“Not enough” syndrome or “more than enough” reality?

good enough

Imagine that while doing your PhD, you are invited to give a talk or a presentation in a business organization. Obviously, the topic is connected with your area of study, however, you are only in the early stage of the research, and you don’t feel that you know ‘enough’ to actually deliver the task to the highest standard. Does it ring a bell?


I call it “not enough syndrome’ – our inner thoughts and speculations whether we still need to learn something more to present our work. Do we need to have ‘better, or more specific findings’ in order to share our wisdom to the outer world, do we need to read more, talk about the research more, prepare more, remember more,……….and the list continues?


Even before starting my PhD, I often thought that I already know a lot and that I’m ready for the opportunity to arise where I could share my insights with someone else – especially, in the professional context. On the contrary, since I started my PhD, I have realised that there is so much more to be learnt, read or done that I cannot ever be ‘now’ to share what I know. At least not with the professionals who are more experienced then me and have much more practical knowledge. Just recently I’ve been getting the opportunity I used to wait for – chances to actually collaborate with experienced business people – and share my insight or expertise on the topic.


Now, this is interesting – an expert. Am I an ‘expert’? I am aware that, by the end of a PhD journey, I should be expert in particular area of my research. However, I’m only a 1st year PhD – does it still count as an ‘expert’? I am sure that I am not alone in these thoughts. Given that the first year is mostly focused on literature and methodology of the field, it is obvious that we all can feel as ‘imposters’ in the field. We discover how much stuff is going on there, how many debates/discussions we could discover and take part in, and how we actually don’t know much comparing to the ‘established experts’ in the field.


Conclusion One: from our perspective, we are only ‘newcomers’ in the field who don’t know much. But does it matter?


Now, let’ see how people in the ‘outer’, or ‘real’ world might perceive us, PhD students. Firstly, PhD is by definition the highest academic achievement. As we have already started our journey, that proves that we have the skills, abilities, intelligence and perseverance to accomplish the highest level of education. Actually, that is per se admirable and I came across many people who really have a great deal of respect towards people pursuing their PhD. More interestingly, these people really think we are some kind of very smart people who need to know ‘everything’. It seems that we might be perceived as “good enough”, or even “more than enough” experts to tackle some interesting business issues. Hmmmm…….


Next, many business experts didn’t have a chance to pursue higher education qualification. Although they are successful in their work and they know the industry well inside-out, they could absolutely benefit from some ‘theoretical’ insights and perhaps a different perspective of their work. Would they like to collaborate with you – a PhD researcher? Well, why wouldn’t they? They would respect your desire to explore theoretically and empirically what they actually do in practice. The results could always provide another significant insight into their work and perhaps suggest better ways of doing it.


I still wonder how can we recognize ourselves at the point of being ready to tackle the industrial challenges. When do we cross our imaginary line between “not enough” and “more than enough”?


Share your thoughts with me and let’s prepare ourselves for the real world, out of the academic ivory tower, and apply our knowledge and expertise.




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