On imposter syndrome
Just before Thanksgiving, I had the pleasure of speaking on non-academic employment and job hunting at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature. I was both happy and disappointed by the large turnout for my talk, happy to get to help people, but sad for it's testament to the continued recession for academic careers. Several of the attendees admitted that they'd prefer an academic position, but were skeptical of pursuing just those positions, and were looking to hedge their bets by applying for non-academic positions.
I feel like disappointment and pragmatism have become the common atmosphere for more and more events in the humanities, and while I completely understand why, as I tried to convince the people in my workshop, I think this because atmosphere is contributing to people's continues struggles.
Now, don't worry, I'm not about to go all Pollyanna and claim that positive thinking will fix all problems. The academic recession is real, and job hunting, whether in the academy or outside of it, is challenging. However, in order to be successful, it is absolutely required that you keep a positive opinion of your own skills and abilities. It's not just important for your own mental health; being able to talk comfortably about your skills and accomplishments should make up the bulk of your cover letters and resume.
What struck me as particularly surprising in this session was just how little a room full of PhDs and soon to be PhDs felt they had to offer by way of skills and accomplishments. I think somewhere along the line, we were all brainwashed into believing that all anyone cares about is your h-factor, and that's it! Publish or perish isn't even 100% true for academia, but outside of it? Having the organizational skills to develop and execute an entire research program, and the research and communication skills to produce a thesis? That is not something anyone wandering in off the street can do. Sure, those skills will need to be refined and focused for non-academic purposes, but as a starting point, PhDs have a tremendous wealth of skills to draw from, if they'd just recognize what those skills are.