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  • Writer's pictureBetsy Kent


One of the main reasons clients tell me that they are overwhelmed when searching for a job or going for a promotion is that they are suffering from Imposter Syndrome.  

But there are 3 major reasons that Imposter Syndrome (which is basically thinking that you don’t know enough to do well in a job) is not a reason to be overwhelmed or stuck.

REASON 1: THE MORE YOU KNOW, THE MORE YOU KNOW HOW MUCH MORE THERE IS TO KNOW.   This is a fact and not a problem that you have to solve for. 

What you are doing and why it’s a problem:

  • You are spending your time researching, taking courses, reading books, practicing pitches and/or answers to interview questions.

  • You are not applying for jobs or roles that you really want until you know enough.

  • You haven’t defined when you know enough, in fact you keep moving the goal.

  • You set yourself up for a Catch 22 situation where you can’t ever win. 

  • You don’t know what to learn next or when to stop and you get overwhelmed.

  • You stay stuck where you are, but now you are also frustrated because you have new knowledge and desires that you can’t or don’t use in your current situation.

The Solution:

  • Recognize that you already know a lot.

  • Believe that you can provide a lot of value with what you already know.

  • Know that the fact that there is more to know is not a problem and that there will never be nothing else to know.

  • Here’s a visual that may help - If you put all your knowledge about something in a circle, what you can see that you don’t know is what is right outside the perimeter of that circle. But, as you learn more, the circle of knowledge gets larger and consequently the perimeter is larger and so the number of things you don’t know right beyond the perimeter is also greater than before. 

  • This is a good thing - it provides us with motivation for continued growth and learning but doesn’t dilute the fact that you already have useful, actionable and growing cirlcle of knowledge.

  • MOST IMPORTANT - TAKE ACTION - Action (not more learning) brings Clarity. Take some action, apply to jobs, ask for a promotion, talk to people in the jobs you want and then it will be clear if you need to learn more and what exactly you need to master to move forward.

REASON 2: YOU CAN FIGURE IT OUT! This is the best skill you have.

What you are doing and why it’s a problem:

  • You think you can’t apply for or be successful in a role if you don’t already know how to do everything that position might require.

  • You aren’t applying for roles where you don’t meet ALL the requirements and have experience with ALL the responsibilities in the job description.

  • If you do apply to those roles, you unintentionally communicate a lack of confidence. You are apologetic for what you believe you lack or you over explain how your experience might be relevant. 

  • You basically tell people, including yourself, in advance, that you aren’t right for the role.

The Solution:

  • Know that you can figure it out! However you got to where you are, you had to start with no experience and you just figured it out as you went along. If you were able to do that, why do you doubt that you can continue to figure it out?

  • Adopt the belief that the ability to figure it out is a super power that employers value above almost anything else.

  • Don’t be afraid to admit that you haven’t done something before or that you don’t know how to do something, INSTEAD:

  • Relay to your employer that in this world where everything is constantly changing, politically, culturally, financially and technologically (to name just a few) any specific skill may well be obsolete or irrelevant at any given time. BUT - the ability to figure things out, no matter what the environment brings, is the thing that will make any employee and consequently the organization successful. 

  • Give some examples of when you had to figure something out that allowed you to solve a problem, create an efficiency, improve customer/stakeholder engagement or discover a new revenue stream.

REASON 3:  IT IS EGOTISTICAL!  You can't substitute your judgment for someone else!

What you are doing and why it’s a problem:

  • You believe you know better than the employer that you don’t know enough to do a good job in a specific role.

  • You don’t have faith that an employer is willing to hire you based on what you know already and will train you on anything else you need to know.

  • You don’t apply for roles that YOU decide you won’t get.

  • You don’t believe that employers know what they are doing when they hire for a role in THEIR company. 

  • You prevent yourself and the organization from the chance to benefit from the value of your current expertise because YOU made a decision for the employer about THEIR own company.

The Solution:

  • Apply to the jobs you are interested in and let employerS do their job and make a decision about whether you are appropriate for a specific role

  • Don’t assume that you can “trick” the employer into thinking that you are a good fit. 

  • Believe that a company that is doing well probably knows how to meet its needs and that it is not in the habit of hiring people who can’t perform in the roles in which they are placed.

  • BASICALLY - don’t assume you know, more than the employer, what is best for the organization.

DROP THE IMPOSTER SYNDROME - its not really a thing that matters!

Here is how in summary:

  • Stop learning.

  • Take action and apply for the roles you want.

  • Tell the truth, appreciate the value of what you know, convey that you are great at figuring things out and why that is important. 

  • Stop making decisions for the organization and let it do its job and decide if you are a good candidate for the role!

You might be surprised that the only thing you don’t know that matters is - you don’t have to let Imposter Syndrome stop you!

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