Friday, July 02, 2010

My interview with My Gifted Girl

If you're not already a fan of My Gifted Girl on Facebook, I suggest you become one! This community looks at nurturing the gifts of girls and women of all ages. And, as a side benefit, is currently running a Q&A with me about 168 Hours, and gifted girls/women generally. Here's a taste of the interview:

Q:What advice do you have for gifted young women who are just beginning careers?

A: Many gifted young women flounder as they transition from college to career because work is not like school – and gifted girls are often good at school! In school, if you do a project according to the teacher’s specifications, you’ll get an A. If you finish all your assignments and pass your tests, you’ll move to the next grade. The real world isn’t like that. You can definitely move backwards. You can do everything exactly right, and still lose your job because your company is in the middle of a slump. There are no right answers in the back of the textbook. Sometimes, no one even knows which questions are important! You have to be comfortable with a lot more uncertainty. But once you embrace that uncertainty – and realize that most people don’t have any better clue what’s going on than you do – you can soar.

Q: What are your thoughts about how impostor syndrome can impact our time?

A: When you lack confidence in your abilities, it’s easy to waste time on things that you think may “prove” to the world (or yourself) that you deserve space on this planet. This leads to the SuperMom problem. If you’ve decided to take time out of the workforce to raise children, you may spend a lot of time showing people that you’re still a high achiever by volunteering for school projects only a martyr would take on or enrolling your kids in every activity available. If you’re working, you may try to over-deliver on the job on things that don’t matter (writing a dissertation when your boss wanted a memo) or constructing hand-made Valentines for everyone in your second grader’s class (to show that you’re still a good mom).

In general, you should spend most of your time on three things: nurturing your career (which includes keeping a hand in your profession if you’ve stepped back for a bit), nurturing your family, and nurturing yourself. If something doesn’t fit into these categories – for instance, a volunteer project you’re not passionate about – then it’s probably not a good use of your time. Somebody else can do it better. It will take your attention away from the things you do best. Unfortunately, imposter syndrome has us doing a lot of things that aren’t good uses of our time.

6 comments:

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

You seem to be very negative about volunteering for anything. Perhaps you should add "nurturing your community" to your list of things people should be somewhat concerned about. Of course, the true wins are when several goals meet: family, profession, community, and self all benefiting.

Laura Vanderkam said...

I'm not negative about volunteering. I volunteer myself (as, until recently, the president of a choir here in NYC). I include this in the "nurturing yourself" category because it's good for the soul. However, I think that we have to be careful about volunteering -- better to throw your energy into one cause in which you can make a difference, rather than five, which will leave you too scattered to be effective.

J. said...

"Many gifted young women flounder as they transition from college to career because work is not like school – and gifted girls are often good at school! In school, if you do a project according to the teacher’s specifications, you’ll get an A. If you finish all your assignments and pass your tests, you’ll move to the next grade...You can do everything exactly right, and still lose your job because your company is in the middle of a slump. There are no right answers in the back of the textbook."

A little illuminating story to share here. Interestingly, I've come to believe that the exact reverse is true of GT/ADD kids. Perhaps many 2es but especially ADD-ers.

My quick story: I have an EG/PG ADD daughter who just completed an uber demanding high school. It was a struggle for her but she graduated with honors and all that, National Merit Scholar and all that. The struggles, as anyone with a 2e child in a very intense program will attest is not cognition or mastery, it's being able to manage that staggering workload, executive functioning, the painful frustrations of handing in a masterpiece a day or two late and getting almost no credit for it. That sort of thing.

My daughter has deferred her college acceptance and will be taking a gap year. I located a mom whose daughter is very similar to mine, same high school. If only I'd gotten to know her before that other girl graduated. Mirror issues, that young woman attends the same college my daughter will go to, after mine returns from her year overseas.

I asked this woman if she'd considered a gap year for her daughter as well. She said they thought about it but then she decided, no, I won't encourage it. I asked, were you afraid her study skills might get rusty? She replied, no, it's not that.

And then she said something very astute. She said, for GT ADD kids, college is better than high school. But a gap year is better than college, she thought, and felt college would be a step back rather than more liberating than high school. This woman felt that the work world would be even better and it was best to get through college as quickly as possible. We both agreed K-12 is rough on GT ADD kids.

Food for thought. I brought this information to my daughter but in the end, she's still doing the gap year.

Point I'm making? Gifted ADD-ers who didn't do so well in school (if "well" is characterized by high marks, compliance, Ivy League acceptance) often are wildly successful in the work force.

There was a famous study in the 80s that showed B students tended to be more successful in their professional lives than A students. This is not to suggest your kids should necessarily not get good grades. But an over-focus on the A often has less to do with mastery and more that you followed the assignments to the letter of the law. The study showed that B students were less afraid to take risks and more creative.

J. said...

"his leads to the SuperMom problem. If you’ve decided to take time out of the workforce to raise children, you may spend a lot of time showing people that you’re still a high achiever by volunteering for school projects only a martyr would take on or enrolling your kids in every activity available. ...or constructing hand-made Valentines for everyone in your second grader’s class (to show that you’re still a good mom)."

Oh, boy, have I seen this during the long pre-school to 12 journey. I was lucky to befriend a coterie of really fabulous parents at my daughter's high school school but I also ran into a good bit of what you describe above.

I think it was the book "Queen Bees and Wannabes" that characterized these moms as "commandeering the PTA." These mothers attacked their volunteer school assignments as if they were six figure salary projects. I see too many highly anxious hyper-competitive baby boomer parents, overly invested in their child's achievements, accolades and trophies.

www.honeyfern.org said...

The part about gifted girls doing well in school but floundering a bit in transition from school to the world is a very strong argument for home school; a well-executed plan for homeschool or unschooling can build confidence and self esteem.

I also enjoyed the comment about not all gifted kids (girls and boys) doing well in school. Our society still has this perception that gifted kids are the ones who always do homework, participate in class and graduate cum laude. Thsi does not work with the statistic that 25% of all HS dropouts are gifted!!

barefootwriter said...

Amen on the volunteering. I just signed up for my college's volunteer program because of a specific position -- that of a peer counsellor. They wanted me to fill out a profile listing my skills and qualifications, and I answered these honestly. Consequently, I'm bracing myself to say no to offers of other volunteer positions.

I think gasstationwithoutpumps misses the point. If nurturing your community doesn't nurture your self, you need to stop doing what you're doing. Multitalented gifties especially need to be careful about committing just because they have the skills (and may be better at it than anyone else), not because they want to.