Meeting researchers we admire is one of the best parts of being a PhD student, the chance to hear about exciting new findings, and run your own ideas past the people who edit the journals you fantasise about publishing in, and generally get yourself known to those who might offer you research collaboration and job opportunities in the future. The worst thing about high achievers? Looking at their CVs.
However irrational it might be, I somehow can’t help but look up the CVs of people I admire, and directly compare myself and my achievements to these high flyers. Somehow my tres-high impact, lonely, single publication in Journal of Environmental Psychology starts to look incredibly dubious next to double-digit Psych Science articles. Media mentions in the Bundaberg News Mail look a little lame next to The New York Times. I start to question why I’m here, to feel like a fraud, and wonder if I will ever succeed in academia at all. A perfect example of the optimally de-motivating upward comparison, or so I thought.
I mentioned these feeling of inadequacy to my supervisor. How the sight of the endless lines on superstar CVs sometimes make you feel like assuming the foetal position on the floor of the office and ignoring your dubiously consistent data altogether. She laughed at me, and proceeded to assure me that many of the most successful academics she knows were on the verge of tears after perusing the CV of one recent international visitor. It turns out that practically no one is immune to the hazards of CV envy; that us postgrads should relax and not worry about comparing ourselves to unbelievable levels of productivity and brilliance. I found this thought comforting for about 5 minutes. But soon the urge to plan new studies, pursue collaborations and apply for overseas awards took over. When I look around the department the other postgrads also seem too busy getting started on that new line of research, pitching their papers at top journals, and applying for prestigious overseas conferences to dwell on their academic inferiority for long. Perhaps a little CV envy doesn’t hurt after all.
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