3 Tools for overcoming the Imposter Syndrome

Hey. How are you? I hope well. If you are reading this then the title probably grabbed your attention in some way. You are wondering what Imposter syndrome is and you feel like one in some aspect in your life. 
Well go look it up because I’m not explaining it here. Imposter Syndrome

While I’ll be writing this reflection to be geared more towards your work life there are many aspects of our lives where we feel that we fall short or just aren’t the real deal. One of the most common bits of advice that I have been given is to fake until you make it. Well, that’s all great until you’re a month in and you feel like you are faking it more than you are making it.

While there is an element of faking it until you make it, the saying needs to be supplemented by some real things. Things that you can easily do. Some of these things will seem very practical and they are. But, I assure you that if you do these things then you aren’t just faking it, but actually doing it. Also, if you are doing these things then you’ll realize that you aren’t an imposter. In fact, you are like any one else out there trying to do their best and get by. Even, Lynda down the hall who is really killing it and it seems like everyone loves her; she had to do these things as well. So lets begin shall we?

Always be learning, adapt, and learn again

I have changed jobs a lot in the last couple of years. I hadn’t quite figured out what I wanted to do. I started off in Sales Ops because I thought that I liked creating processes, solving problems, and working in a directly beneficial role for a company I care about. All of that was true, but Sales Ops wasn’t the way I wanted to do it. It didn’t speak to me. I went back to an old idea of wanting to do HR for a company that I thought was really cool. Unfortunately, the company I wanted to work for didn’t have any specific openings so I thought I would take a “foot-in-the-door” job until I could get the real opportunity.

Turns out that wasn’t the path for me either. The lights just weren’t coming on. Fast forward to some more self reflection, pivoting, and ultimately a job change and now I am a Product Manager for a tech company. I’m excited and it’s crazy fun. Emphasis on the crazy. Also emphasis on fun. Bold it in your mind. I’m not going to bold it here.

Anyways, What the heck am I getting at? Well, hopefully you haven’t had to experience as many changes in your career path as me. But you will be new in a job or company at some point. You will have new responsibilities with tasks and skills that may seem alien to you. In each of my roles I took on something I had never really known before. Many times I was asked to do things I didn’t even understand. I had to learn and learn and learn. The amazing thing is we live in a time where learning resources are readily available with the click of a button. Wolfram Alpha, Google, Stack Overflow, Github, Wikipedia, and so much more are available for your learning pleasure. Not to mention blog sites like Medium.

A big part of learning however is being very honest with yourself. Something that I am not always great at. If you hate what you do and learning is no longer fun then you may need to take some time for reflection. When that time comes be adaptable and start learning again. Learning is great, but with out adaptation it’s meaningless. And this doesn’t mean changing jobs either. It could mean changing how you look at or do things.

I always start a new project committing to the worst of it. I ask myself, “am I willing to take on the most challenging part of this project?” If I am then I am willing to learn what it takes to accomplish it and then I can accomplish anything.

Don’t Network, Relation

I have over 1500 connections on LinkedIn. Cool. Am I popular? Not really. Pretty much anyone will say yes to a LinkedIn connection these days. Don’t get me wrong here, I love LinkedIn and find it incredibly useful, but the way most people use it is wrong. I said it, WRONG! Relationships.

Yah I just put that at the end of a paragraph with no explanation but I think you are figuring out where I am going with this. Connections are great and maybe you get something from seeing yourself associated with big numbers, but in the end what use does it really provide you? Now I am not saying that you need to act like a dog and desperately be friends with everyone. I really mean 2 things.

  1. Be open to working relationships inside and outside of your company
  2. Seek out people who are smarter than you to be your mentor

The first is for the benefit of someone else to accomplish the second. What?! One day, probably when you have senior in your title or something, someone will look up to you and look to you for advice. They’ll reach out to you on LinkedIn and ask you to be their mentor. Be open to it.

That first part might not have you convinced and may be a dubious assertion, but the second is the real thing. I can honestly say that any success I have had is owed greatly to the amazing mentors I have had in my life. Again, this comes to honesty and self reflection. Sometimes we don’t see ourselves, our weaknesses, or even the things that we are great at and can expand on. In the case of Imposter Syndrome we are probably being too hard on ourselves. I mean you do have weaknesses, but they usually aren’t what you think they are. A mentor has the experience and care to help you be successful in a controlled environment. A mentor can tell you the things that you worry your boss might tell you with, but independent of job success. Independent of the fear of failure. They can give you discussion and insight that helps take the negative thoughts in your head out, clarify them, and replace them with things you can actually improve on.

If you ignore anything else I say don’t ignore this! GET A MENTOR!!!! I promise you that you will feel more confident and educated when you have the support of a mentor. And there are tons out there. I am constantly reaching out to people I respect on LinkedIn who I have never talked to before. The responses have been great and sometimes they are just a message with resources and tools, sometimes they are a phone call, and other times I have lunch with them and have gotten job referrals. DO THIS! ok? Cool? Next!

Invent something, Anything!

Whether you are a Python developer, a writer, a QA person, a Support team member, Client Services rep, Salesperson, or whatever you should be inventing whenever you can. Nothing will make you feel less of an imposter than having something all your own that solves a problem for yourself. Sometimes it will teach you the very skill you wish to learn and understand.

Problems are everywhere, but you know what’s not everywhere? Solutions. In a lot of jobs people are given repetitive tasks and what may seem like grunt work. It often feels like you don’t have responsibility over anything meaningful. I have had tons of jobs where I felt like a mule just tugging away. But you aren’t a mule. You’re actually a human with a great human brain!

Think of anyone that has been considered a great in history and you can break their accomplishments down to the solving of a problem. It really is as simple as that. Invention is the solution to a problem. Whatever job you may be in you can find a problem both personal and organizational and try to figure out a solution. It doesn’t even have to be public or I mean you don’t have to share it with anyone. Just fix the problem the best way you know how and I promise you, you won’t feel like an imposter anymore.

I do this practice often and almost daily. When I feel like a total idiot and that everyone else are leagues ahead of me I start drawing up a plan. I find something that I think is weak or impeding progress in someway and I come up with a solution that speaks to me. I’ll build it, leave it, and then come back to it to revise it. The process is educational and honestly kind of relaxing. I have had my failures, sure but I have also had some really proud moments where a manager recognized the efficiency of my solution and integrated it into their own process. In many cases it was what I became known for.

EL FIN

You rock! Trust me. Sometimes you may struggle to see that but be honest with yourself. You’re good at something and there is something that other people don’t want to do that you definitely want to do. Which makes people happy. You make people happy!

When you find that place you will find that people depend on you. Just remember to learn, adapt, learn. That is the way of the jungle, right? Push yourself to relation not just network. Build a support group for your career success. Mentors are out there and be open to being a mentor yourself. And Lastly, invent. Our minds were made to problem solve and you are a problem solving machine. Make something that you can be proud of and find solace in your ability to create solutions. You are awesome and I love you. What? that was weird. Ok get to it you beautiful person you.