5 ways I have learned to overcome imposter syndrome in my career

Imposter syndrome is something that you feel at various stages of your career but especially when you level up. You want the promotion so badly, you compete through it, get it and then feel like a fraud. Sound familiar?



In various roles I have held over the years, I have experienced imposter syndrome particularly when new in the role or the position. My first job in government I was a regional analyst providing performance measurement advice and analysis to government-funded children's programs. I had spent a fair bit of time in academia and I had lost my sense of working in a job job. I found myself working with people who had been in government for over 20 years and who expected me to enter at the entry level. At this point in my career I was not an entry level analyst - this certainly wasn't my first job; I was however new to this world and some of my colleagues didn't miss a beat to remind me of this.


I have recently found myself in a leadership position as an executive. As to be expected, I started to feel imposter syndrome: who am I, how dare I? What business do I have being in this position. The thing is this is not just felt - it is voiced by colleagues. I have had people as me if I was the real boss, I have had my authority questioned in meetings, I have had folks actually dismiss me - lets just say its very awkward on a videoconference and thankfully I didn't have to experience this in person but it was still painful.


So how do you overcome imposter syndrome? That feeling that nagging feeling that you are inadequate, you are incapable and that folks will discover that you are a fraud. Here are some tips from what I have learned over the years.


1. Being new is NOT imposter syndrome

Every time you start in a new position, new company, new role, new organization new department, the feeling if being new will make you feel inexperienced. And indeed you will NOT have experienced said company, position, organization, role. We are so used to being comfortable that any feeling of discomfort has to have a full syndrome. You are just new and that means that there things that you will not be familiar with that will require you to learn. Give yourself time to settle in and get to know the organization. Ask lots of questions and yes, play the new person card at least for the first 3-6 months in the organization.


2. You are in the role for a reason

Remember that you were hired for a reason. There are qualities that the employer saw in you that gave them the confidence to give you a chance. If you didn't have those qualities and credentials they would have gone with the next person. Look at your track record, think about your qualities and the qualities you bring to the table.


3. Seek out mentors both old and new

Yes you were hired in the role for a reason, however you need to learn the new ropes for the new position that you are holding. Reach out to people who have been where you have been. Find out what their lessons learned are. Make connections with new mentors. Let them know that you are new in the position and that you would appreciate insights to the role. Take the advice with a grain of salt though as you learn the ropes of the new position. Lean on your tried and tested mentors - they certainly have been through this and can boost you and talk you through this time when you're feeling inadequate. They can remind you of how awesome you are and chances are they were your reference for the position so they already hyped you up to the organization.


4. Faith it till you make it

Fake and faith it till you make it. Imposter syndrome is a feeling and that feeling will pass. Until then, you have to believe yourself. Trust your gut and your instincts. Don't fall apart. Instead pump yourself up, turn all that negative self-talk into positive talk. Remind yourself of the previous times you were in a similar situation and how you pulled through. Remind yourself that this is a phase that will pass and you will no longer feel like a fish out of water.





5. Out-do yourself

If your journey towards getting a job has been challenging, you will want to breathe a sigh of relief and relax into the new job, especially if the new team has been singing your praises up until your hiring. Truth is they don't know you. And even if they do, they don't know you in your new role. Your first 90 days on a job are CRUCIAL. They are your opportunity to prove your worth. Go over and above. Be extra - over deliver. Establish your reputation as someone who can be depended upon, who will give 110%, reinforce why they thought you were the best person for the job. Kill it! SLAY! This will build your confidence and will also help you channel all that "am-I-good-enough" energy into actually proving that you are better than enough.


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