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  • Anna

Do I look fifth to you?

"Do I look fifth to you?" is the last sentence I said to Jay tonight.

I was babbling about how much I hoped I wasn't the second choice for a job I was selected to interview after an external screening of candidate profiles, which was of course well over five.


I could feel I hadn't been chosen, but I still hadn't seen the document with the procedure that led to the decision (in favor of another candidate) and the "ranking" of the candidates. After a couple of weeks, the email with the process and the decision arrived.


I was not the second choice, but the fifth. Out of five!

(well, out of many more, but as a chronically self-critical person I keep asking myself why others have been considered "better" than me!)


What did I do wrong?


I actually had two job interviews this year. One for an associate professor position, the other for a UNESCO R3 officer. Two very different works, which, however, I read in the same way. "I miss this".


"I lack teaching experience" for the associate professor position.

"I lack experience in general" for the Unesco position.

"I lack winning big grants" for both.


Actually there is something more I miss. Do you know imposter syndrome? I am a queen. In both cases I was chosen for an interview. However, in both cases I immediately thought I was the least qualified of the chosen candidates, and I prepared and managed the interviews based on that.


Luckily I have courage! And those around me help me go further. But you don't always have my luck. If someone with my level of imposter syndrome were to find themselves surrounded by people trying to limit their creativity, undermine their confidence, or if they were alone, then they probably wouldn't be able to find that courage.


I had never realized this difference (in the academic world!) between those who are loved and appreciated, and those who have to climb infinite mountains to make it. A researcher from the Earth Science Women's Network discussion group mentioned it some time ago. She said "It seems that during job interviews they can understand that I had a s***** childhood. Everyone who has made it in scientific research has families who love them, and who care about their success" .


So far, no one has been able to prove her wrong.


In the Södra Djurgarden, one of Stockholm's beautiful parks, there are panels and sculptures that educate us on sight (this refers to an exhibition in the ethnographic museum).



I talked about kindness during my last interview (the professorship). They asked me one thing we need most in research. Instead of talking about technical things, I thoughtlessly said "kindness". I argued that if we want to go beyond scientific discoveries and make those discoveries understood, used and shared, we need kindness, more collaborations and less eagerness to "win". I would add, kindness would also help reduce bias about those who, unlike people like me, don't have a family and a happy past to support them.


When I think of twenty-year-old "me", I remember so many questions, and so many ideas about who, how and where I could have been and would have become. As to where, by now you know, I have many doubts. But about who and how, I am sure: she would be happy to know who I am.




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