Using Imposter Syndrome as a Superpower

2 minute read

It’s normal. At some point (really, points) in your career and life, you’re going to be faced with the infamous Imposter Syndrome. You’re going to feel like you don’t have the right experiences, the skills for the job, the credentials to be let through security, the brains to be making the decisions.

“These people are all supposed to be here and they know what’s going on — and here I am just faking it. They’re going to find out.”

Everyday Concept - Imposter Syndrome
From my project (note the bad sketching).
</figure> But actually you should see this as an opportunity much more than a liability. ## Changing Jobs A big contributing factor to the imposter feeling is both the changing job market that we live in — and for many that I know in similar career paths — how varied and multi-faceted their paths have been. Gone are the days of getting that industry job and hunkering down for the next 35+ years, moving from the mail room to the board room. What’s more, is that I’m finding that my colleagues who seem to be flourishing the most are on 2nd or even 3rd career paths — musician turned archivist turned writer, or consultant turned Foreign Service turned entrepreneur. For my own path, I’ve gone from Teacher to Tech Specialist to UX designer to Data Scientist to…whatever hybrid role I’m in now. 🙃 ## From Liability to Superpower It’s not always a linear path — it shifts and is informed by the world and opportunities around me, as it does for all of us (even when we can’t always see it). But that winding path doesn’t always come through clearly on a CV as a narrative on its own. You don’t have the same sketching abilities so you don’t feel like a designer, or you don’t have a mathematics PhD so you don’t feel qualified to be “doing” data science. Or more diabolically, maybe you’re being made to feel like an outsider because of your nationality, your gender, or your sexual orientation. You have to reverse it. It’s hard — believe me, I know. But you have to remember that your story and your path is unique, and your varied experiences and your differences are what help you _add_ to your abilities rather than take them away. That’s the key. That’s your superpower that no one else around you has. What’s hard to see in those moments is that in fact, you’re not alone, and actually **everyone** is faking it. Part of landing in a new organization, moving to a new team, or taking on a new role is reminding yourself that not everyone is as confident as they might first seem. And that you might actually be a threat to some folks (that _you’re_ causing _their_ imposter syndrome!) ## Good Ones Hide Their Weaknesses, Great Ones Use Them But mostly you need to remind yourself that you have earned your place in being there. It’s what you bring to the table, in all of your various experiences from the outside, seen and unseen, that will have the most profound impact.