March
2nd 2010
Resigning without regrets

Posted under: happy endings, jobs

Happy Monkey says congratulations!

In response to “Practicing collegiality, and what to do when it’s not returned,” onlooker writes,

Perhaps you have thoughts on this question: What if a [tenure-track Assistant Prof.] were to leave [a] post after [the] first year? Can one resign a TT position within a year (especially for a “more prestigious” school) without ruining . . . relationships with [hir] colleagues? Is moving quickly considered okay within the field at large or can it damage your professional reputation?

onlooker:  I’m sure that taking a more prestigious job will only enhance your reputation as a rising star in your profession!  But, I think you ask a really good question, which seems to boil down to “can I do this without seeming like I’m a complete jerk?”  My answer is yes, of course–unless you want to look like a jerk.  (I’ve done that–it’s fun!  Especially when I delivered my big F.U. speech at the last faculty meeting I attended in my former job.  But, I’m sure that others will want advice on how to make a more graceful exit.)

The fact of the matter is that some of your soon-to-be former colleagues may be resentful of you–but they’re probably the types who would have been resentful of you if you had stayed put for the rest of your career.  Most well-adjusted people will be happy for you–and, quite frankly, I always take it as a compliment when someone in my department gets offered another job, because it’s evidence that mine is not a department where careers come to die.  Assistant Professors have left my department for the University of  Toronto, the University of Chicago, and UC San Diego–so I’ve been happy for them, and proud on their behalf.  (It’s a small consolation for those of us left behind!  Please don’t take it away from me.)  Other people will seek jobs because their current location is far from a partner or family, or offers no prospects for finding a partner and/or making a family, if that’s what they want to do.  I think most sensible university faculty get it that there is no job that’s perfect for absolutely everyone.

So, how do you resign a tenure-track job without being a complete jerk?  First of all, while you’re still holding that job, try not to be a complainer.  Your colleagues who will be staying put have their own frustrations about their jobs or the institution, but no one likes to hear constant b!tching from a colleague who’s not seeking constructive solutions for hir problems.  (Nota bene:  there’s a difference between seeking advice in solving a problem, and just complaining.  Examples:  “This 4-4 teaching load is kicking my butt.  I notice that you have managed to publish quite a lot–can I ask how you do it?” versus “This 4-4 teaching load is ridiculous!  I’ll never get any research done!”)  Secondly, be discreet about your job search.  Depending on your circumstances, you might want to keep it entirely confidential unless and until you get invited on a campus interview, and then you really should inform the Chair of your department.  (If you reasonably fear retribution for merely interviewing for another job, then you may keep it entirely confidential until you resign.  But if you work in a department that has treated you decently, then inform the Chair when you’re invited to campus.)

Finally, if and when you have accepted another job, try to inform the colleagues closest to you in person.  (In a small department, you should inform everyone in person, if at all possible.)  Anyone in your current department who wrote a letter for your dossier absolutely must be notified in person, and thanked many times over for their support and generosity.  Even if you were treated badly by some colleagues, those who treated you decently should be notified in person, before you send out an e-mail over the department listserv.  Tell them how much you have appreciated their guidance and assistance, and how grateful you were to have had the opportunity to work with them.  (It’s quite possible that you got your foot in the door at the other place because your current department took a chance on you in the first place.)  You can also tell them how exciting your new opportunity is for you–but focus on what you’re going towards, not what  you’re running from.

I think this advice holds even for people who have been around 2, 3, 4, or 5 years, by the way, not just for resignations in your first year of a tenure-track job.  We all understand that sometimes the perfect job comes around right after you’ve taken another one.  (Well, for some lucky duckies, anyway!)  Again, the normally well-adjusted people will get this and be happy for you.  (Those who aren’t happy for you–or who can’t even fake it briefly to congratulate you–well, hang ‘em.  Being that miserable is a choice they’ve made, and not something you can change with some perfect language in your resignation letter or a magical handshake goodbye.)

Dear readers–what do you think?  What have I missed or got wrong?  Are there ways in which bitter, envious, and vindictive former colleagues have haunted some of you?  (When I resigned my first job, there was no one in that small department who could really harm my career–or so I think, anyway.  And that F. U. speech?  I have no regrets!  None.  I smile broadly when remembering that day.  But it’s not a course of action I’d recommend for most people.)

