There are lots of questions on here about dealing with Imposter Syndrome throughout the whole Ph.D. experience. I have struggled with Imposter Syndrome throughout my whole Ph.D., but was able to manage it through a supportive adviser who thinks the world of my work. However, this is changing now. I am on the job hunt (graduating this spring with a Ph.D. in applied mathematics - my research is sort of straddling the line between applied math and computer science, although my masters and bachelors are both in pure math) and I am focused on teaching-oriented schools, and have a diverse teaching background (with overwhelmingly positive teaching evaluations).

I have applied to many jobs. I have gotten a decent number of first round interviews (phone, skype/zoom, conference interviews at the Joint Math Meetings) but only one on campus interview so far. And still waiting to hear back from them (probably not the top candidate judging by the time). The job most interested in me right now is a job I was qualified for with just my masters - and I only have unofficial word on that, hearing things through the grapevine. There has also been countless rejections of the form-letter variety.

Sorry for the rambling. Long story short, I struggled with Imposter Syndrome through the Ph.D., was built up by a supportive adviser and finally was feeling like I actually did belong in academia, and now the complete lack of job prospects is just making me feel like it was all a mistake somehow. Somehow I slipped through this far, but nobody will actually want me on faculty.

Those of you who have been here before - how did you personally deal with feeling not good enough after all this work? The way I'm feeling is interfering with me finishing typing my dissertation, because I'm feeling like there is no point. How can I snap out of this enhanced imposter syndrome?

  • 3
    Well, blast! I don't have an answer, but I do wish you the very best. Do not forget that you're not an imposter. That Ph.D. is the real deal.
    – Bob Brown
    Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 3:33
  • Do you expect to get a faculty position right off your phd? What about applying for post-doc or part-time lecturer? Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 5:05
  • 2
    I have seen countless awesome people in CS leave academia (some voluntarily, some because they had troubles finding a faculty job). Rest assured your ability to score a faculty position is not the ultimate metric whether you "belong" to the scientific community.
    – xLeitix
    Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 12:31
  • Thanks all. And @herman toothrot, read "faculty" as a person in academia that is not a student. Yes, I should've specified not just tenure-track in my description (although the majority of the interviews I've had have been for tenure-track positions). However I would not consider a part-time lecturer position. Full-time, sure, but not part-time.
    – mathkb8
    Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 14:09
  • Looking for a job does not change the answer, so I have voted to close as a duplicate. Commented Dec 25, 2019 at 6:38

3 Answers 3


Actually user Bob Brown has the germ of the answer in his comment. Having imposter syndrome doesn't mean that you are an imposter. It is a mental condition, nothing more. There are many such conditions that can serve as handicaps at your stage of career. Extreme introversion is another. Even, oddly, is breaking your leg so that travel becomes impossible for a while.

How do you deal with these things? The answer is "Every day, little by little".

Imposter syndrome affects how you feel, but it doesn't have any necessary effect on what you do. You can become the success you'd like to be if you just act as if you don't have these feelings. "Fake it till you make it" is actually good advice for such things.

You need to send out letters and get letters of recommendation and make your case for your success in a job whether you feel confident about it or not. So, just do that. If you also feel like it is just a waste of time because you aren't worthy then it will only become a self-fulfilling prophesy if you let the feeling affect your actions.

But if all you need, right now, is to feel better about yourself, then I'd suggest going back to that advisor and asking for her/his most honest assessment of your skills/position/prospects/whatever. Just a little dopamine hit to keep you smiling while you write those dam' letters.

My issue, actually, was the extreme introversion thing. It held me back until I got some advice that said "ignore it". Act like an extrovert. It was hard and took a long time, but few people other than my spouse think of me as introverted anymore.

In your case, just ask yourself, how would I act if I weren't an imposter? Then do that.

(every day, little by little)

  1. You need to pump yourself up. Concentrate on your positives and don't think about your negatives. If you are more confident, you interview better. It won't change something radically (if you are not competitive), but it will help you on the margin. Plus it feels better.

  2. The job market is a more objective and larger data assessment of you. So it is natural that you may be concerned, especially versus a comforting advisor. But look at it as a challenge. If you go at it head on, you do better. Nothing to lose anyhow.

[Good luck.]


I don't have the experience of applying for professorships/postdocs but many of my friends did. They are mostly in math or applied math. ALL of them applied to postdoc first, even if some of them are graduated from top US school. Many of them landed a postdoc position only after sending out 100 applications. None of them go straight into professorship.

Just my 2 modest cents.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .