It’s natural to feel like an imposter at work; here’s how I manage it.
By Sabrina Sahota
Chances are if someone’s hired you then they’ve seen your potential. Sabrina shares her coping strategies to help you remember your worth when you're doubting yourself.
I’ve been working full time as a journalist for six months and, like many grads, have struggled with the uneasy feeling of imposter syndrome. While university offers you life experience - the “joys” of shared housing and mid-week drinking - it doesn’t really prepare you for the realities of the working world.
After finishing up my journalism degree in Bournemouth, I was incredibly fortunate to land freelancing gigs at two national news outlets based in London. My first few weeks were exciting and eye-opening but then that incessant feeling of self-doubt started to creep in. I’d gone from writing lighthearted local news stories from a small coastal town to reporting on national issues such as Brexit and the Autumn Budget. Even though I had the experience and qualifications to land both jobs, I essentially felt like a bit of a fraud.
Landing a grad job pushes you into a tricky transition from carefree twenty-something to young adult with a semblance of responsibility. It’s natural to feel like an imposter. In fact, imposter syndrome isn’t a new phenomenon – two female psychologists coined the term in the 1970s when they picked up on their own insecurities whilst studying at grad school. It’s that persistent feeling of incompetence that makes you doubt your own abilities and achievements. And apparently a third of millennials are suffering from imposter syndrome at work, with more young females in particular noting a feeling of intimidation compared to males.
Over the past six months of working, I’ve collected a number of strategies that have helped me take control of such moments of self-doubt. Of course I still have anxious moments from time to time, but they’re more like small knocks in confidence rather than soul-crushing anxiety. Here’s what works for me when that uneasy feeling starts to kick in.
Remember why you’re there
One of the biggest struggles after graduating is landing that first job, but you’ve overcome what can seem like an impossible hurdle. You’re there because someone who’s probably quite good at their job thinks you have the potential to be the same. They’ve had countless applications to take their pick from, and they’ve chosen you for a reason.
I remember having a conversation with an editor on a national paper about hiring a graduate compared to someone with more experience. She said some of the best editors she’d worked with had built teams comprised of trainee reporters fresh out of education as well as senior reporters with a substantial portfolio. Chances are if someone’s hired you then they’ve seen your potential, and it helps to keep that in mind.
Stop comparing yourself to other people
That nagging feeling of imposter syndrome doesn’t help when you’re surrounded by co-workers who make it seem like they could do your job in their sleep. But remember that your senior co-workers have probably faced the same hurdles that you’re up against now, and have managed to build themselves up in an industry that you’re just starting to make your mark in. You’ve got years to figure out what you’re good at. Don’t feel like you have to achieve everything at once.
Instead, use the experience of other people
You’re spending the afternoon inputting data into a spreadsheet whilst your colleagues are out at lunch schmoozing with PRs. But remember they were once in your position. So, instead of letting your confidence take a knock, look to them for guidance and advice. It can be all the way from “how do I work the photocopier?” to “can you give me some feedback on this pitch?”. Not everyone will be willing to impart their knowledge but most people sympathise with the fact everyone has to start somewhere. It’s basically saying “you’re brilliant at your job which is something I aspire to be”. And let’s face it, everyone thrives off a bit of an ego boost.
Remember that everyone else is sort of winging it too
When you’re a kid you look up to adults as people who have their shit together. Now you’re one of those adults and you very much don’t have your shit together. But does anyone really? Apparently it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become world-class at any one skill. Clearly, knowledge and skill don’t come without time and plenty of practice.
No one expects you to be completely exceptional; you’re allowed to make mistakes and you might even make those mistakes a couple of times. It’s 100% the best way to learn. Take it from someone who’s made more than their fair share.
Images are author's own.