42 Comments »

42 Responses to “Resigning without regrets”

  1. Tom on 02 Mar 2010 at 9:11 am #

    Historiann–

    “Professional reputation” is the key for me to onlooker’s question. In my (admittedly limited) experience, my “professional reputation” exists primarily among scholars in my field, and my “collegial reputation” exists in relationship to my current or former co-workers. Since very few indeed of my current and former co-workers are scholars in my field, there’s virtually no overlap.

    Even in the case of truly outlandish behavior, it seems likely that the kind of reputation involved depends on who witnesses the behavior–unless there’s a lot of cross-talk between one’s coworkers and scholars in one’s field–which can happen under a variety of circumstances.

    But your general advice seems to be perfectly common-sensical, though of course that sometimes seems to have all too little currency in the academy.

  2. GayProf on 02 Mar 2010 at 9:11 am #

    My general advice is that you should at least stay out of the job market for one year after landing a job. Searches are expensive and people probably battled for you to be hired in the first place. The job process is basically the full academic year. So to be on the market in your first year likely means that you are submitting applications after being in your new job only a couple of months. This means you were really dishonest during the interview process by pretending that you wanted this job.

    So, I think it is a courtesy to give them at least two years. After that first year, you can at least pretend like you gave it a good try. It also means that they will at least get two years worth of teaching.

    Nonetheless, there are still reasons why somebody might make the switch that first year for all the reasons HistoriAnn mentions. In the end, there is no such thing as institutional loyalty. As I always say, institutions are not loyal to you. Just remember to be a really great colleague at your new job…

  3. LadyProf on 02 Mar 2010 at 9:29 am #

    In law schools there’s a strain of ill will when a t-t colleague quits to take another job. Quel surprise, feelings run hotter and nastier when the quitter is a woman. The dude is entitled to his promotion: Cream rises! A woman had better make some excuse about her partner (or the partner she would like to find).

    My law-related take: We have Employment At Will in this country–that is, no job security outside of unions and the academy–because supposedly a responsive, fast-moving labor market is good for the GDP. But prerogatives are for bosses who want to move fast by shedding payroll. When a worker wants to move, oh noes! That’s why the country tethers health insurance to employment, to tie us producers down.

  4. Susan on 02 Mar 2010 at 9:38 am #

    I’m with GayProf. In your first year in a TT job, you should only apply for a PERFECT JOB. First of all, you won’t have time to think about whether you are happy somewhere when you have to apply. So if it’s a top department, or where your partner is, that’s OK; but otherwise, wait a year.
    This is practical not just for your new employer, but for you. Your first year at a new place takes enough time, and job apps are terribly time consuming and tiring. So give yourself a year to *be* someplace.

    After that, all bets are off. But once you have a job, you do get more picky, because it would have to be better than what you have.

    And heed Historiann’s advice. Good colleagues will want you to succeed. Be gracious if at all possible, or as gracious as possible. And while Tom is right that the colleagues who matter most in the long term are usually in your field, you never know when you will run into someone in the small world of the academy.

  5. Historiann on 02 Mar 2010 at 9:39 am #

    LadyProf: I like your thinking! Of course, health insurance benefits being distributed by jobs and through families is a patriarchal double-whammy: it ties workers down, and it ties unhappy partners and children down to the worker, too. (Awesome!!! We only *think* that coverture ended in the 1850s.)

    GayProf, I can’t believe I’m going to write this, but I disagree with you that people shouldn’t apply for other jobs in their first year. Yes, it’s true that it’s good to give a job a chance, but sometimes the perfect job in the perfect city is advertised a month after you start a new job. I think it’s totally reasonable in those cases to apply. (Busting your new department’s postal budget to send out crates of applications to every job in the world is probably a little too aggressive, though. Think about fit and location!)

    And Tom: nice distinction between professional and collegial reputations. I think that’s a helpful way to think about it, and each person has to decide how much overlap there is between the two.

