Seven Tips for Overcoming Imposter Syndrome and Self-doubt as a Software engineer
Tips for Learning to Navigate Your Career and Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
Imagine you’ve just graduated from university, filled with confidence in your ability to do your job. You start work and in a few weeks, you are thrown into the deep end with projects and you suddenly realise how much you don’t know. How do you deal with this?
When I graduated from university four years ago, I remember having a lot of confidence in my ability and skills and I was ready for the challenges of software engineering in the real world. During my time studying, I worked extra hard and achieved a first-class degree, so I felt I was adequately prepared to take on my graduate software engineer role. However, as I began settling into my role, I was thrown into the deep end and was expected to hit the ground running.
Initially, I was able to keep up with the high demands of the role which was in a very fast-paced company. However, I quickly realised how much I didn’t know and how much help I needed in my role. This led me to begin slipping into the mindset of imposter syndrome. Despite receiving praise and recognition from my colleagues and manager, I couldn’t get rid of this feeling of not being cut out to be a software engineer.
Imposter syndrome is a feeling that is very common among software engineers, especially graduates. It makes you believe that you’re not as qualified or as skilled as your colleagues, especially in a highly competitive and constantly changing field. This is also common among high-achieving individuals and can have a negative impact on your career success, growth and well-being.
Having this feeling can be challenging especially when you think you’re the only one going through it. One lesson I’ve learned is that imposter syndrome is very normal with a lot of people and it usually comes when we’re faced with new challenges that we need to grow into; not just in a career, but in other aspects of life. I’ve also learned that it’s not an isolated feeling. The most important thing is to first acknowledge the feeling so you can then learn how to manage it and not let it overwhelm you.
Seven Tips for Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
Below are some tips that have helped me deal with imposter syndrome so far in my career. These are not definite ways but are some important steps you could consider whenever you feel like you don’t belong.
- Acknowledge your feeling and know you’re not alone. It’s important to accept the way you feel so that you can begin working on it. To solve a problem, you first need to accept that the problem exists, and then you can find solutions. Once you recognise the way you feel, it’s important to remind yourself that you’re not alone. There are a lot of highly successful individuals who also go through the same feelings either now or have gone through it at some point in their careers. Realising this can help you feel less isolated and more confident in speaking about it.
- Ask for help and get feedback. One thing I’ve learned and adopted throughout my career is that it’s very important to ask for feedback and help when you need it rather than trying to go it alone. Doing this can help you identify areas where you need to improve and it allows you to learn and grow from your mistakes. Remember that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, rather, it shows that you’re self-aware and committed to constantly improving and learning. This is a very good trait in the workplace, especially in tech.
- Set SMART goals and celebrate your progress. Part of receiving feedback is setting goals or making a plan on how to improve on the feedback you’ve received. I’ve learned that it’s very important to set smart realistic and actionable goals for yourself. This will give you a clear set of steps and what to work on so you can measure your progress. It is also important to celebrate your progress and not focus on your weaknesses. This will allow you to build your confidence and competency as you make progress on your goals.
- Focus on your strengths and progress. I’m not saying to completely ignore your areas of improvement, but it’s very easy to fixate on our weaknesses and the areas we feel inadequate. This can lead us down the spiral lane of imposter syndrome. That is why it’s important to remember that we all have strengths and are all making progress in our daily lives. Make a list of your accomplishments as you work on your goals and refer back to them whenever you feel unsure of yourself. This can help reposition your mindset and perspective to focus on what you have achieved rather than your perceived failures.
- Practice self-compassion. Another lesson I’ve learned is how to deal with being heavily critical of myself. I’ve found that it is very easy to be hard on ourselves when we make mistakes or we feel like we’re not meeting expectations. This is also a key feeling that leads to imposter syndrome. However, it’s important to remember that it’s okay to not be perfect. This means being kind to ourselves rather than judging or criticising ourselves for every mistake. When you make mistakes, you can view them as an opportunity to learn and improve rather than viewing them as a failure.
- Find a mentor. During my second year as a software engineer, I realised there were areas I need to improve on. After talking to a few friends, I decided getting a Tech mentor would be beneficial and contribute to my growth in tech. Ever since I’ve learned that having someone who has been through the same experiences is in a very good position to offer their advice and support. This can be very helpful in your steps to overcoming imposter syndrome. Outline what your strengths are and what you need improvement on and find a mentor who can advise you and encourage you as you navigate your career.
- Build your network and find a support group. This is a very key part of dealing with imposter syndrome. We’re social beings so when we’re alone, it’s very easy to allow feelings to drown us. However, when we have a supportive group of people around us, we can easily share our feelings with them. Consider reaching out to friends, family, your mentor, or colleagues who can provide you with encouragement. It can also be helpful to join a support group to work through your feelings in a safe and confidential environment.
The above steps are some tips you can consider applying if you find you have feelings of imposter syndrome. Overcoming it can be a challenging journey but it’s worth taking. Once you acknowledge it, then the next steps you take can help you embrace your strengths and give you the confidence you need to progress and succeed in your career. Remember that everyone has gone through moments of doubt or feeling out of their depth, but it is how we respond to these feelings that matter. What steps have you taken or plan on taking to help you overcome imposter syndrome in your career?