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An ANU Associate Professor on the traps of success

It began – as the cliché goes – with a list on a napkin. Associate Professor Inger Mewburn, director of research training at ANU and founder of blog The Thesis Whisperer, was lunching with a colleague when the discussion turned to the perils of their respective professional success.

That rough list turned into a honed one – in the form of a post on her blog. In ‘Are you prepared for the problems of success?’, she outlines her success bugbears. Among them are ‘professional jealousy’ and ‘everyone wants a piece of you’. “These problems annoy me or they make me – sometimes – sad,” she said.

Are you rolling your eyes? Mewburn expected some people to react this way. Her friend jokingly referred to her list as ‘high class problems’. “They sound very whiny,” she acknowledged. Indeed, earlier this year, Campus Review interviewed her about woeful academic job prospects for PhD graduates; in essence, the failure of many. 

Yet she persisted in penning her post for a reason: in addition to offering commiseration to the successful, it also, less obviously, offers lessons for those who are still striving. “I’m actually providing a valuable service by being a bit of a mess in public.”

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