  6. squadratomagico on 02 Mar 2010 at 9:40 am #

    I’m with GayProf. Unless it’s your dream job, a position that likely will never be available again, I’d try to refrain from going on the market mere weeks or months into a new position. Most people will feel happy for the new colleague who suddenly gets an offer at Harvard or Stanford; or for someone who gets a position in proximity to a partner. However, these situations are rare, and a more lateral or only-slightly-upward move will be regarded negatively by many. It does suggest that you must have been somewhat dishonest in the job search.
    When I interviewed at OPU, I met a first-year assistant during the search who was gone by the time I arrived the following year. The person made a move to a lateral, or even slightly lower-ranked, institution because ze did not like living in this part of the country. There were no family issues; it was just that ze had spent hir entire life in another region, and immediately sought to return. Yet, ze apparently had indicated quite a lot of enthusiasm for OPU, and my new colleagues were quite bitter about hir departure.
    OTOH, none of this affected hir career. Indeed, this person went on to become a huge star. Ze moved again and is at tippy-top institution, and ze has a very high public profile. So, hir career worked out quite well in the end.

  7. Historiann on 02 Mar 2010 at 9:43 am #

    I think I know of whom you write, Sq.! No harm done indeed. (But, ze’s kind of impervious to what the professional historians think & do anyway.)

    What Squadrato and Susan said: go for the dream jobs. In this market, you never know if or when another one will come along. But, try to avoid draining your department’s printers and xerox machines of toner in your first month because you’re sending out 100 applications. (Unless people are total and complete jerks, that is, but that probably won’t be evident to you in the first month. Probably!)

  8. caroline hill on 02 Mar 2010 at 10:07 am #

    some years ago, when I’d been at a lower ranked school that had problems but where I wasn’t unhappy enough to try to move, I came to the attention of a somewhat better place thru circumstances that can remain undefined. I was ASKED to apply for their job. I asked my senior colleagues: was it fair to say yes when I was uncertain whether I would leave where I was; they said, of course. . .pursue it & see what the other place is like AND what it’s like to interview for a job when you actually have a job (ever so much better than when you are first looking, btw). So I did. I went for an interview & didn’t like it much. . .but in the interim another even better school weighed in, so I knew to say yes that I was interested, and that was the job I ended up taking. My colleagues in the original school were delighted for me. They felt that they had contributed to my success by their useful advice. If there were sour grapes I never heard any of that. I have maintained excellent relationships with them ever since and enjoy catching up with them at professional meetings.

  9. Historiann on 02 Mar 2010 at 10:17 am #

    Caroline: that’s a great story, and it’s the best of all possible outcomes. It’s wonderful that your former colleagues were so generous and encouraging, and it’s great that you’re all still friends.

    Although I miss my colleagues who have moved away, I don’t begrudge anyone for seeking other opportunities. I’m just glad that they were prepared when the right job came along!

  10. Adjunct-turned-Hobo on 02 Mar 2010 at 11:00 am #

    “Busting your new department’s postal budget to send out crates of applications to every job in the world is probably a little too aggressive, though.”

    “But, try to avoid draining your department’s printers and xerox machines of toner in your first month because you’re sending out 100 applications.”

    Completely off-topic:

    Can I just remark how disturbing these comments are when, as an adjunct, I am not even allowed access to a working printer or copy machine for course-related material, but the “real faculty” get all sorts of perks like offices, printers, paper, staples, and paper clips?

    It’s little side comments about the everyday academic workplace that can really drive home the reality of the caste system in place nowadays.

  11. Historiann on 02 Mar 2010 at 11:13 am #

    Adjunct-turned-Hobo: that’s malpractice. To be denied the use of a photocopier or printer for course-related material is absolutely malpractice. I’m very sorry to hear this.

    I think that access to office supplies to do our jobs–and even to apply for other jobs–should be considered part of the cost of running an academic department.

  12. wini on 02 Mar 2010 at 2:16 pm #

    I’m going on the market next year in a limited way. My academic spouse will be looking for a tt position, and I’ll be applying for any jobs that are geographically close to the jobs he applies to. It comes more out of honoring my partner’s career (as he has honored mine) than out of any desire to leave my present position.

