Tag: career development

Are you an imposter?

I was sitting over lunch with a very capable friend, I’ll call her Tessa. Although we’ve known each other for several years, we only catch up once every few months. But I have dealings with her professionally and know her to be highly professional and efficient. In fact, she’s a wonderful role model.

She was telling me that she had been offered a job out of the blue. Not only that, but the person was willing to wait for her to make up her mind and start in her own good time. The job wasn’t going to be advertised or offered to anyone else.

‘Wow, that’s a great vote of confidence.’ I said.

She went quiet and looked down at the floor. ‘I’m not sure I can do it.’ she whispered.

My jaw dropped. She’d told me about the job and I knew she could do it standing on her head.

‘You’re kidding.’

‘I thought if I took it I could always turn to you for advice if I got stuck.’ she replied.

Now, like I said, this is someone I look up to, not someone I expected to have the least insecurities about her ability. But she had.

‘Oh,’ I said, ‘you’ve got the imposter syndrome.’

Wikipedia defines this as a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Notably, impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women.

Sound familiar to you? Do you expect to be caught out at any minute? For others to see through your accomplishments to the ‘real’ (useless) you?

Enough! Let’s explore some ways to overcome this debilitating problem that stops you being assertive and enjoying your life to the full.

How to overcome Imposter Syndrome

1. Accept compliments on your work. Don’t brush them aside or think ‘oh, she’s just being nice.’ In fact, go one step further. Get yourself a notebook and write down every compliment you get.

2. Think through the work you did to get that compliment. That work shows your capabilities. List the skills you used.

3. Stop talking yourself down. No more, ‘I only..’ or ‘I just..’ or ‘it’s nothing.’

4. Don’t think your success is down to luck. It isn’t. It’s down to your knowledge and experience.

5. Act as if you believe in yourself. We’re not talking about going round bragging, no need for that. But how about walking upright, using assertive body language and speech. That old adage of fake it till you make is often true.

6. List your accomplishments. Yes, even those that others don’t comment on. You’ll need that list when it comes to your performance review anyway. Review that list regularly to remind yourself of all that you’ve achieved.

Follow these simple steps and you’ll find that within a few months, you are beginning to believe that you are the capable, assertive person other people see.

Imagine how good that will feel.

Are you keeping your New Year’s Resolution?

Maya started 2103 full of good intentions. Normally, she didn’t make New Year’s Resolutions but Imageshe was determined to change a few things in her life. She’d lose a bit of weight, not masses, just about 5% of her body weight. It was enough to get her back into healthy BMI.

 Secondly, she planned to get promotion at work. Maya had been with her company for five years. She was well qualified and efficient, yet several times she had been overlooked for promotion. Worse, she knew that some of the people who’d got ahead of her had less skills than her. As a result, she’d been quietly fuming.

Then for Christmas 2012, a friend bought her a book on how to get promoted. It was full of great advice. What amazed Maya though, was that mostly it was about being more assertive. She learned that by keeping her head down and doing a good job, she was being overlooked. She needed to be more visible. She resolved to follow the steps in the book one by one. This is what she did:

Instead of being quiet in meetings, Maya carefully read the agenda and planned what she was going to say. She spoke out on at least half the agenda items. She made sure what she said was relevant and succinct. She maintained good eye contact and sat comfortably upright. At first, people were a bit surprised when she spoke, but within a few meetings she realised they had started to look to her to contribute. It was a massive confidence boost.

Maya volunteered to lead a new project at work. Not one for pushing herself forward, normally she would have been a follower, not a leader. But she’d had enough leaders, good and bad, to know what worked. She knew how to motivate others and get the best out of them. She gave clear commands, worked collaboratively with the team, and spoke to those people who were falling behind to get them back on board. The project was a great success and came in on time and on budget.

Maya let her boss know of her successes.  In the past, she’d thought of this as bragging, but now she realised the boss wouldn’t know unless she told her. Using her new assertiveness skills, she used the art of ‘gentle boasting’. It was a style of assertiveness that suited her personality well.

She kept her skills up to date. Not just her technical skills, but her interpersonal skills. That included getting comfortable when speaking to the most senior managers. She’d been too scared to say much to them in the past.

She made sure she looked the part. Through reading about assertiveness, Maya subtly changed her body language so she looked more assertive. She walked more upright. She held eye contact more firmly. She used confident gestures. And, taking one tip from her book, she started to dress like those people one grade higher than her.

Finally, come October, she asked for a raise. No jobs had become vacant, so she asked for a raise instead. She got it, and her boss implied she’d be very favourably regarded for a promotion in future.

Now, all she has to do is to decide on her resolutions for 2014. She’s still considering several options, but feels sure she can achieve most things she sets out to do.

I’d love to hear your New Year’s Resolutions. What are they? How are you progressing towards them?

*** Try this! ***

Maybe you don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions, but you probably have some goals – situations you would like to tackle assertively. Identify one now. Spend a few minutes planning how you will deal with it. Then close your eyes and, in whatever way works for you, imagine yourself doing it. See yourself being confidently assertive, with relaxed body language and easily able to articulate your point. Repeat this several times. You will start to lay down new pathways in your brain. This means that when it’s time for the real thing, you are much more likely to deal with it well.