The job application process can be a vulnerable time for any applicant. Second guessing whether you have the right combination of skills and experience to apply for a job, debating if you’re qualified enough because your interview didn’t go as smoothly as you’d hoped, starting a new job and feeling like you’re in over your head—these are all feelings associated with something called “imposter syndrome.”
Although it’s not an official medical disorder, it is recognized by the professional medical community as “a psychological term referring to a pattern of behaviour where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent often internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.” Identified by two clinical psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in the 1970s, imposter syndrome can happen to anyone at any point in their life, but it is often experienced by high achievers, perfectionists, and mostly by women.
At Style Nine to Five, we want to help you realize your fullest potential which is why we’re going to show you how to tackle feelings of imposter syndrome in three different scenarios. Read on for our top tips for overcoming imposter syndrome in the job application process!
Right from the very beginning when you’re searching for a job, many people over analyze whether they have the right combination of skills and experience. This type of self-doubt can continue beyond the application into the interview process, and into the first few months of starting a new job.
1 – When applying for a new job
It’s likely at some point in your career, you’ve seen a job title that piqued your interest, but while looking over the job description, you’ve overthought it and talked yourself out of applying. Feelings of imposter syndrome might tell you that although you have many of the skills and qualities necessary for the job, you’re still not qualified “enough.” Although there can be many reasons not to apply to a job, if you don’t apply, make sure it’s for the right reasons and not imposter syndrome holding you back.
To figure that out, take a good hard look at skills and experiences listed as required in the job description. Check off the ones you definitely know you possess.
Now look at how many are left. How can you embody any of them? Are they hard skills or soft skills? Can you learn any of these skills when you start the job? Is the educational component a technical requirement to be able to do the work? Consider taking a course to show that you’re working towards gaining knowledge in that area. The idea here is to identify the areas that are making you feel like you’re underqualified to then see if you can overcome these roadblocks.
Could you gain the skills and experience required with a little training while you start the job? If you can identify reasonable ways to overcome these obstacles, then go for it! If you’re still not sure, you need to weigh whether the skills and experience you do possess outweigh those you don’t. There are many ways you can still make yourself stand out as an applicant, even if you might not have all requested experience.
A common trigger of imposter syndrome in the job application process is a job description that lists a certain amount of experience that is required for the role. For example, “4 + years of experience in a retail environment.” Although there are many roles that do require the successful candidate to have various levels of previous experience in a similar role, do not fret if you don’t have exactly that many years. Instead, think about all the other ways you can demonstrate your experience or willingness to take on a challenge.
2 – In the interviewing stage
We’ve all been there. You’re in your interview and you’re asked a question that stumps you. Your nerves kick into high gear and you might start to panic slightly.
“If I can’t answer this question, they’re going to think I’m underqualified and a terrible fit for this position. They’re thinking that I must be so bad at my current job. They’re probably second guessing why they asked me to be here.”
When you walk into an interview, ideally you’ll have prepared enough to be able to answer most of the questions they ask, but sometimes no matter how much you practice, you might get thrown off during an interview and start feeling like a fraud. This can happen to anyone.
The key to overcoming imposter syndrome in the interview setting is to not let your confidence falter. When these feelings of self-doubt jump into your mind, you’ll need your confidence to support you. If you think of yourself like a boat on the water, where the water is the interview, and the tide gets choppy, you’ll need to rely on the resources on your ship to make sure you don’t capsize.
Before your interview, practice words of affirmation: “You’ve got this. You are worthy of being there—even if you aren’t the right candidate. If the interviewers didn’t think you had potential, they wouldn’t have asked you for an interview.”
During the interview if you feel yourself slipping, take a deep breath. Ask if you can have a moment to collect your thoughts or review any notes you have. Think of those words of affirmation. Take another deep breath, smile and start talking. If there’s one thing for sure, it’s that you’re an expert on your own career.
3 – Starting a new job
The majority of people experience some level of nervousness on the first day of a new job. For many, these nerves subside slightly after the first day, then more after the first week, until after a while you become confident in the work you’re producing and are more comfortable in your role. For others, this is not the case and they continue feeling like the work they’re producing is not good enough and they’re going to be exposed as a fraud. This is quite common among perfectionists who hold high standards for themselves and experience high levels of defeat when things don’t go as smoothly as they had hoped.
At this point in your career process, it can be tricky to overcome imposter syndrome, because you’re in a more permanent situation. Applications and interviews take place across shorter timelines than your job does. That’s why if imposter syndrome is getting to you in the job phase, you’ll want to go above and beyond to kick it to the curb.
Reach out to a mentor, friend, or family member to tell them how you’re feeling at work when you start spiraling towards these feelings of self-doubt. Recognizing when you feel this way is a huge step on the road to being able to tackle these negative feelings if they come back again.
Next, you might want to reach out to your boss and discuss setting up a plan for receiving feedback more consistently. Can you have a quarterly check-in meeting to see how you’re progressing? Whether it’s a formal performance review or an informal discussion about the work you’ve done recently, this is a great opportunity to get honest feedback and hear directly from the people you’re associating your feelings of imposter syndrome with.
Imposter syndrome can appear in many areas of a person’s life. Recognizing it and creating strategies to tackle it are the two best ways to make it happen less and less and diminish the power it holds. When you’re about to enter a situation that might be stressful for you, like applying, interviewing or starting a new job, taking time to include mental health preparation along with regular job prep can make a big difference in re-gaining your confidence and remembering that you’re smart, talented and have plenty to offer in any role.
Need an extra boost of confidence applying for a job? Style Nine to Five’s Resume Refresh will help you put your best foot forward and communicate your skills and experience in the best way possible.
By: Catherine Gautreau – Catherine is a communications and fundraising professional in Vancouver, BC with a passion for storytelling, the arts, and giving back to the community.
Feature Image: Adobe Stock