As a Career Coach, I work frequently with people who are fighting feeling like a fraud in their careers. This feeling of not being qualified or good enough keeps them from applying to jobs they’d be amazing in and it stops people from realizing all sorts of achievements from bigger salaries to promotions to accolades and awards. I’ve found it is absolutely essential to moving ahead to put these fears to bed if you want to gain some peace while you work toward your goals.
What can help you move past this feeling of ineptitude? In my experience it isn’t just one thing, it often takes a variety of elements for people to make a real and lasting breakthrough in this area of professional self-perception block. Here are three questions to ask yourself if you want to tackle this pattern of thought and move beyond it.
What do you have?
Take inventory of what you have going for you in terms of training, professional development, and education. List your degrees and certifications earned, training programs, lectures, conferences, and workshops you’ve attended. Track the professional development related books you’ve read (Goodreads is a great tool for doing this). Do you regularly read any trade publications or newsletters? Be sure to keep track of these items going forward. Most people haven’t kept a thorough record of what they are doing to be great at what they do and you might surprise yourself when you look at what you’ve done to learn your trade beyond traditional degree programs. Often, this activity alone can cause quite a shift in professional self-esteem and it can also help you figure out the answer to the next question.
What do you need?
Make a professional development plan going forward. If you don’t keep developing your knowledge you will become stagnant in your thinking and approach. I’ve seen people slip into complacent modes in their careers, and it can erode confidence quickly and deeply. Once you’ve taken a thorough inventory of what you have already accomplished in your career development, you’ll probably uncover areas of opportunity where you could focus on more active knowledge acquisition. Research potential training and certifications that are valued in your field. Sign up for a class or workshop. Make a plan to read a certain number of books a year and then start developing a strategy behind which topics you want to focus your reading around. Having goals and a plan will help you filter out items that won’t be as useful to you (but might be attractive due to a celebrity speaker or a flashy promotional scheme), and will also keep you on track and confident that you are doing your best to stay sharp.
Not sure where to start with your professional development? Consider getting a 360 review to get a sense of how your performance is perceived by your colleagues and to identify other areas to tackle. Also, start looking at job descriptions of jobs you would like to have in the future and do a gap analysis to see what you need to learn or do in order to be a qualified candidate.
How do you feel?
Discuss feelings of being an imposter with a trusted colleague, a career coach, a therapist, and a friend. Get insights from these trusted resources in your network and work through the sometimes complicated feelings which can accompany this type of block. It’s amazing what a conversation with someone can accomplish, especially when the topic is confronting fear and insecurity. Get it out, do a gut-check, and sort out what is fueling these thoughts that hold you back. Getting clarity is key to battling this particular stumbling block, so be prepared to hash out the details and get to the core of what is causing this pattern of thinking for you. I especially recommend both therapy and coaching if you are having extremely negative and harmful manifestations of fear and inadequacy in your professional life. Having other voices to help you gain clarity on your value, turn down the volume on your negative self-talk, and to bolster your self-esteem can be so beneficial in putting this self-sabotage to rest.
I love to work through stumbling blocks like these with my clients. Reach out today if you’d like to schedule some time to talk about this or any other career development issue you are facing – firstname.lastname@example.org.