A Recovering Imposter

Last week I took some time away to power down and enjoy one of my favorite cities. The trip was anything but ideal, but I’m reminded that I’m lucky to be able to afford to travel and to get to know other areas of the world amidst so many economic and political challenges here and elsewhere.

I returned to work and have been working diligently to catch up and to move the needle on some things before our December break. This means a lot of emails and meetings. Increasingly during these interactions I get asked to review something from outside my organization, to sit on a panel, to share my expertise.

As academics we are taught to question everything, critically read the literature, and that our thoughts are not original (in other words, cite everything). I think a small bit of self doubt is healthy, but even years later sometimes its hard to reconcile our academic training with our professional experience – we do know things now and have the experience to back it up and we do have opinions that are outside what we can find in a text book. I consider myself in recovery from imposter syndrome, though it creeps up now and again. This seems to contradict the perception that many millennials think they know everything and are ready to jump in full steam ahead.

I bring this up now because of couple of the meetings I had this week included some interesting professional opportunities. The first is to serve on the board of an organization I only just came to know but now work closely with. I support their mission and the executive director is quickly becoming one of the most enjoyable people I work with. This will be my first board service and something I’ve been thinking about for several years.

Another potential opportunity is to submit a book chapter for consideration in an edited academic manuscript. I regrettably spend little time writing and it’s something I miss a great deal. I should carve out some of my personal time to do it, but since it’s not a priority of our organization, I find other things to fill my time.

The final item that came up yesterday included the opportunity to be involved in a couple of conferences as an invited speaker. I think that this is the biggest change in my professional life. I adore attending conferences – the travel, the networking, the learning. This year I’ve attended a number of conferences as an invited speaker which means I didn’t have to go through the refereed proposal process. Sometimes my registration fee is covered but I still have to pay for travel, or rather my organization does. Once my travel expenses start getting covered, I’ll know I’ve made it.

I’m grateful for these opportunities for a few reasons. One is that I hate, and I mean hate, writing a conference proposal. There’s no standardized format or compilation of content that you’re expected to produce. It also takes a lot of time in between other priorities. Another reason I’m grateful is that it allows me to represent my organization and support the work of our partners. It is also validating to know that people respect what we are doing and believe that I know what I’m talking about. When I’m invited to speak rather than submitting a proposal, the amount of time I spend preparing is exponentially greater. But let’s keep that between you and me.

I have my hands in many pots right now – with individual institutions and with associations and networks. Its necessary because one of the major challenges to the success of our organization is increasing awareness. But I also get to use these relationships as a classroom. Learning from institution and association presidents is a masterclass. It’s more than I ever could or did learn in graduate school. It also gives me greater clarity on what I might want to do professionally in a few years.

Until next time, I hope everyone has a great holiday. There may or may not be a post next week – we’ll see if I get inspired by my time working remotely.

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