Career Advice for Job Seekers

Combatting imposter syndrome in the workplace

Shelby Konkel
Sean Kelly (Guest Author)
February 21, 2022

Imposter syndrome is an all-too-common affliction that can present itself in many different aspects of life. The feeling of being inadequate and unable to do something or fit in somewhere despite being undoubtedly qualified can be really overwhelming and can affect your ability to use your judgment when making decisions.

The basic gist of imposter syndrome is that you doubt your own competence despite being capable and knowledgeable, so in itself, it’s a manifestation of low self-confidence. There’s perhaps no area in life where this is more prevalent than in the workplace. Even the most qualified, successful leaders can suffer from imposter syndrome.

It might seem like an impossible thing to overcome at first, but the truth is that beating imposter syndrome just takes a little bit of work and a lot of willingness. The most important way to get rid of imposter syndrome at work is to understand and accept that you may not succeed in every aspect of your job all the time. Removing that pressure from yourself allows you the chance to feel comfortable taking risks and embracing the fact that those risks might not always pay off in the ways you intended.

Having realistic expectations and not holding yourself to an extremely unattainable standard of quality in your job will ensure that you feel most at ease and confident, and it allows you to think about things more rationally in order to make the right decisions. Say you’ve just started at a new job and you’re nervous about a project you have to complete in two weeks; starting from a place of, “I can’t do this. I’m going to mess up and everyone will think I’m a fraud,” will impede on your ability to think about the project from the place of expertise that you actually come from.

Instead, block those thoughts from your mind and try to think about projects where you’ve previously succeeded. Analyze those successes and come up with a plan that can help you achieve similar results, and you’ll see the picture much more clearly. Once you have that plan, you’ll start to feel better about the road ahead.

Another big factor that encourages imposter syndrome is how happy or satisfied you were in other jobs. Having a negative experience might trick you into thinking that it was all your fault. In reality, office culture, morale, training, employee expectations, and many other factors often contribute to someone’s unhappiness in their role.

Remember to take time for yourself and your mental health when you need it. A new study found that people are treating themselves to more days off to better their work-life balance. Sometimes the best thing you can do to combat imposter syndrome is to step away and clear your mind so you can come back reenergized.

Ultimately, what matters most in any role is your ability to do your best. If you can remove any self-imposed pressure to achieve perfection in your career, you’ll find yourself on a much clearer path to tangible success. And if you’re really having trouble, there’s absolutely no shame in talking to a therapist to figure out the root of your self-confidence issues and come up with concrete ways to deal with them. Remember that you’re not alone in these feelings. Imposter syndrome is a nuisance, but it isn’t something you can’t overcome.

Success in the workplace comes down to skill, confidence, and an openness to the concept of trial and error. Allow yourself to fail and learn from those failures. You’ll discover that you’re not the “imposter” you thought you were – you’re a perfectly qualified professional who is exactly where they’re supposed to be.

— Article by Sean Kelly, an analyst researching the latest industry trends for College Recruiter

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