Do you ever have those days when you feel a bit unsure of yourself at work? Most of us do at some time, but, until now, I didn’t know how common it was (particularly for women and minority groups), to think you might be perceived as less experienced or unworthy of your position.
Apparently 85% of UK professionals say that they have suffered from this feeling – known as ‘imposter syndrome’ – at some point. Does this represent wider cultural issues, or can it also be addressed on an individual level?
Stepping out of your comfort zone is often a good thing, it allows you to challenge yourself and develop. Most of us enjoy doing so, and colleagues will support us in the right environment. We know that everyone has the capacity to learn more and that most firms will be welcoming of a proactive or innovative approach. The challenges sometimes come from others with existing perceptions around gender or racial stereotypes (as this HBR article found), so firms need to continue to try and overcome these through carefully considered diversity and inclusion policies and behaviours.
The same report found that it’s often high achievers who feel this way about imposter syndrome. Others have noted that, in fact, there might be some unexpected, hidden upsides to the situation. For instance, the perception that you need to prove yourself (rightly or wrongly) is likely to motivate you and the results may mean that you actually outperform your peers.
Evidence has shown that people who would identify themselves as having these feelings of imposter syndrome actually make for better candidates in the recruitment process and ultimately better professionals, since they ask more engaging questions and listen more to the answers. These are particularly important skills in advisory roles and for the effective client management and business development needed in those firms.
I recently heard that someone I worked with a few years ago had not only remembered me (I wasn’t sure they would – we didn’t meet that often), but it turns out they thought I was one of the most effective people they’d met across various businesses in their career. This left me genuinely surprised, but it also reassured me that I had conveyed my experience well in those meetings, despite feeling a little out of my depth at the time.
So, whilst I still have days when I feel I need to ask my colleagues’ opinions as a sounding board, I’m going to let any uncertainty keep me motivated and allow me to listen out for new solutions – who knows what I might learn?