Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

March 21, 2023

Picture this: you’ve just landed your dream job. What should be a moment of pure elation is tarnished by feelings of self-doubt. After an arduous, seemingly never-ending hiring process, you’ve come out the other end triumphant. And yet, your success is marred by that familiar, pesky little voice that wiggles its way to the surface of your mind: “I don’t deserve this – I’m a fraud, and they’re going to find me out eventually”.

This is imposter syndrome talking. This negative little voice nagging away at you is always lingering in the background; a party pooper just waiting on the side lines and anticipating your success, so that it can hold you back from celebrating, instead submerging you in a suffocating blanket of self-doubt.

If you’ve experienced this feeling, rest assured that you’re not alone. So many of us suffer from imposter syndrome at some point in our lives, particularly women. A recent KPMG study has revealed that 75% of female executives experience it at some stage in their careers.

But what exactly is imposter syndrome? And, the million-dollar question: what are some practical ways of overcoming it?

What is imposter syndrome?

Two American psychologists – Pauline Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes – explored the concept in their essay entitled ‘The Imposter Phenomenon in High-Achieving Women’, published in 1978. They initially regarded the ‘imposter phenomenon’ as an exclusively female experience, but the term has since been expanded – it’s become clear that feeling like an imposter can be a pretty universal experience, though it may disproportionately affect some groups more than others.

So what exactly is imposter syndrome? Well, according to Imes’ and Clance’s founding study, those who experience the phenomenon ‘persist in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise’. You may be left wondering how on earth you got into your dream university, or how you secured a major promotion. No matter how many accolades you add to your belt or how much praise you’re showered with, you remain thoroughly convinced that you don’t belong, and that you’ve ended up where you are through sheer dumb luck alone.

Now, it’s important to note that experiencing imposter syndrome doesn’t mean you’re a fraud. Far from it: those who experience it actually tend to be exceptionally bright.

Who experiences it and why?

Many potential triggers can lead to feelings of imposter syndrome. It could stem back to family history: Perhaps your parents underestimated your abilities while you were growing up, or you had a sibling who was constantly doused in praise and referred to as ‘the smart one’. On the flipside, maybe your parents treated you like a fledgling Einstein who was destined for great things, so you grew up feeling like you could never come close to reaching their unattainably high expectations.

Sexist stereotypes unfortunately continue to run rampant in many workplaces globally. And although, statistically, a similar number of men and women experience imposter syndrome at some point in their careers, the proportion of men that never experience such feelings is significantly higher (28%). Women tend to endorse their strengths less than men, while women only apply to jobs if they meet 100% of the requirements, and men usually apply if they meet just 60%. Historically, women have held less positions of power and leadership roles, and so young women grow up with fewer role models in many professional fields (particularly in STEM careers). Although the tide is definitely turning in the right direction, this remains a definite factor that contributes to feelings of imposter syndrome in women.

Or, perhaps your imposter syndrome comes down to the fact that you’re a perfectionist. It’s hard to feel satisfied with your achievements when you’re constantly striving towards the impossibly high standards you set for yourself. It may feel like a failure to lean on others for support, and you might be convinced that you have to be an expert in your field; no matter how well-versed you are, it will never be enough – at least not until you’ve mastered the subject in its entirety.

Evidently, there are many factors that may result in feelings of imposter syndrome, and it can be difficult to pinpoint just one.

How can you overcome it?

If you’ve experienced imposter syndrome before, suffice to say you’re not alone. Up to 70% of us experience it at some stage in our lives. But it can be extremely damaging, and shouldn’t just be accepted as part and parcel of success and progress. Those who experience it tend to inflict blockers on themselves in the workplace: perhaps you’re afraid to ask for help, instead opting to suppress any uncertainty you feel, or you work excessively long hours in a bid to prove yourself. It’s not always harmless; it can lead to feelings of anxiety and burnout, so it’s important to be aware of some practical steps to overcome it.

