Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 20 seconds

Precursors to Impostor Syndrome in Academia

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 20 seconds

I found myself thinking recently about all the things in academia that a PhD does NOT prepare us for, and since I am also thinking about impostor syndrome it made me think of how academic culture sort of almost makes impostor syndrome likely. I wonder if this has been written about. I should check. At the moment i need to capture these thoughts.

A. Suddenly a peer
After being a student to your supervisor,  faculty at your institution, and your examiners (and the world), you’re suddenly a “peer”. I assume people who do PhD later in life have less of a problem here but i may be wrong

B. Competition with Role Models
Suddenly after having read and looked up to other academics, you are competing with them on space at conferences and scholarly journals and of course, for the most part, falling short. It’s almost like the most unfair thing in the world to ask a fresh PhD grad to compete with someone who has 20 years of publishing behind them. Right? Right? Right? (btw the Journal of Pedagogic Development whose editorial board I am on welcomes stuff from early career researchers; and of course also Hybrid Pedagogy is not a traditional journal so i think this sort of makes it more open to younger or less traditional scholars which is great, as is the peer review process).

C. What’s a PhD got to do with….
– Writing 6,000 word articles? My PhD was over 100,000 Words. That prepared me for writing books but not articles. Some PhDs are composed of articles but most aren’t so…
– Working collaboratively – you work alone and you learn to manage. Then in real life your research can be so much better when working with others
– Teaching. Unless your uni offers prof dev or you teach while doing the PhD
– Audience. PhD prepare you for the safe-ish limited audience of your supervisor(s) and examiners. The rest if the world seems so much more intimidating by comparison.
– Confidence/ego. Let’s face it we need some kind of confidence and ego to succeed in academia. PhDs don’t help with this really unless the transformation happens within you. I was lucky i got some stuff published and some good feedback from mentors to give me that push in the end.
-Carrying oneself. I still get the “no, you have a PhD?” look/talk because I wear jeans and stuff to work more often than not (P.S. Having a 3-year old means other pants look dirty real quick from her shoes as i carry her on my lap and walking to daycare and stuff).

It’s all just sudden. Sudden respect that feels artificial. Sudden title. Sudden responsibility. Sudden change of status. I wonder if anyone actually feels comfortable with it!

2 thoughts on “Precursors to Impostor Syndrome in Academia

  1. Not sure whether this make me more or less inclined to pursue a PhD. Hmmm. Thanks for your thoughts here.

    1. Hahaha that’s a tough question to answer. All in all, i am glad i did it, but recognize a part of me could have died conforming. Thankfully, my little rebel still survived

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