Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I feel like a fraud

I've encountered a problem that I didn't dare think I would ever encounter. The problem of success. Or more specifically the problem of having no F'ing idea WTH you're doing, and yet somehow getting accolades for it.

Here's the scenario. It starts when you ask for more info on a post-doc posting and end up getting an interview. The only info I was asking for was if I would need  to start ASAP 'cause I couldn't start until 7 months later. Yes, I mentioned I was currently funded, but I'm not sure if I ever even sent over my CV.... 

I approached the interview with absolutely no pressure. I knew it was in a drastically new field, but didn't care.  I presented what I did and what I knew, and let them judge. If they liked it, great. If not, no harm - I got more experience summing up over 10 years of research in less than 40 minutes. Not to mention the great students and staff I met during my visit. I've occasionally been accused of being a networking whore, and this was no exception. I walked away with 12 business cards, 4 new linkedIn contacts and countless good conversations. 

Apparently my interview went well - I was offered the position the next day. I even negotiated for almost 7k more than was originally offered. Although that was more reflective of the original offer than any negotiating skill on my part....

Then over the summer, I was asked if I wanted to write a small internal grant (50k x 2 years) before I started. I agreed and spent about a week learning all about my new field. We came up with a concept and produced a fairly good proposal, and then I went back to trying to finish the project I was working on.

Yesterday, something happened that I honestly didn't think would ever happen. I got the grant. 

And the office celebrated with me. With cake. And laughing. And congratulatory emails. And it was nice. Momentarily. I couldn't help but feel like I didn't deserve the grant or accolades. Because my heart wasn't totally in it and I still don't know what I'm doing....

I'm going to try and shake that feeling and just do what I do. Get paid to play at work. Explore the unknown, and learn that there is a lot I don't know. And that's OK. I hope. I know it's pretty common to feel like an imposter at my career stage, but I had no idea how bad it felt. I only wish I know how to shake the feeling.


  1. WOW! That is incredible! It seems like you have been on quite the journey recently. Congratulations on all that is happening for you. I wish I had your networking ability. I always find it difficult to start up conversations with new people.

    1. Networking is not easy for me. It takes a lot of effort for me to work a room (and overcome my nausea at the prospect), but I know that it's incredibly important for me to do. I've learned to get over the initial fear, and like in public speaking, use my nervous energy to my advantage.

      Although to be honest, it seems the the main motivator for me to network is simply out of boredom. I COULD spend an entire meeting in my hotel room, or I could find a party and start meeting people. I suppose I COULD remain quiet during site visits/interviews, but I know that I have way too much energy to just sit still. I tend to be a bit hyperactive and need to network to release energy.

      Weird, but true....

  2. Congrats! If you truly don't know what you're doing, then in the next 2 years you can figure it out. :) I guess even guys get imposter syndrome.

    1. My main problem is that I don't know the specifics of what/where I'll be, and that scares the heck out of me. Industry or academics all depend on the opportunities that present themselves in the next six months.

      And it bugs the heck out of me that it all seems so random. I hate feeling that my future depends on luck, but it kinda seems to be going that way. All I can do is hope that the seeds I've planted grow into opportunities.

      In the meantime, I'll work on becoming more patient....

      And YES, emphatically yes, guys also get impostor syndrome. In my opinion, it's a result of status (or lack there of) rather than gender.

  3. Definitely impostor syndrome. Just fake it 'til you make it. Congrats.

    1. I'll do my best to fake it, but I tend to be a very open emotional book. It's also why I'm not a very good liar, so I guess I'm OK with it :)

      Maybe I should take some acting classes....