Quick step-by-step to gaining career confidence

(Speaking to 300+ graduating high school seniors at USC Summer Program)

Why do I suffer from imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is caused by a feeling of inadequacy that typically stems from not recognizing your true value.

You’re always moving forward, trying to think of what else you can do, and taking on way more than is required because you never feel like you’re enough. If anything you do is less than perfect, you beat yourself up over it and take that failure personally. If you do something well, you think it was an accident or luck because maybe you didn’t intend for things to work out the way they did or because you didn’t know exactly what you were doing each step of the way.

How do I get over it?

Some people read a lot of self-help books. Some people post self-affirming quotes around their room. Some people constantly seek validation from their bosses and bend over backwards just to get a little praise. (I’ve tried all of these things as well, by the way, but none really worked for me.)

And all people who do the above continue to suffer as victims of imposter syndrome.

The quick fix that works every time.

In order to feel adequate, you have to recognize the value of your contributions.

How do you do that?

Well, you have to take some time to think about what you’ve done, articulate it (aka write it down with as much specific detail as possible), AND connect the dots to what kind of impact your contributions had on the business, organization, or people you’re contributing to.

Here’s how you do that step-by-step:

1. Write down what you did

You’ll want to identify something that was either more than what was expected of you (as people with imposter syndrome, you’ll have a LOT of these) or something that you did exceptionally well (read: perfectionist, also a common symptom of imposter syndrome).

Example: Developed an efficient sales script based on patterns found in sales call conversations

Now write it all down.

2. Write down what impact your contribution had on the organization

Ask yourself why that was important. What impact did it have? What did it increase/decrease/improve/eliminate/expand/etc. What was the result?

Example: Developed an efficient sales script based on patterns found in sales call conversations, reducing non billable consultation time from 45 min to 10 minutes max.

Now write that down.

3. Take it one step further. Understand why what you did is valuable.

It’s awesome that you did something cool. But, until you recognize the significance of what you did, you won’t gain that self-value that serves as the antidote to imposter syndrome.

Example: Developed an efficient sales script based on patterns found in sales call conversations, reducing non-billable consultation time from 45 min to 10 minutes max. Why was this significant? Because with 14 people calling in a week, that’s typically about 10 hours of non-billable hours that could have been dedicated to other work to grow the business. So at that rate, reducing weekly time tied up in free calls by about 80% means reducing wasted time by 80%. The business is now more efficient, customers are happier, and less money in the form of wasted time is spent.

Now write all of that down.

Look at what you’ve done. Really look, and accept that you did all of this.

Why this works

The person who made these contributions didn’t even recognize that what she did was significant because it fell in line with her natural strengths. Natural strengths come easy to you, so when you make contributions in line with them, unless you’re aware of them, you’ll tend to neglect acknowledging your achievements that come as a result of those strengths.

But if you sit down and really think about what you’ve done, write it down…ALL OF IT — every specific detail, and connect the dots, you’ll start to see patterns in your contributions and gain a better understanding of your value, curing your imposter syndrome.

Bonus: Once you understand your value and the drive behind your contributions, you’ll start to see your future contributions as deliberate efforts rather than accidents or unintentional successes. Best of all, you’ll need less external validation because you’ll be able to see your value for yourself.

Finally, you’ll escape the binds of imposter syndrome.

You’ll be enough, and beyond.


P.S. I published this a year ago on LinkedIn because I didn’t know Medium existed at the time. Now, I’m glad I was able to share it with you here.