    So, I have a new question. How does one go about asking people in one’s current department for recommendation letters?

  13. perpetua on 02 Mar 2010 at 5:23 pm #

    @ wini – my advice might be fairly obvious, but I would say make sure you ask someone who knows about your spousal situation and reasons for applying for jobs, someone you can trust to be discreet and to write a strong letter. I was in the same position, and got one letter from a colleague-friend in my department. I knew ze fit all the categories I listed, and it was never awkward. Ze was one of the few people in my department who was vocal about finding a solution to my spousal situation, and who actively advocated for me. Everyone in the dept. knew about my situation and no one was surprised when I left. In fact, there was a kind of resigned inevitability about it from the get-go. (Ironically, I went on the market in an effort to pressure my uni into providing a position for my partner – it didn’t work, and I ended up moving to a new job sort of against my plans/desires.)

  14. perpetua on 02 Mar 2010 at 5:29 pm #

    PS I’m not sure I could describe my resignation as “without regrets”, for the reason I mentioned in parenthesis. All this would be moot had the new contract come with a job for my partner – but it did not. Though it’s a “better” job and “closer” to my partner, there isn’t a huge difference in our lives, and no solution in sight to our commute. This is a little bitter to contemplate, esp. since I loved my old job.

  15. Comrade PhysioProf on 02 Mar 2010 at 6:54 pm #

    Historiann, I never knew you were the Emily Post of academia!

  16. Historiann on 02 Mar 2010 at 6:55 pm #

    wini–perpetua is right. Think of senior/tenured people in your department who have been your allies and know your family situation. If they haven’t seen you teach, invite them to sit in on a class so that they can discuss your teaching, and not just collegiality issues.

    One more thing: be sure to tell your referee/s whether or not you want them to mention your personal/family life issue. You may or may not want them to–so just be sure they know what your preference is.

  17. Historiann on 02 Mar 2010 at 6:56 pm #

    Comrade–heh. My F.U. speech was a work of art. I think you’d approve (although I probably didn’t work blue. If I did, it wasn’t my intention.)

    And, it felt GOOD.

  18. Comrade PhysioProf on 02 Mar 2010 at 7:17 pm #

    Have you posted your FU speech? I WANNA READ IT!

  19. Historiann on 02 Mar 2010 at 7:35 pm #

    I haven’t posted it–I don’t think it would serve a purpose. (I try to keep things here constructive and helpful to others–not just axe-grinding, as tempting as that might be.)

  20. Comrade PhysioProf on 02 Mar 2010 at 8:27 pm #

    You’re no fun.

  21. squadratomagico on 02 Mar 2010 at 8:36 pm #

    C’mon, Historiann! You can’t talk up your F-U speech like that and then not share it! Everyone is curious now!

  22. Liz2 on 02 Mar 2010 at 8:43 pm #

    I left my first tt job at the end of the first year. I arrived in good faith (I bought a freakin house for goodness sake) but my spouse absolutely could not find a job in the region. Then I was offered a visiting position for one year at a fab school (I heard about it in May and threw my cv into the ring and received the offer within 2 weeks of applying – I was NOT on the market in the fall of my first year). I asked for a year leave and was denied and then I quit. Everyone thought I was crazy and my dept colleagues were annoyed because they were all tired and hoping I’d become chair soon (talk about smoking crack – I was fresh out of grad school!) But I will say that I really admired one of my colleagues there but he’s never replied to my emails. They know where I ended up after the visiting gig and I did try to stay in touch but it didn’t happen and it makes me sad.

  23. Historiann on 02 Mar 2010 at 8:56 pm #

    As for the F.U. speech–here are a few highlights, minus description of the specific abuses by the person who was chair at the time:

    I’ve worked incredibly hard here, throwing myself into the job over the past four years: I’ve found ways of communicating effectively with my students, developed my national reputation as a scholar, and found or created service opportunities that make a real contribution to the department, the college, and the University at large. I would have been happy to make my career here, except that for the past year and a half, my efforts have not been encouraged or rewarded, but instead have been menaced or punished. I want to make it clear here today that the reason I applied for other jobs this year is that I’ve been treated very shabbily by people in this department, and that because of my obvious talent and accomplishments, I wasn’t about to sit here and take it in the customary manner.

