Much of my work in university administration currently revolves around committee work. For the past few weeks I have enjoyed the experience of observing some pretty high level committee meetings, and I have immensely enjoyed developing a deeper understanding of university governance and decision-making.
However, today I got the opportunity to give a brief presentation to a committee with very senior academics and managers. In the past, the mere thought of having to speak (on an unfamiliar subject) to such senior and well-respected people would have filled me with dread and led to sleepless nights!
Now, I am a very shy person. Before my PhD presentations were very difficult for me, and I tended to shun activities which put too much attention on me. I am an introvert to my core (and as an aside, I am currently reading Susan Cain's Quiet on the value of introverts in today's extrovert-ideal-driven focus - I do plan a blog post on being an introvert in the workplace).
The pressures put on PhD students to teach and present and network forced me into those uncomfortable situations. If I wanted to succeed and get that academic job, these were things I had to do in addition to my thesis. Now, the fact of the matter is that I didn't pursue an academic career immediately. But I have put those presentation and teaching skills to use. Over the course of my PhD I taught university tutorials, international summer schools, and language students. I presented at international and graduate conferences, and informal seminars and groups.
The result: confidence in my belief that I can stand up and deliver information to anybody! The only thing that can scupper my success is me. So, last night I slept like a baby even though I knew I was waking up knowing that I wouold be talking to a rather daunting group of people. My PhD has instilled that belief in myself that I didn't have 4 years ago! Rather than obsessing over my perceived inadequacies, I now trust that, so long as I have prepared, my doctoral experience will get me through the task!