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Set for Success: How to overcome imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome is the sense of doubting your own abilities and feeling like you don’t quite fit in. These thoughts and feelings can affect anyone, from employees starting their first job to directors of giant global corporations. However, it appears to affect high-achieving people more than others.

By Cara Fielder. Published 16 June 2023. Last updated 14 August 2023.

What does imposter syndrome look like?

Imposter syndrome in the workplace can come in various forms, but often people think negatively of themselves. Intrusive thoughts can include:

  • I’m not good enough
  • I got lucky
  • I’m not qualified
  • They’ll realise I shouldn’t be here

Do you ever feel that everyone got to where they are through hard work, and you just got lucky? That’s imposter syndrome.

When do people feel imposter syndrome?

Many people feel imposter syndrome when they’re out of their comfort zone. This might be a change to your normal routine, whether that’s a new role, promotion or increased responsibility.

Imposter syndrome can also be triggered by not seeing anyone like yourself in a similar role. For example, being the only woman or person of colour in the room.

Why is overcoming imposter syndrome important?

From an individual’s perspective, imposter syndrome can negatively impact your career progression if you let it overwhelm you. It can hold you back from talking in meetings, grabbing opportunities, getting credit for your ideas and applying for new roles.

If a business does nothing to combat imposter syndrome, it could be missing out on a wealth of experience and diversity in its workforce.

How to combat imposter syndrome

You will be relieved to hear there are plenty of tools and techniques you can use to combat imposter syndrome.

One technique is to ask yourself reflective questions, such as:

  • What do you have self-doubt about? Once you can identify the reason you feel so uncomfortable in your situation, you will be in a better position to combat it.
  • Who are you comparing yourself to? (Why do you feel like an imposter?) If it is someone with decades of experience, someone in a different role or a ‘perfect’ standard that you have set for yourself, these are not reasonable comparisons.
  • What three reasons your manager thinks you are qualified for your role? We can be far too harsh on ourselves sometimes and thinking about our achievements from another person’s perspective can help to clearly see our own successes.

How to combat imposter syndrome during an interview

The best way to combat imposter syndrome during an interview is with careful preparation. It is so easy to freeze under pressure, so practice the commonplace questions in advance. Have 3-5 takeaways that you want to get across during the conversation.

Also, remember to appeal to and influence your audience. What is it they are looking for and how can you meet their needs? A lot of this information will be in the job specifications, so read that carefully and make sure to practice speaking about areas where you can stand out.

Who can help you battle imposter syndrome?

Your support network can have a great positive impact on helping you battle imposter syndrome. We can all appreciate a ‘cheerleader’, someone who will tell you that you’re amazing no matter what; they can be a great boost. However, someone with more constructive criticism could be useful. Talk to the people who know what you have achieved and discuss your successes. This could be a trusted colleague, line manager, close friend etc. It may feel uncomfortable, but you could learn how to talk about yourself in a whole new way. Just remember to do the same for them when their turn rolls around.

 

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