    There is a sick departmental culture here, whereby the sins of the fathers and mothers are continually revisited on the untenured. Because many of you associate and full professors were harried and abused, you don’t see the need to intervene when you see the pattern continue so long as it’s not your ox that’s being gored. What’s the point of tenure and promotion, I wonder, if you pretend as though you’re just as vulnerable as the untenured? Although this is a History department, and many of you pride yourselves as scrupulous empiricists, many of you seem to prefer to believe nasty gossip and half-truths and slander about someone, rather than review the facts of the case and get the straight story. This aversion to open conversation and healthy debate not only makes for a difficult working environment; quite frankly, it makes me doubt your credibility as historians: are you as sloppy in your research, and do you make such ill-informed judgments on the basis of no evidence in your publications? This department has done a great job of hiring talented people, but once the contract is signed, there is a prevailing assumption of ill will and incompetence that is utterly opposed to developing a spirit of cooperation and collegiality.

    While it’s clear that this department isn’t a particularly happy or comfortable place for any of us, I think that there are some particulars about my position that bear serious consideration. Five people in the past 16 years have held this job, and not a one has stayed to tenure. From what I understand–and I’m doing research on this to make sure I get the facts straight– is that four of us have bailed out for better opportunities, and only one has been denied tenure. Now, here is something that I haven’t told any of you, not even my closest friends and advisers: over the past four years, at almost every conference, research trip, and yes, job interview that I’ve gone to, I’ve met someone who either interviewed for the job here over the past two decades, or who is friends with one of my predecessors in American women’s history here. I’m here to tell you now that this department has a national reputation for hiring ambitious young women, pissing them off, and driving them away. I don’t think that my departure this year is going to do anything except enhance that reputation.

    . . . . .

    I’d like to remind you that four years ago, when I gave my sample undergraduate lecture, I used court records documenting an accusation of interracial rape in Virginia in 1686 to talk about race, gender, sexuality, class, status, and power in colonial America. I don’t know what I could have done to make it any clearer what my intellectual agenda was in my scholarship, inside the classroom, and in the University community.

    If that’s not what you wanted, you should have made the decision not to hire me back in 1997; you don’t hire me and then tell me I have to change when it’s clear by every measure that I’ve been successful here, and that the perspective I bring is valuable and important at an overwhelmingly white, middle-class, and historically male university. Based on the history of this job and the women who’ve had it, it looks to most of us that it’s this department that has to change.

    As the Phoebe Cates character says in Fast Times, “I’ve got another version where I call him an a$$hole.” And now you all know why it’s particularly rich for me to be doling out advice about how other people can resign a job without being a jerk! (But I’m glad I “brought it” that day, March 21, 2001.)

  24. Janice on 02 Mar 2010 at 9:06 pm #

    Please to let your dean & department chair know as soon as it’s confirmed so that they can get cracking on attempting to get your position filled when you leave and not wait until the last legally mandated moment to inform the university because you feel it’s awkward to say goodbye. It’ll be a hell of a lot more awkward for everyone if a bunch of courses have to be cancelled for the forthcoming term simply because a replacement hiring couldn’t be arranged on the short notice given. Do you really want to be remembered as “that PITA” or “the great scholar who taught at our humble U for a spell”?

    Remember that the discipline is a small world so upon your departure, don’t go burning bridges unless you really have serious and worthy cause to do so. I understand your “no regrets” viewpoint, Historiann, but I have heard people say some nasty things about previous situations which seems to be more bravado than not.

  25. Historiann on 02 Mar 2010 at 9:13 pm #

    Janice-to be clear: this was something I did 9 years ago. I would not do it now. I’m quite happy where I am.

    I think your advice is good to folks leaving one job for another–yes, don’t delay. (Although in this climate–good luck in getting permission to run another search!)

  26. LadyProf on 02 Mar 2010 at 11:09 pm #

    Awesome speech, Historiann. Did anyone there listen? Who’s now in the America women’s history slot you abandoned? Are you in touch with anyone still working in that department?

