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Author Topic: First interview, impostor syndrome, and getting on with research (or plan B)  (Read 28976 times)
baleful_regards
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« Reply #30 on: April 07, 2012, 11:51:26 AM »

Faking confidence work? Oh Hecks Yeah.

I do it all the time. A literal "You can do this" before I walk out of the hotel room..or stand up in front of an audience to present.

That isn't to say that I don't need to rest for a day afterwards, since I focus so MUCH energy on Faking it. Today is a nearly all Bed Day to replenish the reserves I depleted in the two days of interviews.

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diffyq
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« Reply #31 on: April 07, 2012, 11:53:05 AM »

I mean, do you become more confident (after you've taken time to recover)? Is it ultimately energizing?
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baleful_regards
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« Reply #32 on: April 07, 2012, 12:09:51 PM »

I think so, Yes. For me it is because I have done it...with no major Greek tragedies occurring. Everyone still has their eyes, I haven't married my father etc.

Therefore, I CAN do it again. 

It's the repetition which deepens the groove in your brain.
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erzuliefreda
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« Reply #33 on: April 07, 2012, 1:32:02 PM »

I struggled with crippling anxiety and depression in graduate school, for several logical and other less logical reasons. In the interview process, I thought I did very well at my conference interviews. Later, though, our SC chair told me that I wasn't perceived as engaging or confident enough--they ranked me 4th out of 12. Luckily the top candidate refused the campus visit invite, giving me the open slot, where my teaching abilities (garnered through hardscrabble adjuncting) won me the job. (I rather wish they hadn't told me this story, because of course, it was a blow to my confidence!) But I am very confident now around my department, since I've been working with them for 4 years. I know them well enough to know that they are often wrong, and their opinions don't matter all that much to me now.

I say this because I think you can succeed even if you never become the master interviewer. Ironically, the candidates who project the confidence that some of my colleagues love in interviews then become cocky jerks to work with. Interviews are an artificial environment. Luckily, if you can become confident and/or lucky enough to make it past that stage, that skill becomes less important to your success on the TT. I am an excellent professor, even if I am not a great interviewee.

I wish you all the best on the market.

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polly_mer
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« Reply #34 on: April 07, 2012, 6:07:05 PM »

I mean, do you become more confident (after you've taken time to recover)? Is it ultimately energizing?

In my case, yes.  I used to vomit every time I had to speak in front of a crowd (defined as three or more people who should only be watching my presentation).  My master's proposal defense was painful all around because of my lack of confidence in front of a crowd.  After watching that, my graduate advisor gave me the best advice ever--practice everything until you're sick of it, then practice two more times.  He has sat through more of my rehearsals than I care to think (probably more than he cares to think as well).  Even now, I will often practice a major new presentation three or four times to an empty room until I feel confident in delivery.  I wasn't kidding about getting a snarky person to help; my final rehearsal is often in front of the snarkiest person I can press gang into service.

At this point, I can tackle the world after rehearsal, but I still get nervous before every talk and while I haven't vomited in a while, I definitely took a lot of deep breaths alone in a restroom stall during my last set of interviews.  Like Balefulregardss, I tell myself "You can do it" before every phone call, every interview segment, and every presentation.  Some days, I have to say it before every class as well.  Success does breed success and even failure gives the confidence of "They asked me questions that were too hard and laughed at me, yet I'm still alive and one person in the audience asked me for more details about my interesting work".  Success or failure, yes, I then have to have a good bit of recuperation time, but that is lessening the more that I do.

Remember, courage is being scared and doing it anyway.  I don't know too many TT professors at big name places who fall into Erzuliefreda's category, but I know many scientists at non-academic places or not on the tenure track who are solid scientists, but who don't change jobs because the interview process is not their thing.  They are good at what they do, but the stars need to be aligned for them to wow a set of interviewing strangers.

One thing I recommend is joining Toastmasters or taking all the workshops you can find.  Confidence of this sort can be taught using the wearing-a-groove-by-successes method.  Get a supportive audience and practice, practice, practice.
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diffyq
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« Reply #35 on: April 08, 2012, 11:16:31 AM »

It's great to know that speaking and interviewing will feel better with time.

This experience has obviously brought my insecurities about my future research and place in the field to the fore, and that's the kind of confidence that most needs to increase. Am I sufficiently original? Can I develop the technical expertise to carry out these plans? Are they poorly posed? Will the needed collaborators come forward? These are all questions the SCs will ask of me, and I'm still asking them of myself. I have a not-too-bad track record, but I also have painful failures that make me doubt my ability. From day to day, I'm never brimming with professional confidence. I need to avoid the self-fulfilling prophecy: uncertainty discourages me from pursuing my questions as aggressively as I need to.

