The night before I started my new job in student affairs, my thoughts were a jumble of excitement and self-doubt. “What do you think you’re doing?” “What if they decide your experience and skills are not up to their expectations?” And worst of all, “How can you be so sure student affairs is the right path for you?”
As someone who is new to the student affairs field, I felt the full force of imposter syndrome when I started working at a new health sciences university in my hometown. Last year, I worked a job I did not particularly enjoy and dreamed of finding my true purpose in the field of student affairs. This year I fulfilled the millennial prophecy and moved back home with my parents to regroup, save money, and start fresh my professional ambitions to work in student affairs. Much to my happiness, after a few months I found a great job in my desired field. Things were looking up.
But then imposter syndrome reared its ugly head, and I found myself doubting my abilities and qualifications for the job. Imposter syndrome, especially in women, is somewhat of a buzzword these days. Essentially it means that you think you do not deserve to be in your current role, you are under-qualified, and you somehow tricked others to think you have great attributes and accomplishments – an imposter!
I felt like an imposter because I had not directly worked in student affairs before. Though my previous job gave me many skills and confidence that I could perform well in my new job, that nagging self-doubt that I was an imposter lingered on.
Fast-forward three months later and these past months of event planning, monthly admissions cycles, and other professional challenges have taught me that I am many things, but an imposter is not one of them. I am hardworking, I am intelligent, I am reliable, I am diligent in my work. And it shows. Nothing terrible has happened at work due to any fault of mine. I’ve received mostly positive feedback from my supervisors, but I know I have a lot more growth to do. Yet, overcoming my imposter syndrome in my new role in student affairs has taught me a few important things:
I am not expected to be perfect
As much as I try to be a perfectionist in my job, mistakes do happen. For example, part of my role requires me to assist in the coordination of admissions interviews, and it was recently brought to my attention that I did not properly distribute some of the admissions-related materials to members of the admissions committee. I was a little embarrassed about it, but no one was angry with me. In fact, my supervisor has told me on many occasions that she is impressed with my work overall. I’m still learning the ins and outs of my job, and I am not being held to an impossible standard by any means.
I am allowed to ask for help
In previous work experiences, I felt inferior about asking for help because I didn’t want to appear stupid to my coworkers, but in the field of student affairs, collaboration is key. There is no way you are going to put on a student organization resource fair (like I am doing this month) and not require some help from others. Luckily I have a great support system of coworkers and supervisors who are more than willing to help me set up for my event, help gather supplies, coordinate communication with student organization leaders, and more. I have learned that asking for help when I need it does not mean I am dumb or unworthy of my job; rather, it is a sign that I care deeply about my success and can identify areas in which I may need improvement.
I deserve to be here
Back to my nagging doubt of that student affairs may not be the right path for me, I am happy to report that I love my job in student affairs. I love interacting with the students in small ways and making their days a little better with my helpful nature and natural cheer. I love going to work in a place where I feel supported and valued, and I am helping to make a positive contribution to the overall success of our students. All of this makes me realize that I deserve to be where I am. Imposter syndrome, you will not be missed!
> BONUS <
Podcast With Kevin Kruger on Avoiding Burnout in Student Affairs