  27. Comrade PhysioProf on 03 Mar 2010 at 4:50 am #

    Damn, now *that* was a fucking faculty meeting! You should have ended with, “And, furthermore, you all smell like ass!”

  28. Historiann on 03 Mar 2010 at 5:45 am #

    LadyProf and CPP: Oh, yes–it was probably the most interesting meeting I’ve ever been to! They listened, but then immediately claimed that my speech was proof that I was just a b!tch and never intended to stay there anyway. (I also put a copy of the speech in their mailboxes, so that the record was clear.) They hired a new women’s historian, and I believe she’s even tenured now, a mere 25 or 26 years after the tenure line was opened. I’m not in close touch with anyone there (surprise!)

    I knew I wasn’t going to change any minds–I just didn’t want to be the only person in the room who was pissed off. Departments like that count on silence and acquience and (in women, above all) politeness. Well, I tried playing nice, and it never got me anywhere there.

  29. Matt L on 03 Mar 2010 at 6:01 am #

    Great Speech Historiann! It does not surprise me that the recipients immediately dismissed it. All the more reason to be gone.

    Its too bad that the AHA can’t put an embargo on dysfunctional departments: “No more junior colleagues, conferences, or national research grants for you until you bozos shape up.” That department at the very least deserves some public shaming.

  30. Perpetua on 03 Mar 2010 at 6:38 am #

    Janice’s remark is good advice, whenever possible. Of course, if your reason for applying for a new job is spousal-related, it’s worth it to give your home institution time for a counter-offer. I had a particularly supportive relationship with my chair, so I told him when I had an on-campus somewhere else, and the second the offer came through. It helped that ze knew I was interested in staying at Original U. I guess my point is that the rest of the department, and even the chair, aren’t necessarily hostile forces from whom all information must be kept. Use your instincts and experiences with the place to determine levels of information. Of course if the environment is toxic, nobody is owed anything, except a version of H.’s rockin’ speech!

  31. wini on 03 Mar 2010 at 7:52 am #

    Thanks everyone! My adviser has also said this will be okay, but it still feels weird to me to be both totally committed to my program AND on the market. Thankfully for us, he’s in a post-doc at my current institution and in a field where he could work outside of the academy, so we’re not actually physically separated.

    My biggest concern is that I will voluntarily quit/leave academia because of my impostor syndrome, and I’m working with a professional on that issue. I have some rational fears (the long-term viability of the humanities especially for someone not-yet-tenured versus the long-term viability of my husband’s solar-energy research) and a lot of irrational ones.

  32. Susan on 03 Mar 2010 at 8:11 am #

    @Wini, just remember that given that solar energy is hot, if your husband is offered a job it is relatively cheap (in terms of start up costs etc.) to add a spousal hire in the humanities. And all I can say is that if my university were offering us a humanities person to accompany a spousal hire, we’d be after you like a shot.

  33. Historiann on 03 Mar 2010 at 8:58 am #

    Get over your imposter syndrome, Wini. It disproportionately afflicts talented women. (And strangely, some of the d00dz who really should suffer from it suffer instead from inflated esteem. Funny, that!)

    Susan: I actually know of a case of this happening this year, amazingly enough. (A STEM man’s job offer became a spousal offer to his wife in the humanities.) And, it’s not from a super-duper research U., either–it’s from a well-regarded regional state U.

  34. wini on 03 Mar 2010 at 12:39 pm #

    @Susan. We’re crossing our fingers. I think it’s a possibility, depending on the school. I’m at a R1 flagship right now, and I’m hoping that I’ll look good to schools.

    @Historiann Keep on saying “get over your imposter syndrome.” Seriously, I was giving into it last year and I finally had a good friend give me a talking to. I’m seeing a therapist and talking through a lot of my anxiety, which can be paralyzing. I feel like I’ve made real progress, and I feel like we/I need to be telling other women to work on getting over it. My name is Wini, my ability to internalize achievement is broken. Nice to meet you.

  35. Z on 03 Mar 2010 at 2:40 pm #

    If you’re not happy, go on the market. I knew my first job was the twilight zone in the first week. I insisted on giving it a year before deciding to go on the market. As a result I had to stay two years, not just one, and I am still repairing the damage being there and trying to “give it a chance” did me.

