All my life, I have been told that people are creatures of habit. I am no exception to this rule – I have some routines that I would be hard-pressed to break, whether it’s eating dinner while watching Jeopardy every night or walking a favorite route on campus to get to the ResLife office. While these habits are harmless, there was once one in my arsenal that I am not proud of, and it took a lesson in confidence to kick it.
In years past, my bad habit was falling victim to the imposter syndrome. It happened every time I took on a new community or position. Caltech’s Counseling Center website defines this phenomenon as “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true…” Feeling like a fraud who has tricked people into believing my abilities, chalking up success to good luck, or downplaying my accomplishments are classic ways this manifested itself.
When I got my first full-time Hall Director position, I was elated. I’d spent months on my search and was excited to move to a new place and start making an impact on my students. Because I was such a late hire, though, I was only able to receive two days of training before the RAs arrived. With so little time to understand the nuts and bolts of my position, I started to question if I could do the job. “Have I bitten off more than I could chew?” I thought, “How will I know how to supervise a team? Are my residents’ parents and colleagues going to take me seriously? What if I never catch on? Are they going to regret hiring me?”
Through conversations with my supervisor, co-workers, and friends, I got the reassurance I needed to assuage my fears. Everyone told me that these things just take time. Sure enough, with each passing week, I found that I was understanding the role better, developing my personal style, speaking up in meetings, gaining confidence and asking for additional projects.
Recently, I have started reminding myself of little mantras to reinforce what I know to be true – that I am a competent, qualified Student Affairs professional and that if I am getting a call for a phone interview, it’s because I EARNED it. Having led search committees, I know that we reach out to the people who we think would bring something special to our team, our students, and the university. It’s taken time and practice to shift my paradigm, but it has been well worth it!
If you are embarking on a job search or transitioning into a new role, know this: Transitions aren’t always smooth; there are bound to be bumps in the road. When you hit one, it doesn’t mean that you’re an imposter or not good at your job – it means that you are human and may need to ask a question or two to find your footing again. Don’t let it break your confidence. You did not get to where you are by chance – you worked hard and it paid off. Your references sang your praises because you’ve demonstrated that you are a good employee and they have faith in you.
Though nightly trivia meetings with Alex Trebek are still my favorite habit, reminding myself that transitions can be tricky but that I can get through them with my own merits is a very close second.