As an assistant professor, especially in the first couple of years, so much is new. It’s easy to feel as if we’re never fully prepared for anything. And how could we be? We’re doing things we’ve never done, often having received little instruction or guidance. Expecting ourselves to “just know" how to do something—and to do it amazingly well to boot—defies logic; yet that’s the standard we often set for ourselves.
The academic culture perpetuates this myth. To many senior faculty members, newly minted PhDs are at the top of their game. They arrive on campus with the latest theories and methods fresh in their minds, filled with energy and enthusiasm. While that may be true, this ignores the benefits of experience.
And experience is gained by doing. By taking action. By giving it a try, even if we desperately wish we could take one more hour or week or month to get it right.
This is not to say that we should rush into everything or to minimize the importance of careful consideration and training. It’s just that we’re academics. Thinking and educating ourselves is not something we need to be reminded to do. And with so much emphasis in academia on educational pedigree, we can easily fall into the trap of believing we aren’t qualified to do something unless we’ve taken a class from the most prominent thought leader on that particular topic.
Where does this leave us? For me, it comes down to balancing the importance of formal preparation with the value of taking action, and asking how we might show up fully no matter how ready we feel. I share a few reflections on these tradeoffs in an earlier post.
In the end, I think it comes down to trust. Trusting in our own abilities and judgment, and, importantly, trusting that we’ll be okay even if we fall flat on our faces.
Trust me, we will.