There’s a myth floating around somewhere that graduate students are full of ourselves and that we assume we’re ready to take on seasoned professionals in our field at the first opportunity. While I’m sure this type of grad student exists (or used to and has since gone extinct), it has very much not been my experience. No, my experience has tended in the other direction—I tend to suffer from the Imposter Syndrome (is that a real thing? If not, I declare it a real thing right now!) and get twisted into pretzels of nervousness when I have to interact with the seasoned professionals in my field who I am sure know better than me about just about anything.
But conferences—and that’s where you find the most seasoned professionals in one place—are a necessary step in your graduate career. You have to go and it’s important that you don’t make a fool of yourself and/or do the ever-popular wallflower. As Dr. Karen Kelsky says in her article for the Chronicle, “Cultivate a professional persona as a young scholar. That persona is separate from your previous identity as a graduate student and is, instead, confident, assertive, sophisticated, and outspoken.”
It’s intimidating to raise your hand during the Q&A after the keynote address. It’s rough for us naturally shy people to set up a coffee-date with more famous people who were on the panel with us when we presented our paper. It feels icky to have to send e-mail reminders to people you asked to meet up with a month in advance. But these are things that you must do.
And they get easier with practice. Probably.
About the Author
Bessie McAdams, Ph.D. Student, English
Published in: Student Voices