The good news is that the interview is also an opportunity for me to test ideas in front of peers and potential collaborators. I can learn from their reactions instead of speculating solipsistically, and their feedback should help me improve not just my interviewing skills but my research approach. I will be valiantly faking it in the meantime, but I hope there will eventually be a long-term improvement in confidence (from interviews, talks, etc.)--or at least an eventual acceptance and end to worry. I wonder too the extent to which not being disciplined about looking confident when talking with peers and labmates might affect my self-perception. I definitely conceal most of my insecurities, but I don't go the whole nine yards (powerful posture, reducing disclaimers 99%, etc).
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polly_mer
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« Reply #36 on: April 08, 2012, 2:02:04 PM »

I wonder too the extent to which not being disciplined about looking confident when talking with peers and labmates might affect my self-perception. I definitely conceal most of my insecurities, but I don't go the whole nine yards (powerful posture, reducing disclaimers 99%, etc).

Why don't you do the things you know you need to do?  That's not snark, but curiosity.  If you know that you are in a status-conscious place where you should bring your A game in appearing confident, what is the benefit to you in purposely being weak?  Examine your assumptions because I can tell you that being strong enough to be rejected for being a b*tch or a steamroller or something is much less disturbing than being weak and being rejected anyway.

For example, you can make disclaimers that don't sound weak.  "This research is in the early stages, so be harsh on it" is a position of strength in a way that "I'm not really sure here, but maybe, it could be, possibly X, based on preliminary data" is not.  

"Tell me what you think about this new idea.  Be brutally honest" is a position of strength in a way that "I've got a wacko idea, but please don't be mean to me because maybe it's not very good" isn't.

Cry in private if you must, but be strong when among people.  Doing that does give strength to be strong with less conscious effort.

Your homework assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to go read biographies of people who are now considered giants in scientific fields, but were not appreciated in their early careers.  Start with people like Maria Goeppert-Mayer and see what being too shy in speaking up does for you.  Compare those biographies to someone like Thomas Edison who is famous in part for trying a bazillion times to refine other people's ideas into commercial items.
« Last Edit: April 08, 2012, 2:03:21 PM by polly_mer » Logged

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diffyq
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« Reply #37 on: April 19, 2012, 7:30:37 AM »

I recommend running out and buying Anna Fels' book Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women's Changing Lives.  It is about this very dilemma.  It's important to put this in perspective and realize that it's not about you personally.

Done with my first homework assignment (yours next, polly_mer). This is a fantastic book that helps me place my professional development in a more institutional/cultural context. Thank you for recommending it, hegemony. For anyone else reading this thread who's tempted to get the book, I say to go for it.

Thanks to everyone else for the suggestions here. I've been keeping them with me and using many.

I'm going to start at least thread over in the tenure-track forum to try to attract anecdata on some of the issues raised in the book.
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tinyzombie
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« Reply #38 on: April 19, 2012, 7:41:26 AM »

I think so, Yes. For me it is because I have done it...with no major Greek tragedies occurring. Everyone still has their eyes, I haven't married my father etc.

Therefore, I CAN do it again. 

It's the repetition which deepens the groove in your brain.


This is fabulous.
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diffyq
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« Reply #39 on: April 19, 2012, 7:50:58 AM »

polly_mer asked some nicely nagging questions:

Quote
Why don't you do the things you know you need to do?  That's not snark, but curiosity.  If you know that you are in a status-conscious place where you should bring your A game in appearing confident, what is the benefit to you in purposely being weak?

I've been thinking a lot about these questions. Hypotheses:

1. I feel like a probable failure, so it's not worth the effort.

2. I'm slightly angry at the cliques and politics around me and am in some sense rebelling against them.

3. Psychological inertia. (a) I downplayed accomplishments throughout childhood to fit in. (b) I don't like that people care so much about seemingly superficial accomplishments. [Insert childhood emotional scars.] (c) I worked for a while in another culture where I really had to be deferential and self-deprecating as a female and a foreigner to get anything done at and outside of work. This was before grad school, and I can still feel this mode getting switched on semiconsciously around certain people and in certain situations.

4. Crazy hypothesis: A recent study has demonstrated that women given testosterone are significantly less apt to cooperate in joint tasks where cooperation is to their benefit; the reason they don't is that they're more sure of their opinion. I worry what the psychological effects of my having been on oral contraceptives (which reduce testosterone levels) for ~15 years might be. (http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2012/01/27/rspb.2011.2523)

The bottom line is that I'm clearly too scared and not giving myself a fair shot.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2012, 7:56:54 AM by diffyq » Logged

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polly_mer
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Have you worked on that project today?


