The Ultimate Killer Blow to Feeling Like an Impostor

Here’s the ultimate killer blow to cure you of impostor syndrome or feelings of inadequacy in your job or career forever.

In part one of this blog, The Cure for Impostor Syndrome for New Graduates and Everyone Else, I discussed how impostor syndrome is a phenomenon that describes the feeling of being a fraud in your job or career. You feel like you don’t know what you’re doing and that one day people are going to find you out and expose you. I shared how even great achievers suffer from it and how impostor syndrome can even affect you after years of being in your career.

I also shared what I believe is an effective cure against impostor syndrome, that we should reframe it by allocating it new meaning. To do this, we used FreshBooks CEO Mike McDerment’s take on the three main ways impostor syndrome often manifests itself, which are:

1. You feel like you don’t have all the answers
2. You doubt your own ability
3. You worry your fears might be proven true

Why the ultimate killer blow to feeling like an impostor works

The solutions were effective, and in this blog, I am going to share why with what I believe is the ultimate killer blow to and cure for impostor syndrome. It will help you combat feelings of inadequacy in your job and career forever.

Here it is: impostor syndrome is nothing but the sign that you are still learning.

Yes. As simple as that. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re not weird, usual or inadequate but an alive and kicking human being who is still learning. That’s all.

So, impostor syndrome is a good sign because you should never be done with learning.

You may ask, “What about those people who feel like an impostor even though they have written books, sang songs and delivered keynote speeches on the same topic in front audiences many times before?” I’d say that they feel like an impostor because each time they write, sing or speak they are entering a new learning scenario. Each scenario is unique. That’s all.

What if I really can’t do the job!

You may ask, “What if I really cannot do the job?” or “How do I know I am really ready for that position?” I’d say, you cannot always wait until you are ready to start new things. How are you going to learn? How are you going to know? The time will never be right if you always wait until it is right. You can’t win if you don’t take the initiative. You must do new things if you want to move closer to your career goal.

The benefits to feeling like an impostor

Feeling like an impostor is good for you. To advance in your career you need to grow in your skills and to grow in your skills you must do new things. This is going to make you feel uncomfortable and inadequate sometimes. Accept it. If you want to get ahead in your career you must keep adding to your list of achievements, and the only way to do that is to keep achieving new things. That means a commitment to growth, development and new learning scenarios that will help you to move forward. Otherwise you’ll stagnate.

Don’t worry over making mistakes and looking foolish. You will, that is, make mistakes (not look foolish!) because that’s the price for growth and learning. As the book title goes, ‘Fail Forward’.

There is another benefit to this feeling of being an impostor. It helps us to remain humble, to learn and to build real relationships with each other. It opens us up to learn from those before us and to be an example to those coming behind us.

In their book, Humility is the New Smart, Edward Hess and Katherine Ludwig, researchers at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, describe this humility not as self-effacement but accurate self-appraisal. You must acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers, remain open to new ideas and commit yourself to life-long learning.

The Cure for Impostor Syndrome for New Graduates and Everyone Else

Great achievers admit they suffer from it, celebrities are often plagued by it and females are more likely to admit to it. What is it? Impostor syndrome.

Impostor syndrome is the feeling that you’re a fraud in your job or career. You feel like you don’t belong or know what you’re really doing and, worst of all, that someone is going to find out and you will be exposed.

According to an article published by Forbes most leaders privately experience some form of impostor syndrome. Their research shows that 69% of leaders enter new jobs feeling unprepared for what’s expected of them. They often have little understanding of what they are up against until they get there. And when leaders experience feelings of being a fraud they tend to overcompensate with extreme attempts to be perfect, which only makes matters worse. That’s not the solution – I’ll tell you what I think is in a second.

Why graduates must know how to cure impostor syndrome

Firstly, I believe impostor syndrome is a phenomenon you ought to know about as a young person or recent graduate embarking on your career. Or anyone else for that matter. The reason why is because you may experience impostor syndrome and feel confused about it. Your lack of understanding may cause these feelings to derail your career. You may believe you lack what it takes to go after the job you dream of. But if even accomplished leaders and celebrities sometimes feel prone to it how much more you at the beginning of your career?

So, if leaders with several years more experience than you feel inadequate, so will you. A year before he won the Pulitzer prize for his novel Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck wrote in his diary, “I am not a writer. I have been fooling people for years.” Impostor syndrome doesn’t discriminate against job title or career status and, although research shows that more women admit to it than men, it affects both males and females.

You can still feel like an impostor even after years of being in your career. Even after writing 11 books Maya Angelou said she still felt like an impostor. Our inner critic tells us that every success of the past was a fluke and that this time people are going to find us out!

The simple cure for impostor syndrome is…

The simple cure for impostor syndrome is to reframe it. Change the meaning. Just because you feel inadequate doesn’t mean it’s true, so let’s reframe it.

