why, brain, why?

I’m finishing up an awful, imposter-syndrome encouraging, prestigious position application.

I came up with a list of references, one of whom has to be arms-length from my work and collaborations. I came up with a list of reviewers who would be reasonable experts to evaluate my work, one of whom I respect greatly but have never met.

In sending the list of references to my chair, who requests the letters, I had a moment of insanity and decided the respected-reviewer could make a good reference, and suggested them.

They have NEVER MET ME. And now my chair has already requested a letter of reference from this person, whom I respect, but whom is unlikely to agree to this (and if they did, unlikely to actually be a good reference). Upon thinking of this with growing feelings of dread, I:

  1. Emailed my chair and asked as to the status of the request, explaining this may not be our best choice. Answer: it has been made, but he has not heard back from this person. Likely because they are critically confused. Chair suggests we wait til Monday (he’s at a conference), and reach out/let them off the hook. This is an awkward position for me to have put my chair in, and I look like an idiot
  2. Emailed the person who should actually be a reference and asked him if he is willing, because now we’re only giving him three weeks warning (and one of them is American Thanksgiving).

Then I went to bed and stressed. I woke up this morning – no reply from the potential referee yet, and I feel vomity and sad. I don’t know what I was thinking, but now find myself up against a deadline when I have had MONTHS to accomplish this. MONTHS.

Not to mention that my inability to come up with a solid, arms-length reference who is an established expert in my field speaks volumes about my eligibility for this ’emerging expert with national and international collaborative network’ award.

Pea is certain this will work out, and that the awkwardness of relieving a request for reference is not a big deal to my Chair – just an administrative email to send. I think it is VERY awkward and that the Chair doesn’t know me well and now I look like a total spaz. Pea admits this is embarrassing for me, but possibly nothing more than that. I do not have any clarity on this yet, I am mostly just feeling sick and panicked.


5 thoughts on “why, brain, why?

  1. rainbowgoblin

    Oh dear. You should take up meditation (I don’t meditate, but I have a friend with moderately severe anxiety issues who says it’s been amazingly helpful for him). I think this is one of those situations like a really bad talk that no one but you will remember in a millisecond or so. I would be feeling sick and shaky and sleepless about the whole thing, but that’s not the thing to do. You’ve done all you can to fix it, now you need to step back, take a deep breath, and remember that this actually won’t seem like a big deal to anyone else (how would you react in the position of the chair or the referee? Puzzled, but then you’d completely forget about the whole thing the next day? )

    1. labmonkeyftw Post author

      I should find some way to hijack my anxiety when it starts to spiral like this, because there is nothing I can do (although I’ve gotten another idea of a reference from my current boss, and have emailed them about taking the role as well, so I feel a bit better with two pans in the fire).
      I think I would be confused, were I the reference or the chair. But not for more than a minute and then something else would come up. So it’s probably ok but good grief, I’m an idiot.

    2. labmonkeyftw Post author

      Aaaand then everything was fine. Ta da! Correct reference requested and agreed. Gah, I’m an idiot, but it will not burn me too badly this time. Plus I feel many many times better for having this resolved.

  2. Turia

    Spiraling anxiety is the worst. The worst. But honestly, the worst that will happen with the potential referee is s/he will say no and will then not think anything more about it. It must be hard in science to find appropriate people at arm’s length given all the collaborating you do. So I don’t think it means anything about your suitability for the position that you had some trouble thinking of the right person.

    And your chair gets a billion emails a day. S/he really won’t care. It will all get sorted out.


    1. labmonkeyftw Post author

      I need a way to exist in a space where there is something legitimate to be stressed about, but I can’t at this moment DO anything about it. To put it aside, rather than just worrying at it like a dog with a bone.
      Everything has sorted itself out. Reference A never wrote back, so we’ve asked Reference B instead, and my chair doesn’t seem all that ruffled about it. Mostly just happy I’m reminding him to send emails as appropriate.
      So that’s good and I feel 800x better than I did this weekend.


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