« Reply #40 on: April 19, 2012, 9:07:45 AM »

I'll tell you something that helped me and you can consider whether it might help you.

At some point, the light dawned that no one was ever going to give me official permission to be the alpha dog.  One of my mentors put it earlier as "If no one knows what you are doing, then they cannot come to you in your capacity as an expert.  You must toot your own horn as loudly as the data allow." 

Instead, people got to be an alpha dog by acting as though they were an alpha dog as a default mechanism and being unabashed by the occasional smackdown.  While I used to cringe at watching people do that (don't they know how embarassing those smackdowns are?), observation showed that those people tended to have far more success and far few smackdowns than I expected.  Indeed, as I watched a few people across a couple years, they were smacked down less and less and were being treated as rising stars.

Well, doggone, they are not better than I am, so I started putting myself forward and getting smacked down every so often (yeah, that was a great moment when the entire room at a conference laughed rudely at one of the explanations in my talk of why I wasn't being a moron by using this particular theory).  However, after a few years of doing that, people do talk to me as an expert in particular areas and do seek out my opinion.

Even on these fora, I went from newbie who was smacked at every turn to having reasonable status just by virtue of sticking around, modifying my behavior a bit in response to the smackdowns, and continuing to put myself out there.

You might want to try that, because I guarantee that no one will come find you to give you permission to be the expert if you are too quiet and don't show yourself to be on the road to being an expert.
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diffyq
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« Reply #41 on: April 19, 2012, 10:20:23 AM »

You might want to try that, because I guarantee that no one will come find you to give you permission to be the expert if you are too quiet and don't show yourself to be on the road to being an expert.

This makes complete sense. Synthetic cojones ftw.

I totally admire that you've transcended the occasional smackdown. Also, I like "Well, doggone, they are not better than I am..."--I need to adopt that belief more strongly with myself.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2012, 10:24:46 AM by diffyq » Logged

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macadamia
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« Reply #42 on: April 19, 2012, 11:11:22 AM »

As has been said, repeated rehearsing helps.

Some exercices in a workshop that I found helpful involved doing something painful (for example putting your arm horizontally pointing as much to the back as you can and then holding it there. The point is to concentrate on *exhaling* "through the painful spot" while your muscles are trying to cramp up.

The idea is that by repeating this exercice you practice to react to nervous cramping with exhaling. (You cannot speak properly if your breathing is cramped up.)

My public performance got completely turned around when I was at an oral competition as a high school student and while I only guessed the answer from context, I decided to pretend to be sure and it felt very liberating. Singing also helped.

If you don't seek out situations like this, you will just have to accept that your first job interviews will be less than optimal which is not the end of the world, either.

People will not force you to seek out these situations, you *have* to do it yourself. I have pressure a female student to do something she thought "she was not good enough for". My male colleagues told me that while I was probably right, they felt men just couldn't pressure a female student like this.
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lowerninthward
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« Reply #43 on: April 19, 2012, 11:40:25 AM »

Might I posit an addition to our hypotheses regarding the willful underselling of oneself as posed by polly_mer?

In a talk given by Brene Brown for the TED series she mentions coming to the shocking realization that she was engineering her research life in order to stay "just below the radar".
This concept dumbfounded me as I personally have some very promising research which I am petrified to polish up and submit, hereby causing my publications to be between weak and nonexistent. I personally may be guilty of this practice as each year the sting of professional shame and rejection causes me that much more aversion and fear. If I cannot get over his I will not be able to advance as an academic. I am working on it and open to suggestions.

http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_listening_to_shame.html


~lnw
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marigolds
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« Reply #44 on: April 19, 2012, 5:34:16 PM »

This is going to sound simplistic, but whatever.

Stop trying to figure out WHY you're not doing The Thing (or why you ARE doing The Thing You Should Not Be Doing), and just start doing it.

Take a risk. Be vulnerable (isn't that a big part of the shame TED talk?) I promise, it won't kill you to be laughed at, or to make a mistake, or to look foolish once in a while.

This is how Polly overcame her stuff, it sounds like--she faced the fear and did it anyway. It won't be a Greek tragedy. After all, they can't eat you.

So stop asking how and go try some stuff. Read one extra article this weekend! Send off that article that you don't think is quite perfect yet! Do something embarrassing in public for no reason!
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