Last year I worked for about nine months at BambooHR. For the first three months solid I experienced full-on impostor syndrome. This was weird because I thought I was pretty hot stuff (an abundance of self-confidence is a theme in my life), but I found myself questioning what I was doing there, why I was there, why in the world did they hire me, was I adequate enough, and would they somehow figure out I wasn’t the right hire and let me go.
It was stressful.
Here I am, on the other side (of having a job), and I don’t have imposter syndrome anymore. I am back in my comfort zone, where I definitely fit. I was in Belgium last week speaking at a tech conference with 1,800 attendees… and I didn’t feel like an imposter. Instead, I felt like an expert. I have authored three books, thirty three Pluralsight courses, and years of blog posts and articles. I was in my comfort zone.
I’ve also been immersed in JibberJobber design and product management, which I love. I don’t feel like an imposter here. Having been here for now 13+ years, I know what needs to be done, I know where I can add value, and I am working my way through my long list of stuff to do.
I have also done three more soft skill courses at Pluralsight since I got let go from BambooHR. One was on having difficult conversations, one was on creating innovative teams, and one was on how to be a leader when you don’t have a leadership title. I don’t feel like an impostor there.
Why did I feel like an imposter at BambooHR?
I have a friend who is excellent at what she does. She excels in so many areas, but her real specialty is in software quality assurance. She has a masters degree in software QA! She’s about to change jobs and told me that she is nervous about the new job. Will she do well? Will she deliver value? Listening to her talk about her concerns is funny because she is awesome, and will do well. But she is already dealing with impostor syndrome. I have no doubt she will do exceptionally well, but she does.
This impostor syndrome thing is weird. It is like a mental wedge that causes us to doubt ourselves, and to question what we know we should do.
Perhaps it has more to do with working on a new team and being in a new role and in a new industry than it does with what our expertise is. Perhaps we don’t understand that maybe there are others that could do the job as well as we could, maybe better, but we were chosen for a reason. Maybe we are a better cultural fit, maybe we have proven we have the right values, or a certain technical ability… we are more of the whole package than someone we are comparing ourselves to. Maybe, just maybe, we were lucky. We were in the right place at the right time and said “yes” while someone better wasn’t available.
That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be in the role.
This whole life is about progress and learning and growing. Allow yourself, in your role where you feel like an impostor, to grow into the role. That takes time and practice and showing up. And eventually, you won’t feel like an impostor anymore. When that happens, look for the new people, and figure out how you can help them feel like they fit, too.
Impostor syndrome is more real than I realized, but you need to work through the self-doubt and get to work. You were chosen for a reason… do your job, do your best, and grow. One day you’ll have the epiphany that indeed, you are not an impostor. You are exactly where you should be.