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Fear of Failure, Fear of Success

Module by: Rice ADVANCE. E-mail the author

Summary: Keynote presentation presented by Mikki Hebl at the 2010 NSF ADVANCE Workshop: Negotiating the Ideal Faculty Position, A Workshop for Underrepresented PhDs and Postdocs in Science, Engineering and Psychology September 19-21, 2010

Career Information (591)

Required Reading (158)

Finding Employment (908)

The Big Picture (464)

Graduate School (573)

Postdocs (427)

Undergraduate Research (24)

Suggested Reading

Silvia, P. (2007). How to Write a lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing. American Psychological Association

Darley, J. M., Zanna, M. P., & Roediger III, H. L. (2003). The compleat academic: A career guide. 2nd edition. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Psyc 660: Professional Development - “survival skills” are discussed, including the ability to communicate effectively, to find and keep a job, to secure funding, publish, teach, and behave responsibly.

Figure 1
 a cartoon of two people with the caption I've tried to be passionate about my career, but my career just wants to be good friends underneath.

Why I love my job in academia

Figure 2
a scientist holding a test tube
  • Inquiry
  • Mentoring Students
  • Bright Colleagues
  • Beautiful Workplace
  • Eventual Job Security
  • Absence of Monotonity
  • Flexibility

Top Two Reasons that Other People Love Academia

Figure 3
a woman looking through a microscope



Will you also love academia?

  • What are your fears and concerns about this career?
  • Please indicate on the note cards 2-3 things that you fear about a career in academia.

Potential Fears

  • Getting a Job; Getting the “Right” Job
  • “Publish or Perish” Pressures; Grants
  • Tenure Pressures; Ambiguities
  • New Ideas; Null Effects
  • Balancing Work and Family
  • Deciding if/when to Have Children
  • Tokenism, Discrimination, Lack of Female Role Models

Figure 4
a woman holding her head
Figure 5
a woman holding her head
Figure 6
a woman holding her head

What do women scientists say about fear?

Figure 7
a woman holding an antique compass
Figure 8
Rosalyn Sussman Yalow

“[W]e must believe in ourselves or no one else will believe in us; we must match our aspirations with the competence, courage and determination to succeed. “
“The world cannot afford the loss of the talents of half its people if we are to solve the many problems that beset us.”

- Rosalyn Sussman Yalow (1921 - ) U.S. Medical Physicist 2nd woman to win Nobel Prize in Medicine, ‘77

Figure 9
Marie Curie

“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.”
“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.”

- Marie Curie (1867-1934) Polish-French chemist Won Nobel Prize twice

Figure 10
Barbara McClintock

“If you know you are on the right track, if you have this inner knowledge, then nobody can turn you off. . . no matter what they say.”

- Barbara McClintock (1902-1992) U.S. Scientist Discovered “Jumping genes” Nobel Prize winner ‘83

Figure 11
Grace Murray Hopper
Figure 12
Grace Murray Hopper in uniform

“A ship in port is safe, but that's not what ships are built for.”

Grace Murray Hopper 1906-1992 U.S. Military Leader Mathematician Educator Co-inventor of COBOL language Coined the term computer “bug”

Figure 13
Maria Mitchell

“When we are chafed and fretted by small cares, a look at the stars will show us the littleness of our own interests.”

Maria Mitchell 1818-1889 U.S. Astronomer, Educator Discovered a comet in 1847 1st woman elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Figure 14
Ellen Swallow Richards

They are so afraid we shall break down, and you know the reputation of the college is at stake, for the question is, can girls get a college degree without injuring their health.

Ellen Swallow Richards (1842-1911) First woman to earn a B.A. in chemistry.

Figure 15
Rachel Carson

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.”

- Rachel Carson (1907-1964) U.S. Biologist

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