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Career Development

5 Steps for Overcoming Career Change Imposter Syndrome

General Assembly
May 8, 2023

As you approach your dream job or prepare to start a new business, it’s common to experience a sense of unworthiness and self-doubt that can hold you back. Imposter syndrome can prevent you from fully embracing your accomplishments and reaching your full potential. 

In this blog post, we aim to provide guidance on overcoming imposter syndrome for individuals who are considering a career change and are struggling with self-confidence about their ability to succeed in a new field. Additionally, we will explore actionable steps to help career changers like you overcome imposter syndrome and realize your aspirations.

Imposter syndrome is more common than you think 

According to Harvard Business Review, imposter syndrome can be defined as doubting your abilities and, as a result, feeling like a fraud. Despite evidence of their competence, people with imposter syndrome often feel like they don’t deserve their success and attribute it to luck or external factors.

It is quite common for someone to experience imposter syndrome at some stage throughout their careers. According to research by KPMG, women tend to experience imposter syndrome more frequently than men, with 75% of female executives across various industries say they have experienced imposter syndrome in their careers. 

Another report by job site Indeed, “Working on Wellbeing,” found that three in five workers experience imposter syndrome, with women and younger people disproportionately more likely to have feelings of self-doubt. 

Although it’s common, there are steps you can take to alleviate imposter syndrome and get back to feeling confident in your workplace. 

5 steps to overcoming imposter syndrome

Here’s a five-step action plan to help you overcome feelings of inadequacy to make a thriving career change and say goodbye to imposter syndrome. 

Step 1: Examine imposter syndrome by identifying it 

Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon that causes individuals to doubt their achievements and fear being exposed as a fraud or impostor. People with imposter syndrome often attribute their successes to luck or outside factors rather than their own abilities, leading them to feel inadequate and unworthy. 

There are five different types of imposter syndrome

  1. The expert: you find yourself being called the expert, yet you feel like you don’t have all the answers and feel pressure to live up to these high standards. 
  2. The super woman/man: you are an over-achiever, and workaholic as you find yourself working harder and overtime to compensate for your fraudulent feelings. 
  3. The perfectionist: you are an over-achiever and find you hold yourself and others to a very high standard. When you make a mistake, you feel inadequate and start doubting yourself. 
  4. The soloist: you find it difficult to ask for help and to ask questions because you are afraid it makes you look like you are a fraud and not an expert in your field. 
  5. The natural genius: you’re not just focused on making sure everything you do is perfect, but you also want to understand every concept of the project you are contributing to. If you feel you don’t understand something, you begin to doubt your self-worth. 

Self-doubt can manifest itself in various ways in our professional lives, such as procrastination, avoiding new challenges, and obsessing over minor mistakes. If you find yourself feeling anxious or insecure about your accomplishments, experiencing a fear of failure or rejection, or having difficulty accepting praise or recognition, you may be experiencing imposter syndrome. Understanding the symptoms of this syndrome is the first step towards overcoming it and unlocking your full potential.

Step 2: Lean into your truth

Each of us has a unique set of skills, experiences, and perspectives that make us valuable contributors in our professional fields. However, imposter syndrome can make it difficult for us to recognize our strengths and embrace our individuality, leading us to doubt our capabilities and potential. By taking the time to understand our professional strengths and confronting any limiting beliefs, we can carve out space for new and rewarding career possibilities. 

Engaging in practices like journaling, meditation, and continuous learning can also help us explore deeper layers of ourselves and gain confidence in our decision-making. For example, journaling can provide an opportunity for self-reflection and personal growth, while meditation can help us develop mindfulness and a sense of inner peace. 

If you also genuinely feel like you lack the necessary skills for your role, you can also lean on continuous learning opportunities. For example, joining a General Assembly course or bootcamp can enable you to learn the hard and soft skills you might be missing to unlock your full potential at work. Additionally, GA’s courses offer lots of networking opportunities and the chance to learn from industry experts and peers. 

Step 3: Take time out to reflect on your achievements & goals

It’s easy to fall into the trap of constantly doing without taking the time to reflect on our intentions and goals. When we get caught up in this cycle, our why can become blurred, and we may miss out on valuable growth opportunities. However, taking a moment to acknowledge small wins can help reignite our motivation and inspire us to visualize what else is possible. 

By recognizing our accomplishments, no matter how small, we can build confidence in our abilities and develop a clearer sense of direction for our personal and professional lives. This newfound clarity can inspire us to take bigger steps towards self-discovery and change, such as exploring a career change that aligns with our passions and values. Taking small steps toward self-discovery can help you build momentum for bigger and better changes and empower you to achieve your full capabilities. 

Step 4: Build a strong support system & personal reminder bible

If you’re struggling with imposter syndrome, it can be challenging to recognize your accomplishments and feel confident in your abilities. In these moments, your colleagues, friends, and family can serve as a valuable reminder that you are qualified to embark on a career change journey regardless of education or professional experience. 

They can do this by offering sincere praise and encouragement for your accomplishments, reminding you of your strengths and unique qualities, and highlighting your successes and achievements. Additionally, they can provide a listening ear when you need to vent your fears and doubts, and offer helpful feedback and advice. By having a supportive network of loved ones, you can feel more confident in your abilities and better equipped to overcome imposter syndrome.

In times of self-doubt, building a collection of performance reviews, gratitude notes, and other positive reminders that can help boost your confidence can become your personal reminder bible to highlight your achievements and strengths. 

Remember that your qualifications for a career change are not solely based on your education or professional experience but also on your unique skills, experiences, and perspectives. By gathering reminders of your value and worth, you can overcome imposter syndrome and confidently pursue new career opportunities.

Step 5: Make friends with your inner voice 

Our internal dialogue is a powerful tool that can either empower or diminish our thoughts and actions. When struggling with imposter syndrome, it’s important to recognize when negative thoughts and fears are simply passing through rather than rooted in reality. Here are three quick tips and tricks to help combat these fears with courage:

  1. Practice mindfulness: by becoming more aware of your thoughts and emotions, you can better recognize when self-doubt or imposter syndrome is creeping in. Mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing or body scans, can help ground you in the present moment and allow you to observe your thoughts without judgment.
  2. Reframe negative self-talk: when you notice negative self-talk, try reframing those thoughts with positive affirmations. For example, if you find yourself thinking, “I’m not qualified for this job,” counteract that with, “I have unique skills and experiences that make me a valuable candidate.”
  3. Seek support: don’t be afraid to reach out to friends, family, or a mental health professional for support. Having someone to talk to can help you gain perspective and develop strategies for combating imposter syndrome.

Remember that recognizing and combating imposter syndrome takes time and practice. By being kind to yourself and using these tips and tricks, you can overcome self-doubt and cultivate courage in your personal and professional life.

Your imposter syndrome antidote: from self-doubt to self-confidence

Oftentimes we can be stuck in a rut when it comes to feelings of self-doubt and lack of confidence in our professional and personal life. Sometimes, we all need a little antidote to snap us out of this dreary cycle. Luckily, there are many resources one can access to nip imposter syndrome in the bud. Such as support from your friends and family, creating a personal confidence reminder bible, or fine-tuning your professional skills and competency.  

At General Assembly, our career coaches can help you overcome imposter syndrome by building the skills you need through our tailored courses or free workshops. Reach out to us to learn more and receive tailored advice to start your career change today.

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