    If you’re all right, don’t go on the market. In my second job many felt they deserved to be at a good R1, not a bad R1, and were on the market. I wasn’t unhappy even though it wasn’t perfect, but I followed the fashion of being permanently on the market like many of the rest of my colleagues; this just wasted time and energy I could have spent renovating my house or something.

  36. John S. on 03 Mar 2010 at 2:42 pm #

    @wini–impostor syndrome can be pretty f***ing rough. I’ve had some serious bouts with it during my time as an assistant professor. It is paralyzing; I was able to shake it off enough to get my book done in time for tenure (just barely!) but it was a very close call. It still hits. Just today I had a friend at another university email me asking for advice about a job he’s been asked to apply for. My first thought was “why are you asking me? You *must* know someone more knowledgeable!” The I realized that yes, I was able to say something useful.

    If I could share something small I’ve learned here–hard fought self-knowledge that I only got from *many* talks with my therapist–it would be this: in my case, my impostor syndrome had a very social dimension. I was certainly susceptible to the phenomenon, but the dynamics of my department greatly exacerbated it. It took a lot of prodding from my therapist to make me realize that some of the toxic members of my department were acting in ways that were undermining me. (Or, more accurately–I responded to their actions by devaluing my own sense of professional worth.) In other words, I had plenty of help in nurturing my well-developed sense of impostor-hood. Other people subtly–or not so subtly–treating you like you don’t belong doesn’t make you an impostor. Stepping back and seeing that bigger picture really has helped me get a batter (and I think more realistic) sense of where I stand professionally.

    (@Historiann–and yes, some of the worst offenders were d00dz who should have occasional crises of confidence, if only to balance out their wildly overinflated sense of self.)

  37. Digger on 03 Mar 2010 at 2:53 pm #

    Thanks for the post, Historiann. My “under advisement” pile is growing; I’m itching to be out of where I’m at, but don’t want to burn bridges, either.

    The fact that no one whooped “YOU GO GIRL!” during your speech is absolutely proof positive it was more than time to get the hell out. Too bad everyone else there was so invested in The Broken.

  38. Historiann on 03 Mar 2010 at 3:13 pm #

    Digger–it was like an alcoholic family. I played the role of the bad child who wanted to name it and talk about it. But it was much easier to ostracize me and deny the crazzy. (And it was crazzy!)

    I don’t want to sound like I was always 100% right, and everyone else there was 100% wrong. But, it was my first job–I was 29 years old. I made mistakes along the way–but looking back over some of the records lately, I’m proud of the fact that I pushed back when I was treated unfairly. I don’t think anyone can fault me for that. (I was reminded of some of the game-playing and information-withholding that went on there. It was a serious mindfrack.)

  39. Comrade PhysioProf on 03 Mar 2010 at 3:24 pm #

    Whatever the opposite of imposter syndrome is, Comrade PhysioProf’s got it. Pompous douchebag syndrome?

  40. Historiann on 03 Mar 2010 at 3:27 pm #

    Serious PDS! Hehehe.

  41. Indyanna on 03 Mar 2010 at 9:55 pm #

    Wini,

    Most everybody has/(had) a touch of the imposter syndrome in this business. I “walked on” at a high-end G-school, without money; played my way onto the TA team; screwed up orals-comps in about as many ways as you could do that–without any back-up writtens; hired and fired committee members like an LSD-crazed TV station manager/news director; hung out and hung around; dropped out, dropped back in; wrote essay chapters of more different potential dissertations than you could shake a map pointer at; dropped out again, then came back with a signable dissertation in a field I never took a course on! [I'll ask Historiann not to post on the *next* Long March phase that came after that first long march!]. Got a job and so was the only member of my 30-person entering cohort ever to talk on the tenure track. Was I the smartest one in that bunch? As y’all say around here: heh. (Was the survivor-d00d sitting in seat 31D on the downed plane the best passenger on the manifest?

    Double-heh!

  42. Indyanna on 03 Mar 2010 at 9:59 pm #

    p.s. Sorry. “ever to WALK” on the tenure track. Everybody talked. Heh.

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