Feeling Like an Imposter? Don’t Let it Ruin Your Job Search

Imposter’s syndrome – that feeling that sooner or later, everyone around us will realize we are a fraud…that we’re not as good at this as everyone thinks…that we are not qualified and don’t belong here…

Many of us have experienced these thoughts and feelings at some point, with research identifying imposter’s syndrome in students, faculty, corporate employees, and management alike. Whether we are just embarking on our career path or stepping-up along the way, experiencing imposter’s syndrome can influence our decision-making process if we’re not careful.

How can imposter’s syndrome feel so isolating when almost everyone goes through it at some point?

In itself, imposter’s syndrome is identified by having the above mentioned feelings and thoughts even though we are truly capable of the task in question. Often times we have demonstrated our capabilities in the past but attributing previous success to luck or contributions made by others, or even distorting success into failure due to perfectionist criticism, starts to make us feel like we are not responsible for our previous success and that we won’t be able to fulfill future expectations.

Increasing attention from academic researchers and media outlets has helped confirm that feeling like an imposter is something we (almost) all experience at some point (arguably more so for high achievers), and that there are ways to overcome it and own the great work that we do. Furthermore, some argue that in the right amount (e.g., low-level, non-chronic), thoughts and feelings triggered by imposter’s syndrome can be a motivational tool in bridging the gap between our current skills/experience and our goals.

As a recent graduate with a PhD entering the non-academic job market, I’ve experienced my fair share of imposter’s syndrome doubts.

Here’s what I’ve found to be helpful:

Reading up

  • The more I learned about imposter’s syndrome, the more I realized that I was actually capable of more than I thought when I took a more objective view (e.g., being aware and checking my emotions at the door before assessing my skills).

Reaching out

  • Talking with friends and mentors about feeling like an imposter helped normalize my experience and I learned new strategies for dealing with it.

Reflecting

  • Beyond carving out time to reflect on my day and perhaps write in a journal, reflecting on my skills and competencies by going through my c.v. and writing down everything involved in the experiences listed was very helpful. This allowed me to more fairly assess my capabilities.
  • When searching for positions, my first question was “Can I do this?” Before allowing doubts fueled by imposter’s syndrome to creep in, I would have my list of skills and competencies in hand and use it to gain a more objective view of which positions I was really prepared to apply for.
  • Bonus: this last step was helpful when creating non-academic resumes and cover letters, as well as preparing for interviews.

When aiming for the next step, we’re all imposters until we get there 😉

– Rebecca Maymon

 

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