Are you at loose ends? I’m at loose ends. I have a number of projects on the go but I am not doing a good job of organizing them. I am steeped deep in impostor syndrome as I try to figure out how I will contribute to my family and my community in both the immediate and distant future. Since beginning my doctoral program I have felt that all I’m good for is literature searches and giving presentations, and that nobody would want to hire me for those things.
As I consider what to do next, I find myself wishing that my last full-time job were still a thing. Of course if it were, I might be in it. It was my dream job, an alt-ac position as Managing Editor/Public Communications Specialist for a web-based university outreach program serving K-12 and, later, B-16 educators. It was a great hybrid example of what Emilie Wapnick calls a “group hug” job, which leverages several of a person’s interests, and a “good enough” job, which still leaves a person time and energy to pursue interests outside of work. I ended up leaving it to go to grad school, after institutional priorities shifted and all of my immediate colleagues were either laid off or transferred to a different department. But had it stayed the same, I expect I would still be there now.
As I’ve asked myself who has a career path that I admire, I find myself looking to people with alt-ac careers who have started their own businesses. Some maintain their on-campus alt-ac positions while others go full-time with their own business. Examples include Dr. Katie Linder and Dr. Margy Thomas. They’re both incredibly generous about sharing their experiences and advice. And at first I thought, “I gotta get that alt-ac job before I can move into my own thing.” Then I remembered: I already had an alt-ac job, and that job is exactly the kind of work I want to have again. So the next step seemed to be nailing down what the activities associated with that job were, so that I can position myself to build a career that involves them again.
Fortunately, I have a Google Drive folder full of documents from that time, so I was able to go back and look at what I did. When I learned at those documents, I realized:
Impostor syndrome is nonsense. I know how to do many different things. I am a person with skills who can complete projects and collaborate with others. I am not just a literature search robot.
Here are the kinds of things I did in that job:
Those are all things I would love to do again, and I have no professional commitments this summer and am on the market for positions that fit that description right now. If you need a person who does those things, I can consult for you; if you have a job for a person that does those things, please feel free to email me at kimberlyhirsh (at) kimberlyhirsh (dot) com and let me know.
In the meantime, I’m going to approach my current projects with this renewed sense of my own competence and by implementing some of the tools I used to use. I’m Managing Editor of my own personal organization now, and I’m going to start acting like it.