If you’re honest, you’ll admit you have had this feeling too. It’s the feeling that we just don’t stack up to our coworkers and job competitors, that we sneaked into our position on pure luck, and that we just don’t belong. It’s career impostor syndrome, and “it is a sickening, debilitating feeling like the ground was just ripped out from underneath you,” describes Dawn Rasmussen, certified resume writer and president of Pathfinder Writing Career Services.
Sustained over time, career impostor syndrome is nothing to brush off. “Some people become paralyzed or crippled by this fear of not being as awesome as they led others to believe,” Rasmussen says. It can impact your performance on the clock, Rasmussen warns, and stall your job search if you’re looking for new employment. But, “the only person you are hurting is yourself and your ability to move forward,” she points out. So here are six strategies to help you get over impostor syndrome, and gain the confidence to crush your career and get the job you want.
1. Remember: You’re not alone.
As Karen Elizaga, executive coach and author of Find Your Sweet Spot, points out, “everyone thinks they’re an impostor.” Wrapping your mind around that idea can be very comforting. “Virtually everyone around you thinks they will be caught out,” she says. “But look at them—do you think every single one of them is punching above their weight? Chances are not.”
2. Tally your talents.
You may feel like you’re bringing enough to the proverbial career table, but the fact is that everyone has a variety of valuable skills—and the only difference between people is whether they’re aware of their own talents. So, Elizaga recommends that you keep track of your own assets, “and really embrace the positive feedback that you get from others.” It’s called a Kudos Folder, and it’s useful for your current job and for when you apply to the next one.
3. Go back to basics.
Of course, a job description can come with an intimidatingly long list of required and desired skills, and it’s only human nature to focus on the one skill you think you don’t possess. The fact is, however, checking most of those boxes — even if you miss one or two — totally puts you in the running. “Don’t allow a dose of doubt to erase all of your confidence,” advises Rasmussen. “You have to run your race and your race alone. And if you are qualified, then you have to go for it.”
4. Check in with a mentor.
If you’re feeling like you can’t compare to other coworkers or potential job candidates, turn to your career mentor for an honest evaluation. “Most of the time, he or she will tell you [that] you are fine, you are qualified, and you need to go for it,” Rasmussen says. “An external observer can put your fears to rest.”
5. Take a class.
If you feel your skill set is really lacking—and a friend or mentor has backed you up—then consider taking a class or even volunteering to beef up your resume, Rasmussen suggests. “With knowledge come skills, and with skills come confidence,” she points out. Another thing to remember? “No one is born an instant expert,” says Rasmussen. “Everyone has had to put their time in, and during that learning curve, mistakes are made while they acquire knowledge. It happens.”
6. Hold onto a mantra.
Mantras aren’t just for motivating yourself to get to the gym. A mantra said to yourself in times of career doubt can give you the boost of confidence you need to go for the job you really want. Elizaga suggests something simple, such as, “I belong.” It’s a mantra many of her clients use with great success. “The human brain can only handle one conscious thought at a time,” Elizaga says, “so if a positive, productive mantra occupies your brain space, you will push out any impostor syndrome thoughts.”