Acknowledge your feelings

When you sense yourself slipping into negative self-talk, don’t just try to ignore it. Calmly identify these thoughts as they cross your mind, recognising them for what they are: no matter how convincing that little voice may be, it’s not speaking a word of truth – it’s a natural and common response to success. Don’t let yourself be dragged down by these thoughts; acknowledge them critically, from a distance – as if that pesky little voice making you question your self-worth are coming from an entity separate from yourself. Once you come to terms with the fact that these feelings are just imposter syndrome talking, you won’t be so quick to believe them.

Come up with a counter-argument

Try and imagine that any thoughts of self-doubt are coming from a little devil on your shoulder, who is determined to convince you that you’re not good enough. It’s up to you to conjure up an angel to counter those negative thoughts, an internal voice that can spur you on as your cheerleader. Whenever you feel that first inkling of imposter syndrome niggling away, remind yourself of every little thing that you have accomplished leading up to this point. If you hear a little whispering voice telling you that ‘you’re not worthy’, fight back by mentally reciting all the evidence to the contrary: what steps have gotten you this far? Be kind to yourself, logically tracking and reminding yourself of all your successes up to this point. Your success is not a fluke, and sometimes you need to remind yourself of that.

Share your feelings with others

Rest assured that imposter syndrome is very common. Many people can resonate with you, likely including the people closest to you. There’s no harm in opening up to friends and families about your feelings: Not only can they provide a supportive shoulder for you to lean on, but then can also bolster up your confidence by showering you in (well-deserved) praise and words of reassurance. If you feel like your feelings of self-doubt are holding you back in the workplace, it might also be a good idea to find a professional mentor who you can turn to for support and guidance, whether that be a colleague or your boss, or someone external to your organisation, if that’s preferable.

Embrace it

If all else fails, keep this in mind at all costs: experiencing imposter syndrome can actually be a good thing. It’s a sign that you’re pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, and that you’re constantly striving towards improvement. Even if it can feel uncomfortable at times, you’re pushing back against feelings of self-doubt by putting yourself out there and achieving amazing things. And it’s actually very normal to be humble and experience ‘pinch me’ moments where you can’t quite believe how far you come. Feeling like an imposter, when all is said and done, simply shows that you’re human.



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10 Questions To Ask At The End Of A Job Interview

10 Questions To Ask At The End Of A Job Interview

March 9, 2023

“Now, do you have any questions for me?”

There it is, right on cue. The question that inevitably rolls around at the end of every job interview. You’d think you would’ve gotten used to this question by now, having been asked it time and again – and yet, for some of us at least, this moment remains just as daunting as the first time it occurred.

No matter how  much preparation you’ve done in anticipation of this moment, when it comes time to ask your interviewer questions, you may suddenly feel stumped. It feels like a test; an extension of the interview where you’re being assessed for the quality of your questions, rather than a genuine opportunity to find out more about the company and your potential place within it.

However, believe it or not, it doesn’t have to be this way. When approached correctly, this portion of the interview is a goldmine: it’s an opportunity for you to further showcase yourself whilst still asking authentic questions that help you find out more about the role – thus, the perfect denouement to your interview. Your intentions should be twofold: find out more about the role and company as a whole, whilst impressing your potential future manager with your insightful questions. You can walk out of your interview with your head held high, armed with the knowledge that you’ve asked questions that helped you understand the role better whilst leaving a positive, lasting impression on your interviewer.

At risk of stating the obvious, you don’t want to fire all ten of these questions at your interview in quick succession the moment you’re prompted to take the floor. This ultimately comes across as disingenuous and pre-planned, like you’re reading off a script rather than asking authentic questions that actually matter to you. Listen to your intuition and select, say, four or five questions at most to pose at the end of your interview.

1: What do you like most about working here?

This one is a no-brainer. Asking your interviewer this question gets to the heart of a very important matter: what makes this company special, and will I fit in here? You want to know about the best bits of working here: it gives you a teaser of what might be in store for you – like the trailer of a new movie that you can’t wait to see. The go-to answer tends to be something broad and non-specific, like ‘the culture’ or ‘the people’ – but try and dig deeper. What is it about the culture they like? Is the office abuzz with an exciting and lively vibe? Or is it more laidback and friendly? Use their answer as a springboard, prompting them to flesh out their answer so that you can form a more vivid impression of the company. There’s so many things they could say in answer to this question, so if you’re met with an awkward silence, dry gulp and  monosyllabic answer, you can probably presume that the company culture leaves a lot to be desired. And, if the best answer they can come up with is ‘the salary’ – well, that speaks for itself.

