Monthly Archives: August 2013

Dealing with my Impostor Syndrome

Impostor MaskTHAT feeling… That horrible feeling that there is only a limited time until people realise that you don’t know what they thought you did, or expect you to… That soon people will uncover that you are not qualified or smart enough to be in the position that you are. As many people have previously identified, often in academia (and life) people feel like impostors in their studies or jobs. I don’t need to talk much about it, as there is so much info out there about the impostor syndrome. See related articles at end of post for more reading.

The impostor syndrome is something that is brought up in PhD training sessions I have attended that have been run by the university and, if you are lucky enough to have someone that you are comfortable enough to share the feeling with when you have it, is discussed between people in academia. We know that lots of people are affected by it, but different people deal with it in different ways.

I know that my personality can at times tend towards the negative and so for me, if not kept in check, the imposter syndrome can cause me to stop working effectively, as I second-guess all my work. For me, the “fake it until you make it – just be confident and soon you will feel confident” mantra just does not work for me. If I don’t feel confident, I don’t know how to pretend to be confident. There are a number of other things that people have discussed in overcoming your impostor syndrome, such as looking at your fears, analysing your success, keeping your sense of humor, and taking risks. For me, these things seem so implausible as options to change how I feel, because of how I feel. I need actions and external cues to help me stay on track.

So I have come up with a few ways of dealing with my impostor syndrome. These are just things that work for me and I would love to hear how other people work through the dark days. Sharing ideas and helping others see they are not alone is one of the aims of my blog, so feel free to leave me a comment, or if you are a bit shy, to email me.

1. Motivational posters – I have done a google search and come up with a few slogans, quotes and images that are motivational for me. I have these surrounding me at work and home; I have them set up on my computer background, my screen saver and around my office space. My favourite ones tend to come from Dr Seuss!

2. Getting feedback from others – Now, often I don’t believe what people say to me, about me, or about my work, but it does make me feel better about myself to have it in front of me when I’m second-guessing my work. The feeling will be dependent on the respect and relationship I have with the person. Just the other day, someone who I see as a mentor and who has done so much for me both professionally and personally in the last year, sent me an email responding to some good news. Her words made me glow. On a day when I wasn’t feeling effective, these words picked me up.
“Well done Holly, I’m so pleased with your professional development and focus towards your academic career”.
I know that having those words and reading them when I am having a bad day in the future will, at the very least, promote renewed effort, if not confidence in my ability to carry on.

3. Avoiding Procrastination and Perfectionism – I am a perfectionist. Mostly, I think this is a positive for my chosen career, however there are times when it can cause crippling lack of progress. Sometimes I can spend hours reading and editing a paragraph, trying to get it perfect. At the other end of the scale, there are times when I will do anything I possibly can to avoid starting something, because I have no confidence that I CAN actually do it. So I put it off until I can find the confidence to start. In both of these instances, I need to be very strict with myself. I do allow myself time to try improve on something, but I am working on drawing a line of when to stop working and ask for help. When I notice that I am procrastinating from working on something, I try to break it down into smaller tasks, so that it is less overwhelming. I have also tried just starting on it, and my confidence grows as I see something appearing.

These are the ways that I deal with my impostor syndrome. Please let me know when you feel it, and how you deal with it when it comes.


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Getting a PhD with a scholarship..

how-to-applyAs those of you who have started reading my blog know, I plan on beginning a PhD next year. As scholarships and PhD positions seem to be quite competitive, I am spending a bit of time trying to make my application stand out from others.

To aid my application for PhD I am taking the second half of 2013 to work as a research consultant and research assistant. This semester I am doing work that will help my skills as a researcher, which will aid my application for PhD and hopefully to get a scholarship, and help me to be successful at doing my PhD.

I have given myself a few things to do this semester and I’ll hopefully be able to write about those experiences too. I have decided that there are three things that I need to work on to develop my application – research experience, publishing and industry engagement


It was important that I got some paid work, and I was lucky enough that the ECU School of Business required some research assistant help. I am working approximately two days a week as a Project Manager/Research Assistant on a major combined food experience project. This research project is a combination of seven sub-projects, which will culminate in a survey covering food shopping, food choice, preparation and consumption of food. This project is giving me the opportunity to work with a number of academic staff, in fields from recreation through to economics, and allows me insight into a wide range of project types.

Another research project that I am working on is looking at gaining an understanding of sport participation and recreation. This project is with David Russell and the “Rippa Sports” Consultancy Company, working with the Department of Sport and Recreation and five state sporting associations in Western Australia to understand how sports can create an environment where recreational participants are welcomed. So far the project has had a focus group with association representatives to understand how they can engage ‘sport recreators’ and what the benefits would be to the sport and to the individual. The second stage is a survey of current sport association members and a similar survey of sport recreators who are not engaged with the associations. Reports will be completed for the Department of Sport and Recreation and for each of the state sporting associations.


Having work published is key to academia, and having some work published will show my desire to conduct research and my ability to write for academic journals and that I can conduct research that withstands peer review.

I am working on getting my Honours project published. This is currently at the stage where my supervisors get to do their, hopefully final, work with me as an Honours student.

The first Phase of the Sport recreators project, the workshop, has been completed and results written. I have started the journal write-up of this piece of work.


The plan is for the sport recreators work to be finished and all reports submitted by the end of this year. This work will show my ability to work with industry businesses and that I can write reports that have ‘real-world’ meaning.

I hope that with the three above areas covered I will be able to move into my PhD smoothly (and hopefully with a scholarship), with proven ability to work at the required level and with some small measure of success to start me on my way.

Hello to the beginning of my academic career!

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Research to start research – The confusion of finding a PhD Supervisor

slider-search-for-a-supervisorRecently I have started getting organised to start my PhD in 2014. I have decided that there are a few things that require my attention in order to start off positively.

The supervisor-student relationship is very important to the success of a PhD, so firstly, I need to find supervisors who I ‘click’ with; supervisors who will be around to support me when I need it, who challenge me to keep going when I feel like an impostor, who are knowledgeable in my field, and who will direct (teach) me. Added to this, I want to attend a university that is supportive of PhD students, where I have the opportunity to lecture and tutor; where I can advance my experience in teaching, the other part of being an academic. Finally, I am debating how important the location is. I want to be around friends, and that begins limiting the locations that I am willing to move, as I have only lived in three states of Australia.

My research of potential supervisors has begun with a check through of the people I referenced in my Honours thesis. There are not that many in Australia. I then looked further and researched on the internet which Australian universities offer Sport Management degrees and therefore may have academics who research and teach in my field.

I am talking to academics, in particular my Honours supervisors, who can recommend particular people who they have met at conferences. This gives me some direct feedback on personalities, which relates directly to how I might interact with them. My Honours supervisors know me and can tell me what potential supervisors might be like as supervisors.

The next step is actually contacting potential supervisors. I have been reading blogs and information online about what to do and what not to do. This is quite a scary step for me, as I am extremely concerned about my choice. I am choosing people who I will be working with for the next three years. I am stressed about making the right decision and making the right impression.

I would love advice from people about what to look for, what their experiences have been like and, from current academics, what you are looking for – what would impress you.

In the meantime, I’ll keep doing my research!

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