If you saw my TEDx talk, you know that I myself have had Impostor Syndrome and have been so paralyzed by it that I couldn’t enter into a job search when every fiber of my being was telling me that I needed to go.

What does Impostor Syndrome do to people to make them feel so struck?

Those of us, who have been there, know it well, but may not have connected it to our experience of Impostor Syndrome before.

I remember it very clearly.

  • I felt like I had very little skills and would have trouble finding a job elsewhere despite having two masters’ degrees and a PhD from an Ivy League university.
  • I doubted the strength of my professional community and felt they would be burdened by any engagement with me.
  • I was terrified that there wouldn’t be viable next options for me.
  • I felt like I should stay where I was because it was the best that I could hope to get.
  • I kept buying into promises that were never coming true at that place.
  • I spent so much time pleasing others that I hadn’t spent enough time considering what I wanted.

All of this made leaving that job so much harder. It took a jump that I would rarely advise to anyone else to really force me to face my Impostor Syndrome and finally take ownership of my skills, experiences, accomplishments, and credentials.

When you have Impostor Syndrome, it impairs your ability to see your successes accurately and therefore make sound decisions around what positions or opportunities in general might be most advantageous for you. When we are unhappy in a role, we can get mired in thinking that this situation brings stability even if the circumstances are extremely difficult. We stay and try to make it into something that it, likely, is not nor will ever be. However, what it can do to us is continue to reinforce our Impostor Syndrome and further deplete our self-confidence and our belief that we can be successful in a healthier environment somewhere else.

Impostor Syndrome can affect your job search by:

  • Feeling inadequate for other roles
  • Being perfectionistic about what we think we are qualified to do (i.e., if we don’t have 100% of the qualifications on a posting that we don’t consider it) or chastising ourselves for anything that goes wrong (e.g., having a difficult time on an interview)
  • Allowing ourselves to become trapped in cycles with toxic bosses where we consistently spend time trying to please them rather than using that extra energy for ourselves
  • Not prepping for interviews because of performance anxiety
  • Difficulty selling ourselves because we minimize our contributions
  • Avoiding reaching out to network because we like to be the “go-to” and don’t feel comfortable needing others
  • Not negotiating because we feel like we should just happy for the opportunity

So, what are some of the things that you can do to combat these experiences that you can have during the job search when you have Impostor Syndrome?

You should be proactive in addressing your Impostor Syndrome because it’s pretty clear that no matter what you accomplish – new degree, amazing organization, executive role – it will keep trailing you until you face it head on.

Here are some things that you can do to address some of the obstacles that can get in the way from Impostor Syndrome:

  • Work on internalizing your accomplishments by cataloging and generating examples of each with an accountability partner that really challenge your negative thoughts
  • Learn to apply for things when you have 60% of the qualification, not 100%
  • Divest your energy from toxic bosses in concrete, tangible ways and have someone hold you accountable and celebrate your wins with you. For example, every time you want to vent the next horrible thing he/she did, before you do that, spend 25 minutes on self-care or a job search task, then you can discuss it with someone. Take care of you first.
  • Structure your interview preparation and have a routine for how you prepare for interviews.
  • Take risks to engage in relational networking and know that asking for help is important in eradicating your Impostor Syndrome
  • Always negotiate and prepare for the negotiation by keeping in mind a “win-win” perspective; not a black-and-white “win-lose” or adversarial perspective.

It’s so important to value yourself, your capabilities and dreams, but to do that you must prioritize yourself.

In what ways have you challenged yourself to move beyond your Impostor Syndrome during a job search?