Imposter: a person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others, particularly for fraudulent gain. Syndrome: a group of symptoms that consistently occur together, or a condition characterised by a set of associated symptoms.
Combine these two words, and it certainly doesn’t sound good.
Imposter syndrome is the term used when someone feels that they are not deserving, qualified or experienced enough to successfully do the job they have been given. This can happen if you are just fresh out of university and are overwhelmed with your new career, or when you move into a new position.
Feeling out of your depth is intimidating, but challenging yourself is an important phase in growing your career and experience.
Does this sound familiar? Or can you think of someone who this might relate to?
There are ways to overcome feeling like an imposter, but you’ll need to first address why you feel that way.
Some simple business analysis and project management techniques can solve your problem. By stepping back and treating your professional self as a business venture, you can unpack why you feel this way and plan how to move forward.
That’s where a SWOT analysis could come in. Yes, you can perform these on yourself rather than just on a business.
When listing your strengths, think of things that you do well. This can include personality traits, qualifications, experiences or contacts. This list will be longer than you expect; after all, you were given the job for a reason. As much as you may say it was luck, good timing or another reason, it was all you! Now is not the time to be modest.
Next, list your weaknesses. Think honestly about areas for improvement, including both hard skills and soft skills. Not a confident public speaker? Jot that down. Think that you need further qualifications? Add that too. By listing these, you know what you need to work on.
Opportunities include training available at your workplace, networking events (like HYP) and mentoring. Anything out there that you can utilise to grow your strengths list should be listed as an opportunity.
A threat is something that might block your ability to grow, such as being on a short-term contract or being part of a team with a negative culture. While you may not be able to change these things, it is important to be aware of them and try to mitigate their impact on you.
Now you have your list of strengths to reflect on when you’re feeling like an imposter, and also a list of weaknesses and opportunities you’ve identified as things you can work on. The next step is turning those items into a reality.
The second useful tool is called Kanban. Even if you don’t recognise the name, chances are you’ve seen it around the office. Kanban is Japanese for visual signal or card. Visualising tasks is key to this tool. Put down your smartphone and your fancy apps, grab a big piece of paper and divide it into three columns. Column one is for to do items, column two is items underway (doing) and column three is done. Next, grab some sticky notes. Write the items from your weaknesses and opportunities lists, or smaller tasks that will contribute to these overall goals. Stick them in your to do column. As you start working on an item, move it into your doing column, and when it is complete, move it to the done column. Let the done column pile up. The trick to overcoming imposter syndrome is acknowledging what you have achieved and feeling validated in your position. What’s better than a constant reminder of everything you’ve accomplished?
Now you’ve got some strategies to overcome imposter syndrome, you can tackle your next big scary challenge and do it all over again.
With thanks to Hunter Young Professionals who Hunter Headline collaborated with to source this interviewee.