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From the Northeastern Section of the ACS, focusing on career management and development
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04/11/12
Recent graduate in a new role. “Impostor syndrome”
Filed under: First Year on Job
Posted by: site admin @ 5:49 pm

In this week’s class another series of questions were
asked.  One was:  “Once we have our Ph.D., what
are some tips for combating “impostor syndrome?
The question went on: “i.e. still feeling out of place
because we’re not used to being the expert in the room.

Impostor syndrome, as I perceive it, is a feeling that
people perceive when their accomplishments are not
connected to their efforts, insights or intelligence in
their own minds.  Individuals are not convinced that
they deserve the credit they have achieved.

FIRST:  THIS IS MORE COMMON THAN YOU THINK
When I first began work at the largest company in
the world at the time, it kind of felt like that.  I tried
to feel my way around and probably made a few
blunders as I felt like I was blindfolded, while everyone
else worked with full sight. 

Later I found out that my boss’s boss felt the same way.
He contacted me and asked me for inside information
about how things were when he wasn’t present in the
labs, in small office gatherings and group meetings.
I will never forget the dinner he and I had to talk about
this.

SECOND:  MEN AND WOMEN FACE IT
It is not, as my boss’s boss example portrays,
a phenomenon mostly in women.  The difference
between men and women seems to me to be that
women admit it and men’s egos erase it.

Certain educational systems may have something to
do with not employing critical thinking and falling back
to more traditional “didactic” thinking, where students
are taught what to think, not how to think.

There are certain helpful strategies that help us
manage the strange feeling of being expected to know
the answers.
One is applying the concept of “critical thinking.“ 

Richard W Paul’s book, “Critical
Thinking:
  What every
person needs to
survive in a rapidly changing world,” 
points out people seeking, asking questions and
learning for themselves.

So, tips for overcoming the impostor syndrome might
involve applying critical thinking and, secondly,
understanding limitations associated with
disabilities of 
systems thinking, which often
constrain us.  Focus more on perceiving situations
as more complex and less linear.

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