Breaking Self-Doubt: Lessons from Battling Impostor Syndrome at the New York Times

Emma Roshan
3 min readAug 9, 2022
Illustration by Emma Roshan

I was going about my day when it happened. My phone lit up with a notification, and there it was — the email I had been anxiously awaiting for the past three weeks, staring back at me from the bright, glossy screen. Carefully scanning the message, I braced myself for yet another rejection, but to my surprise, the words I read were completely different. I had received an offer as a Product Design intern at The New York Times.

Maybe you, like many others, are reading this because you have received similar good news. Maybe you’re nodding approvingly, knowing deep down that it was just a matter of time, or maybe you’re still in disbelief. “How on earth did I make it this far?” thought one of the interns I chatted with. “Did they make a mistake and accidentally swap someone’s name out for mine on the offer letter?”

However, those aren’t the questions we should be asking. The reality is: why was it so difficult for me and others to accept that we landed a well-deserved internship? Why are we conditioned to believe that our self-worth is derived from the value schools and companies assign to us, rather than recognizing our true capabilities?

The term “imposter syndrome” has become so ingrained in the professional world that it has become background noise. It seems almost everyone experiences it to some degree, yet no one truly knows how to address it beyond making the occasional lighthearted joke to a friend or colleague. Moreover, imposter syndrome is not limited to interns, juniors, or newcomers in the field. Many seasoned journalists, designers, software engineers, and marketing experts still grapple with the same doubt I felt when I received my offer letter. “It doesn’t really go away,” someone once confided during a coffee chat, and those words stuck with me.

This year will likely be remembered as a time of immense personal and professional growth for me as a product designer fresh out of college. In just ten weeks, I’ve learned more than I probably did in a year at school, particularly when it comes to developing soft skills. However, that persistent voice in my head, determined to highlight every insecurity I have as a designer, has yet to be silenced. “What will happen when they discover I’m not as skilled as they think I am?”

Throughout my time here at The Times, I’ve received invaluable advice from smart and capable individuals. One particular piece of wisdom has resonated with me: We all ended up here for the same reasons. Firstly, we share a passion for the company’s mission and expressed it in a way that made us stand out. Secondly, we demonstrated desirable skill sets, whether through words, code, designs, or ideas. And last but not least, we secured this internship because the interviewers believed in our potential to grow and didn’t expect us to know everything right from the start.

Now, I know for a fact that every time I embark on something new and unfamiliar, imposter syndrome inevitably rears its ugly head. However, it’s somewhat of a relief to discover that I’m not the only one grappling with what I had initially attributed to a lack of ability. It has become evident that the issue isn’t so much about intelligence or talent but rather about confidence. This state of self-doubt doesn’t have to be permanent. It may not always feel like it, but you have made it this far for a reason.