Am I good enough for a career in science

Am I good enough for a career in science?

Are you among the many scientists who wonder, “Am I good enough for a career in science?” Every young scientist suffers from these negative thoughts. You have worked hard to contribute to the scientific community and feel you are not good enough. This sense of doubt makes you feel you are not good enough for a career in academia.

Where does this nagging feeling come from?

Am I good enough for an academic career?

Am I good enough for a career in science?

Many young scientists suffer from this condition, commonly known as impostor syndrome.

Impostor Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon where individuals doubt their accomplishments and fear being exposed as a “fraud,” despite evidence of their success and competence. It’s characterized by feelings of inadequacy, chronic self-doubt, and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any sense of achievement or external proof of their competence (Abramson, 2021).

People experiencing Impostor Syndrome often attribute their success to luck or interpret it as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent or competent than they believe themselves to be. This syndrome can affect anyone regardless of their job, achievements, or social status, leading to stress, anxiety, lowered self-confidence, and, in severe cases, depression.

You may wonder, “Why am I not good enough?” The vague feeling of “not being good enough” is fed by different sources.

Like most people, you may be a little bit messed up by your parents. They may have given you the feeling that you are not good enough. You may still attempt to prove that you are enough by trying to achieve excellence and collecting accolades.

In addition, as a scientist, you get continuously evaluated via scores, impact factors, h factors, citations, and grant money raised. As a result, you may wonder, “am I good at science – at all?”

Thus, there is frequently somebody who is “better” according to the bibliographic metrics without considering all the other aspects of our complicated lives.

Group of competitive scientists that do not feel good enough for an academic career

Often, you are unfairly compared to scientists who 

  • are much longer in the business
  • have more support/money/infrastructure
  • do significantly less teaching
  • have not taken a pregnancy or parental leave

Despite these disparities, you may be successful and still feel that you are not good enough for an academic career. And I know many, many senior scientists who still feel and behave like that.

In addition, you might experience abuse by a narcissistic supervisor who may promote your feelings of inadequacy.

Are you good at science is not really the question. In contrast, you lack clarity about your goals!

You need clarity to get rid of impostor syndrome!

The first step is obtaining clarity about your career and your future. Ask yourself, do you want to pursue an academic career – or not? Do you want to become a professor or not?

If you can not answer this question, I recommend getting some inspiration here:

Do you really want an academic career?

To get clarity, it is necessary to analyze your chances. Only 3% of PhD holders and about 10% of all postdocs become professors. You must determine whether it is worth it to become a professor.

Sometimes, it is not enough to determine, “what am I good at?” and “what are my interests?”. If you feel you should invest more in finding clarity about your career in science, please enroll in my course Find your dream job in science.

Scientist with a vision

To help you decide, imagine the following two scenarios:

Scenario 1: I do not want a job in academia!

Imagine you realize, “I do not want a job in academia!” This would be great! 

Now, you can focus on the skills that make you attractive or “good enough” for a more suitable career, for example, in the industry or social sector.

This will quickly resolve the vague feeling of not being good enough because you are not comparing yourself with the wrong role models (e.g., professors and academic star scientists).

Scenario 2: I do want a career in academia!

Just imagine you realize, “I definitely want to pursue a career in academia!” This scenario is also great! 

Now, you can systematically focus on qualifying and increasing your chances of getting tenure

This will also resolve the vague feeling of not being good enough – because now you know what to focus on. As a consequence, your chances to succeed will dramatically improve. 

To do that, you should determine precisely what is needed to become good enough or even outstanding for an academic position. With more clarity about the strategy and the skills you have to learn, you will less and less wonder, “Why am I not good enough?” and get more and more self-confidence – because you have a well-structured plan.

In conclusion, if you feel you are not good enough for an academic career, you likely lack clarity. Either you have not decided which career path you want or have no clear idea of what is necessary to qualify for an academic position. As a result, you will develop the feeling “I am good at science” – because you know what you are doing.

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If you need help to develop a clear idea of which career path is right for you, enroll in the course Find your dream job in science. This course will help resolve your uncertainty and allow you to finally focus on your future.

If you need instructions on pursuing a successful academic career, you may enroll in the course How to become a professor. It comes with expert advice and guidance on navigating your path to a successful career in academia.

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