When a New Job Leads to Imposter Syndrome

4 min read
© Ok Sotnikova | Shutterstock

Source: © Ok Sotnikova | Shutterstock

Several months ago, I landed a job as an adjunct instructor at a small private college. I was to teach one class which just started this week, an Introduction to Counseling class. The administration was looking for people with clinical backgrounds to teach in its new Human Services degree program, for which this course is required.

I interviewed with the chair of the department, was hired, and went through the onboarding process, learning how to navigate the blackboard system from the faculty point of view. I got an ID badge and parking pass should I ever have reason to go on campus. I was provided with the super-thick textbook, in which I need to keep up with the readings so I could answer any questions the students may have.

I must mention that this class is asynchronous, which means I don’t actually have to meet with the class either in person or virtually and lecture. The reading and written assignments are posted on a Blackboard system. The students—there are about 20—are expected to post comments on a discussion board, and I’m supposed to comment on their comments about twice a week. I grade each assignment for each class (the class runs for eight weeks). I also hold virtual office hours for an hour each week where the students can drop in and introduce themselves, ask questions, etc.

What could be so hard? I don’t know. As I started to do some of the work on the backend of the Blackboard system, write my profile, add my photo, write a welcome note to the students, and develop a schedule for due dates for assignments, I began to wonder if this was something I could handle, especially on top of working 11 to 12 hours a day at my day job. I wondered when I would have time to do the readings in the textbook, post the comments, and read and grade 20 assignments each week. I began to doubt myself and my abilities. I knew there was a name for this: Imposter Syndrome. “People who struggle with imposter syndrome believe that they are undeserving of their achievements and the high esteem in which they are, in fact, generally held. They feel that they aren’t as competent or intelligent as others might think—and that soon enough, people will discover the truth about them.”

When I was onboarding, the department chair asked me if I was available in the evenings, and I answered honestly that I wasn’t, as I see clients in the evenings for my day job. As I gave my answer, though, my heart started to race because I intuited that she was asking me if I would be free to teach in the evening and I don’t think those classes are asynchronous. Which means I would have to teach live—either virtually or in person on the campus—in front of students. There is a reason I didn’t become a teacher and that is because I feared being put on the spot, not knowing the answer, and looking stupid in front of a group of people. This would be a nightmare come true. I fear she will ask me again.

How is imposter syndrome treated? One study from 2021 reported positive results utilizing cognitive processing therapy. In a post here, Ellen Hendriksen provides some tips, including:

  • Know that the feeling is normal.
  • Remind yourself of all you’ve accomplished.
  • Seek out a mentor.
  • Remember it’s OK not to know what you’re doing.
  • Expect initial failure.

I don’t know if I’ll get any feedback on my performance until the end of the semester in February. That feedback will be if I’m asked to teach again next semester. And then maybe I’ll be able to put my imposter syndrome to rest. Until the next time.

Thanks for reading.


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