed view of yourself and your abilities (entity perspective), rather than a flexible view where you can grow and change (incremental perspective). Yay, got to drop some good ol' social psych on this…
Just remember: Emerson said, "If you don't try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow."
Now go forth and do good science and teach well. Soon enough maybe you'll be the heavy hitter.
I agree with luckyYou. In this job market you are probably vastly underestimating yourself if you were able to land a job like this one. But putting that aside, see how you are in a few years - you might be the heavy hitter soon!
I remember as a first year graduate student looking up to the experienced graduate students thinking, "wow, I will never be like them!" and then when I was defending, I noticed the room was full of first, second and third year students all looking up to me, who continued to ask me for advice and guidance years after I graduated. I had somehow become those students I had admired.
The same thing happened to me on the faculty. In the first year of my job, though I didn't have imposter syndrome, I did think I was inferior due to my lack of experience. I thought I'd feel that way until I was full professor and the most experienced person in the department. About 3 years in I was already a "heavy hitter" in the department and at the school. Sometimes it doesn't take long to get in the swing of things.
Also, remember that there are three prongs to being a faculty member. You can make a big, important impact even if you are never as famous with your research as the handful of hot shots in your department. You might be the most popular teacher, or you might start a new program, or you might have lots of innovative administrative ideas.
Congratulations and good luck at your dream position! That's amazing!
I feel the same way! Didn't feel it at first, what with all the job offer joy, but now it's sneaking back in. I try to remember that I've met only one person who professed to not have imposter syndrome, and he's, uh, special. Keep your head down, do your job, and trust that you've got this.
Most new faculty grapple with the imposter syndrome for the first few years at a tenure track position, though it can set-in even upon landing a great (or first) post doc and then some. My best advice is to remember this: You're the One! The search committee would in no way extended an offer if they did not see something promising in you.
Now, your primary job is to demonstrate you were the right choice. It's tough if there are big researchers in your department. But, as Current_Professor notes, there are more ways to establish that you're a great colleague worth the hire. Some advice worthwhile for any new faculty member…
- Try to find mentors. It's really helpful to find people who can help you navigate your new institution's culture and expectations.
- Do what you said you'd do. Whatever you indicated during your interview or in your application materials, make sure you work toward accomplishing it. This is what the search committee will be likely thinking about.
- Form collaborations. The first few years at a new position are tough, especially with new course preps and growing service. Collaborative research is a fantastic way to keep active and keep the conference/publishing train going.
- Figure out a way to take a break. I've seen junior colleague faculty burn out fast. You need to make some time, daily, for yourself. Whether that involves exercise, a hobby, or just zoning out with some binge TV watching is up to you.
- Don't compare yourself. I think all academics are guilty of this. It's easy to compare yourself to others in your department or, worse, other new faculty at more research heavy institutions. Find your own strengths and don't worry if you seem to stack up on a CV. A lot of great things valued in faculty don't so readily show up on a CV - e.g., service, leadership, student engagement.
Have a great start to your new position!
Thank you all for your very helpful feedback! DocJ, you're absolutely right; I spend a lot of time checking out fellow colleague's Google Scholar Profiles and comparing myself to them. It is unhelpful because it wastes lots of time and functions to make me feel small a lot of the time. I really hate this h-index bull, but I know it is being used as a metric for career success.
I've also engaged in the comparison game. It is so silly. You'd think that as psychologists we'd be better about this sort of thing - there are consistent biases in play. If you're already feeling like an imposter, you'll only notice the people in the department who are more (not less) accomplished than you. And when you do the comparisons you'll be biased against yourself. You'll focus on h-index instead of number of papers, because your index is smaller due to you being a newer researcher. Or you'll focus on total number of papers even though other people have many "other-authored" papers and yours are first-authored. etc
Just do your thing that you are clearly doing well, and everything else will fall into place.