In his article on the subject, FreshBooks CEO Mike McDerment (who has also experienced feelings of being an impostor) pointed out the following three ways in which impostor syndrome tends to show itself:

  1. You feel like you don’t have all the answers
  2. You doubt your own ability
  3. You worry your fears will be proven true

Let’s reframe each of these.

You feel like you don’t have all the answers.

Well, of course you don’t! And to think you do is arrogant. Instead, admit that you don’t know everything and set yourself the task of finding out what you don’t know by studying the nature of the problem to find a solution to match. And the answers don’t necessarily have to come from you – ask other people.

You doubt your own ability.

Let me ask you this: do you have the ability to learn? Good. So, start with what you do know and seek to learn the rest. There was a time when you didn’t have the ability to walk, or talk, or to post a comment on LinkedIn, but you do now, don’t you? So, you do have the ability. Learn from those who are more experienced or knowledgeable than you. Draw on your past successes to help build your confidence.

You worry your fears will be proven true.

This is what fuels impostor syndrome: fear. But, if we take the steps above this fear is less likely to grip us. If you admit that you don’t have all the answers but you’re going to find them, you don’t need to worry over whether someone is going to find out that you don’t. As leadership guru John Maxwell says, “Feed your faith and starve your fear”.

I am going to finish off with what I believe is the ultimate killer blow to and cure for impostor syndrome. It will help you combat feelings of inadequacy forever. You can read about it here in The Ultimate Killer Blow to Feeling Like an Impostor, which is part two of this blog.

How to describe your key skills on your CV – Part 2

It’s not what you say on your CV but how you say it that gets you results. This blog shows you how.

In Part 1 of this blog I shared CV Tips 1 to 3 on how to describe your key skills and achievements on your CV. My aim is to show exactly how to describe your soft skills and experience to employers even if you have little or no work experience.

To do this you must break down and describe in detail the skills gained from activities like travel, hobbies, interests and so forth. The tips I share are drawn from my experience of helping countless numbers of graduates create CVs that have helped them get job interviews.

In this second part, I will share further examples to help you pull out the nitty gritty details of your skills and experience so that your CV stands out where it matters. Let’s kick off with CV Tip 4.

CV Tip 4: List Travel

Don’t make the mistake of thinking of travel as just travel: find the value in it and share it on your CV. Every employer looks for evidence of cultural awareness, especially in our global working environment. Evidence that you have worked or lived in another country will make your claim to cultural awareness stronger. List any working holidays you took abroad to show that you are adaptable and good with people from different backgrounds. Name the countries too, as different countries will bring out different skills and awareness.

CV Tip 5: Little or no work experience

Frequently I come across graduates who have little or no work experience and so think they have little to put on their CVs. However, that is not necessarily true. It’s just a matter of looking more closely.

For example, I once worked with a graduate who fundraised to pay for his own trips aboard. I showed him how he could use this to demonstrate that he is resilient, determined, enterprising, and a good problem solver.

I coached another candidate with no paid work experience to talk about her experience of writing for her school and university newspapers as well as writing her own fashion blog. The employer could see she used her time at university effectively. She came across as consistent and as having a real interest in developing and using her communication skills. If you’re passionate about a skill you will find ways to practice it. You are also more likely to be effective at it.

CV Tip 6: Use Facts and Figures

Fact and figures help you to explain the impact your skills have had in a job. You can explain that a training event you organised for students at your university achieved a 25% increase in attendance compared to the previous year. Information like this can present you as persuasive.

Look at how much stronger the following extract from a CV comes across simply by adding facts and figures:

  • Delivered successful SEO campaigns, which lead to increased keyword ranking and web traffic.
  • Managed PPC Google Adwords campaigns with a budget of £30,000pcm, I achieved a positive ROI thanks to targeted keyword selection and strong conversion rates.
  • Managed email marketing, including writing and designing HTML emails, organising email schedule and working with third party advertising campaigns (which directly generated £75,000 revenue).
  • Helped build email database of 200,000 records over the last 12 months.
  • Built strong list of PR contacts running affiliate and link building campaigns.

CV Tip 7: List Awards

Describing yourself as ‘award winning’ is eye-catching and potentially any graduate who has ever won an award can do this. One graduate made good use of her Duke of Edinburgh Award and trophies in sports, cooking, horse riding and skiing to paint a picture of someone who is a good team worker, creative and adventurous.

CV Tip 8: Anything else out of the ordinary?

One candidate I worked with had an impressive list of achievements that included founding start-ups and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. He also listed early stages of learning a language and his goal to become bilingual in a few years. Even though he was yet to acquire this goal, having the goal and stating it painted him in good light. Besides, the employer could also look at this potential achievement as a skill that could come in useful in the future.

I hope you have found the tips shared in this two-part blog useful to help you improve the way you describe your skills and experience on your CV. There’s always a way to improve and strengthen your CV. It just takes a little effort to dig below the surface and pull out the skills and experience you have hidden. Taking them out of their context can help you present them in new light and you will be surprised at just how much you have to offer.