2: What would make someone really stand out in this role?

This is up there with some of the best questions you can put forward to your interviewer. By asking this, you’re implicitly demonstrating your desire to go above and beyond in this role – but more than that, should you be successful and get the job, you’re giving yourself a head-start in the race to really shine forth as a star employee. You’re going a step further than asking what makes someone ‘good’ at this job – you want to be great. This really showcases your desire to set yourself apart from the crowd, so it’s a win-win.

3: How do you measure performance?

A super useful one. Every company measures success differently, so understanding what the key performance indicators would be in this role is vital. Their answer puts their expectations in sharper relief, helping you understand the stepping stones to success in this role. Even if you don’t end up getting the job, understanding how different companies assess performance and the standard you should be measuring yourself against is always useful.

4: What would my day-to-day responsibilities in this role be?

Granted, the job spec may have contained some sweeping statements about the responsibilities that fall under this role. However, it’s often hard to visualise what the day-to-day would actually look like without jumping in at the deep end and experiencing it for yourself. Thus, asking this question can help you picture the day-to-day a little bit clearer. This could help you form an opinion on whether or not this would be the right opportunity for you. How does it sound working here once you get down to the nitty gritty? Would be happy working here if it was mostly admin work? Or if you’d be almost exclusively working solo? This question helps you uncover the reality of the role on a more granular level. If you do end up asking this question, make sure you frame it in exactly the same way: by asking what ‘your’ responsibilities would be, you’re employing a clever psychological trick. The interviewer automatically pictures you in the role as they answer the question.

5: What are some of the challenges that people in this role have encountered?

Don’t get us wrong, it’s wonderful to hear about the joys of working at a particular company. Who doesn’t want to be serenaded by the promise of perks galore? However, it’s important to remain realistic: no job is perfect, and every role comes with it’s own very unique set of challenges. It’s important to pre-emptively arm yourself with the knowledge that these challenges may rear their heads, so that you can confront them more efficiently should they arise. Also, this question functions as an opportunity for you to showcase your problem-solving skills: if you’re encountered similar challenges yourself, you can humbly acknowledge how you overcame them in the past, just be cautious not to be arrogant about it.

6: What are the company’s plans for development and growth in the next five years?

Keen to demonstrate your curiosity in the long-term future of the company? Well, if you want to prove to your interviewer just how invested in this position you are, this is the question for you. Also, it is genuinely useful for you to know if the company has any exciting developments or drastic overhauls on the horizon – if you do end up working here, it’s nice to know exactly what the company is shaping up to do over the next five years.

7: Can you tell me more about the team I’d be working in?

The only thing more important than the role itself is the people you’ll be working with. Depending on how they answer the question, this could be make or break: does it sound like you’d fit in and be a good addition to the team, or would your talents be better suited elsewhere?

8: What development opportunities would I have working here?

This one’s a gem. First off, it’s crucial to know that this company could be the kind of environment that supports your personal growth and development. It’s an added bonus that, by asking this question, you’re showing your interviewer that you’re constantly striving towards self-improvement. You’re not just hungering after a job: you’re on a constant upward professional trajectory.

9: What are the next steps?

A practical question and a good one to end on. This gets the ball rolling in the right direction, giving you an indication of what to expect over the coming weeks.

10: Personal questions that you’ve come up with yourself

This may sound unhelpful. However, one of the best things you can do at the end of an interview is ask the questions that truly matter to you, questions that cannot be found on a list of suggestions online (even a list as good as this one). These kinds of questions should be entirely subjective, based on your research on the company. If they do volunteering with a particular kind of charity, ask how this charity aligns with the company’s values. If you spotted a social media post about a recent development at the company, inquire about this latest piece of news. Ask the questions that genuinely matter to you – you’re not just looking to impress and get the gig, you’re also trying to ascertain whether this is the right fit for you. You can’t pluck these questions from thin air – they have to authentically come from you.

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