Imposter Syndrome: A Graduate Student Mindset

I am a female computational chemist, and I have imposter syndrome.


Imposter syndrome: a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishment and a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud.

I was in denial until very recently.

I'm was the midst of applying for professor jobs. I was writing and editing research statements and teaching statements galore; tuning my CV to each job call, drafting cover letters, documents that were all chock full of my accomplishments over the past five years of my career. And yet.. a little voice inside my head says "you are wasting your time."

But wala! I received my first phone interview! ... Oh dear.

And that little voice returned: "I'm not qualified for this job. I do not understand the field as well. I need to impress these folks with something magnificent that up until now I have not come up with... Oh I know! I'll talk about this software that I eluded to in my research statement but did not have the space to explain. I should also go back and read papers in this and that field because what if they ask me to explain the pedagogical theory that supports this software design?"

And then the skype interview came... I'm not quite sure what happened. I came away from the interview believing that I balked.

What I remember most is looking into my computer screen at four older white male faces, and each one looking back at me, with what were unmistakably confused expressions. I assumed I wasn't making much sense. That little voice returned and screamed "Just smile! Smile and they won't see that you are terrified and you don't know what your talking about..." Wait! No! Shoot! I DO know what I'm talking about! I have evidence in my CV to prove it!

Well naturally, since my mother (god bless her) taught me good home training, after the interview I immediately sent emails out to all the people on the committee, thanking them for their time and wonderful discussions, and letting them know that I remained interested in the position. I did this will the full expectation of receiving nothing in return. This is how academia works. Professors are all too busy to email back a lowly graduate or postdoctoral student... huh, perhaps this is impacting student's psyche?

And yet I did receive an email back, and from the chair of the department no less!.. wait... what?!

And the email stated: "​​Thank you very much for your message and for sharing your impressive accomplishments and interests with us. We will be in touch soon."

I did not feel proud or excited about this. I felt mostly confused. My knee jerk response was to question it. Was this man patronizing me?

And THAT is when it hit me.

I am a female computational chemist, and I have imposter syndrome.

#chemistry #chemist #impostersyndrome #interview #science #jobs #research #career #CV #resume #STEM


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