5 Ways to Combat Impostor Syndrome in Your Job Search

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July 21, 2022
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min read

You’ve just kicked off your job search, and you’re feeling good. You’ve found some incredible opportunities and organized them all in one place. You’re ready to find a job that aligns with your values and skill set. 

You open the first job you’ve saved. The job description and overall impact this role would have on the broader organization gives you a tangible thrill. You can’t wait to apply. You take a look at the pay, and it matches your requirements.

Then, you scan the dozen bullet points of skills and requirements for the role. You can speak to more than half of them confidently. The rest are experiences you don’t have and tools you’ve never heard of. 

Your heart sinks. Your inner critic tells you: “The other people applying for this role will have all of those requirements. It’s not even worth it for me to apply.

If this scenario sounds familiar, you’re not alone. That skewed vision of your competence? It has a name: impostor syndrome.

What is impostor syndrome? 

Impostor syndrome — also referred to as the “impostor phenomenon” — was initially introduced to the world in the late 1970s by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. They defined impostor phenomenon as “an internal experience of intellectual phoniness.” 

People who experience impostor syndrome believe they’ve fooled others into thinking they’re smarter and more capable than they really are. They think it’s only a matter of time before they’re found out. 

The condition can affect anyone, whether you’re a CEO of a Fortune 100 company or a recent college graduate looking for your first entry-level position. Up to 82% of people have struggled with the sense that they haven’t earned what they’ve achieved, according to 62 studies on impostor syndrome

Impostor syndrome is especially prominent among marginalized groups. