Combating imposters syndrome in your early career
Contribution by: Laura Rincon
Uploaded: 6th, January, 2022
No one is a stranger to the feeling of inadequacy, especially when starting a new job or promotion. The reality is that an estimated 70% of people experience imposters syndrome at least once in their professional lives, and it is even more likely to be experienced early in your career.
The truth we know, yet can’t seem to internalise at the times we need it most, is that it is human to feel uncertainty and insecurity. So how are many professionals combating imposters syndrome in their day-to-day lives?
Imposter syndrome is commonly understood as “a false and sometimes crippling belief that one’s successes are the product of luck or fraud rather than skill” (Merriam-Webster). In turn, feeling like they will be discovered at any point and suffer the consequences.
In a recent small-scale study, 68 participants including graduates, professionals, and CEOs responded to the primary question:
“Have you faced imposters syndrome in your professional life?”
Results showed that 85% of participants recalled having imposter syndrome various times in their professional lives. Many also volunteered advice on combating imposters syndrome, here is what they said:
Leaning into the insecurity curve
Some suggested to “lean into the insecurity curve” and learn from it. Whilst you are required to have certain knowledge – the very one that landed you the role, there is no way of knowing how new tasks, industry changes, emerging trends, etc. will affect you or your work.
This is a fantastic time to lean into the curve and to make it a learning experience for every time you step into unknown territory. This can be particularly useful in entry-level roles and internships. Whilst it’s important to show proactivity and confidence, you are not expected and will not be held accountable for anything more than you can handle.
It is important to acknowledge where and why you are lacking in knowledge, and communicate this to your team to work towards allowing you to gain a better understanding. This will not only show proactiveness but a willingness to learn instead of rigidly trying to fit current knowledge in a place it simply does not go.
Tracking your success
Many mentioned that tracking your successes helped at times when they were not able to recall their achievements. When speaking to the CEO of LearnaHQ, she mentions that as part of combating imposters syndrome, she uses a journal to write down her achievements to see how far she’s come.
It is easy to get caught up in the way others present themselves, whether it’s their striking confidence or particular skills, it leaves you to play an unfair comparison game that ultimately leads to toxic thoughts. It is important to not put your successes on the backpedal and remind yourself what you are capable of.
It is suggested that tracking your successes should be done regularly and be written down as something you can look back on. If you find it difficult to see your achievements, then start small with the qualities and skills in which you excel at.
“Fake it ‘till you make it”
This well-known phrase is often advised, with people having only a vague understanding of it. Depicting “Fake it ‘till you make it” comes down to you doing two things:
Take on challenges in the face of fear
Present yourself confidently
As humans, we tend to make sweeping judgments from the way people present themselves, this can influence meaningful events such as who gets hired or even a promotion. This is why it is vital to let your body language and your confidence talk even when you are being held back by fear.
It is important to use common body language techniques to appear more confident, and with practice, the way you hold yourself can change your behaviours and outcomes. Such things include:
Always have something to contribute to a discussion – This will draw attention back to your presence and appear a valuable member of the team.
When gesturing in a conversation, use broad and smooth motions with your palms up – This allows you to appear more confident and honest.
Use open body language to appear more powerful.
Mirror positive body language – When people portray confident body language, it is instinctive to go the opposite way, instead try to mirror them.
Maintain engagement with eye contact. If this proves difficult, you can look around facial points such as nose, forehead, and cheeks.
Use online communities and resources to your advantage
In the digital age, we know that we are never truly alone. The internet is a handy space made up of wonderful communities of people willing to offer valuable insight into any possible topic you can imagine.
Knowing how to use networking sites can come to your advantage in finding valuable connections, friends, and even mentors. You can get the most out of networking sites by:
Being vocal and sharing your opinions with others, commenting, congratulating, giving feedback, etc. This can up your visibility and goes further than just engaging by liking and following.
Introduce yourself to your network. You can do this either by openly posting on your profile or if you’re feeling confident, you have the option to directly message. Of course, have a purpose and something valuable to discuss. This could be to show admiration and seek out advice from an industry professional.
Be genuine and regularly network – not only when you need a favour. By genuinely and regularly networking, your connections will build up an image of you as an engaged and genuine professional and will be more willing to help you out when you are in need of a favour.
Taking on self-development as a way of combating imposters syndrome is advised to be one of the best ways to overcome it.
If you are not ready or are unable to network, although it is highly recommended, there is a multitude of channels where you can consume information in a way that suits you. The great news is that no matter how you learn, there are podcasts, articles, dedicated blogs, videos, and online courses that can be found at your disposal free of charge.
So what are the steps towards combating imposters syndrome? Acknowledge, act, and educate.
Remind yourself that as an early start in your career you need to give yourself plenty of time to become an expert. Expertise only comes from doing things over, and over, and over… And over again. And of course a lot of self-development. So lean into the insecurity curve and learn as much as you can so you can become as adaptable as possible in the future.