How to Deal With Imposter Syndrome in Your Career
Questioning yourself and gauging what you want to do with your career is a natural part of growth. And by understanding your triggers and ways to combat self-doubt, you’ll become a better employee.
Imposter syndrome can have a negative impact on your life in many ways, including in your career. But once you know what it is and what causes it, you’ll understand how to deal with imposter syndrome and realize you are capable of almost anything.
What Is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is the feeling that you haven’t earned everything you’ve achieved. Someone suffering from imposter syndrome may feel like they aren’t as smart or capable as others seem to think they are. The “imposter” also lives in fear that people will uncover the truth about them and realize that they are nothing but a fraud.
What Causes Imposter Syndrome?
Though high achievers and people who are perfectionists may be more likely to experience imposter syndrome, it’s estimated that up to 70% of people will experience at least one episode of imposter syndrome in their lifetime.
Ironically, calling attention to your success can create these feelings. Likewise, anyone unable to give themselves credit for their successes (attributing their accomplishments to outside forces instead) will likely experience imposter syndrome.
What Is Imposter Syndrome at Work?
Though you can experience imposter syndrome anywhere in your life, it is quite common to experience it throughout your career. This attitude can be crippling for your career when you are trying to showcase your talents and achievements. The line between self-confidence and bragging can seem thin, but being self-deprecating or unsure about yourself can harm your chances of career progression. Below are some examples of imposter syndrome in the workplace.
“I Was Just Lucky”
If you find yourself attributing your success to outside forces instead of chalking it up to your grit, determination, or drive, it’s possible you fear that you won’t be able to replicate your achievements. Giving the credit to Lady Luck makes it easier to say that if the next task fails, it wasn’t necessarily your fault.
“They’re Better at This”
When you look around the office, you feel inferior to colleagues who perform similar roles. It seems like they breeze through their tasks, are always praised by the boss for a job well done, and do everything perfectly the first time.
“I Can’t Fail”
You’re worried that if you fail, people will find out that you’re not capable of doing your job. But when you do succeed, you can’t enjoy it.
“I Work Alone” or “I Don’t Need Help”
You may feel that you have to complete every task on your own, but it’s not that you see asking for help as a sign of weakness. In this case, you worry that asking for help will be a sure sign that you aren’t as competent as you seem.
How Imposter Syndrome Appears in a Job Search
It’s easy to get discouraged when you’re hunting for a job—now more than ever! But, experiencing imposter syndrome during a job search can derail your efforts. FlexJobs Career Coach Betsy Andrews notes that it’s common to feel some imposter syndrome during a job search. “I regularly speak with job seekers who are frustrated. Many will read a position and know they can do the job, but hold back because they aren’t confident in a couple of items listed.”
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome in Your Career
No matter how you experience imposter syndrome, it all boils down to one common element: feeling that you’re not good enough and don’t deserve all of the success you have.
Here’s how to get over imposter syndrome so you can experience career success.
When someone is congratulating you or singing your praises, notice how you feel. Do you downplay all you did? Do you give credit to others and not yourself? Identify when the imposter syndrome is coming on so you can battle it.
Focus on Yourself
Imposter syndrome can happen when you compare yourself to others and their achievements. People feel they have to complete the next task flawlessly and even better than the next person.
This, of course, is almost impossible. So, instead of worrying about how well other people are doing their job, worry about measuring your own achievements against yourself. What did you learn during the last project? What are you doing better now than last week, last month, or last year? Are you hitting all your milestones on your current project?
Instead of worrying about how well others are doing, worry about how well you’re doing your job. That can help you identify what you’re good at and gain confidence in your abilities.
Shifting your mindset from one of always succeeding to embracing failure can help in overcoming imposter syndrome. Instead of kicking yourself for messing up, use the experience as a learning opportunity, and remind yourself that you’ll do better next time because of what you’ve learned.
Be Kind to Yourself
Most people don’t do things perfectly the first time through. Sometimes it takes more than “a few” times to get it right! And that’s OK. Learning from your mistakes is part of the process of learning.
Instead of beating yourself up when you make a mistake, be kind to yourself.
How to Deal With Imposter Syndrome During the Job Search
Andrews advises job seekers to look at a job description as a wishlist. While the employer would be thrilled if you have 100% of the listed experiences and skills, they know that’s probably impossible and are OK with applicants being less than perfect.
To help get over imposter syndrome during a job search, Andrews suggests you answer these questions before you interview for a job:
- What are the top three things you’re regularly complimented on?
- What work feels effortless?
- What work comes easily to you, but you see others struggle with?
- What are you proudest of in your career?
Exploring your strengths and skills and reminding yourself what you’re good at can help you understand that you’re not an imposter and more than capable of doing the job.
You’ve Got This
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed or frazzled at times. Usually, it’s just a moment in time and we discover we are more capable than we realized. But when we always feel incapable, that’s when imposter syndrome can strike.
Learning how to get over imposter syndrome and identifying why you might be internalizing a “lesser” version of yourself can open up a bright new chapter where you feel the confidence and competence you’ve had all along.
For more personalized career advice, consider meeting with one of our career coaches. They can help you identify strengths, overcome weaknesses, and much more.
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