I’ve recently been looking around at new job opportunities and let me tell you, it’s downright daunting as hell!
I’ve been out of the job search game for about four years so getting back into it has forced me to change my mindset and dig deep not only to portray, but genuinely develop, an unshakable conviction in my abilities and a forthcoming attitude towards my weaknesses.
However, knowing what you are capable of and getting a stranger to trust in your abilities are two completely different things – and therein lies the root of anxiety for so many job-seekers who are feeling the pressure to prove themselves.
(Opening image courtesy of Valeria Asakova and Freepik)
According to an article on thehustle.co, the International Journal of Behavioural Science has concluded that 70% of millennials suffer from Imposter Syndrome (IS), which is the irrational belief that, regardless of your experience and all you’ve achieved in your life and career, you feel like an imposter – insecure, incompetent, not up to par with your peers and riddled with fear that you’ll be labelled a liar or fraud if you make a mistake or don’t have the answer.
Sounds like some rough stuff, but is it really so surprising that cases of IS are so rife these days?
Between downsizing, aquisitions, liquidations and process automation, the local job market is becoming continually smaller, which means greater competition over the same job. In turn, this means everyone is trying to get a leg-up on their competition all the time. The internet enables us to be exposed to international markets to alleviate some of the local market pressure, but it also results in a classic case of mo’ job-seekers mo’ problems.
But what if you actually land that job?
You’re relieved and ecstatic at first, but at some point you stop to think, “why me?” – and that’s when anxiety starts to set in. “What if I’m not as good as they think I am? What if they give me a task that I don’t know how to execute? They could have chosen any applicant, but they chose me!”
You start psyching yourself out before you’ve even begun! Irrational fear begins to build and Imposter Syndrome kicks in because you feel that your chances of actually being chosen were so slim, yet it actually happened so it must be dumb luck – and now you feel immense pressure to perform.
This irrational fear is very common and could happen to any of us, but in an article on www.fastcompany.com, they note five personality types who are more susceptible to IS then others:
1. The Perfectionist – perfectionists are known to be very hard on themselves and highly concerned with order, precision and control so it’s no surprise that they may be prone to IS.
2. The Superhero – these people are the ones who are always striving to work harder, faster and better than others in the hopes that their peers will acknowledge their value. Now, there’s nothing wrong with taking initiative and being tenacious, but if you push too hard for a long period of time, you will burn yourself out.
3. The Natural Genius – these are people who do well at something without putting much effort into learning or practicing it. They place value on their ability so if they cannot do something correctly straight away or with ease, they just assume that they are bad at it and will try to avoid those activities because it reveals their weaknesses.
4. The Mule – Mules refuse to ask for help even though they are struggling for fear that others will think they are incompetent. They are frustratingly stubborn.
5. The Expert – this type is a knowledge horder. They collect facts, skills and tidbits of information continually, in the hopes that they might know what do do in any possible scenareo. The problem is that they don’t persue knowledge for enjoyment; they do it out of a false sense of necessity, always fearful that they’ll be asked a question and not know the answer.
Do you identify with any of the descriptions above? If so, dont freak out. Knowing your suseptible to IS means you’ll be able to recognise the signs sooner and combat it quicker if it tries to sew doubt in your mind.
But if you find yourself succumbing to it often, there are really only three things that I believe can help prevent and alleviate IS:
Self awareness in this context means identifying then acknowledging what your strengths and weaknesses are as a person and employee. Play to your strengths, but in my experience, people will come to respect you more when you are unafraid to address your weaknesses and try to better them – it shows your humbleness and humanity, which helps foster better personal and working relationships. Trying to hide and overcompensate for your weaknesses out of desperation will only increase your anxiety, and if people start to discover that you’ve been dishonest in some way, it never ends well.
Confidence: tips for the hungry youngblood
It’s often challenging to cultivate confidence at any age, let alone in your 20s when you enter the workforce. Confidence usually comes with experience after a few years practicing your craft and working in your field, but that’s not to say you can’t gain it in those early years. Yes, being surrounded by professionals who have more experience than you can be very daunting, but consider using what you have and know to your advantage. You’re young which means you may have fresh ideas, you’re in touch with the latest communication and social media trends, you may be able to learn new techniques quickly, etc. However, beware of the VERY fine line between confidence and arrogance. In the creative industry, it can be difficult to shake a bad reputation once it sticks so try to keep your ego in check!
Confidence: tips for the seasoned professional
Don’t let the advancements in technology or the hunger of the youngbloods shake you. The experience and wisdom you’ve gained over the years will always be priceless and shine through when having a great personality is not enough to get the job done. Be confident in your abilities and try your best to keep up with the trends in your industry and you’ll be fine. Adaptation and flexibility is key if you want to remain a player in the game and most importantly, always remain open to learning new skills and techniques.
You will drive yourself and others crazy if you always try to pre-empt the outcome of situations or are constantly trying to overcompensate for your weaknesses / insecurities. Make peace with the fact that:
– you will never know everything no matter how hard you try.
– nobody can be brilliant at everything.
– you will mess up something at some point.
– and you’re human so you’re not meant to be perfect.
Once you wrap your head around these facts, you should find it easier to bring down your anxiety levels, be yourself and focus on just doing your best in every situation.
IS doesn’t have to psych you out if you don’t let it. A few weeks ago, I went out on a limb and applied for a position that was a decent step outside of my comfort zone and area of expertise. I was contacted for an interview (much to my surprise!) and ultimately ended up landing the position despite saying “Honestly, I don’t have much experience in this area, but…” more often than I was comfortable with. In this case, I think it was my willingness to learn and my confidence in my creative/branding knowledge that made the difference.
Remember that you are in control of your own actions and reactions. All you can do is be your perfectly flawed self and try your best. Be honest, ask questions, learn, grow and stop worrying about the rest!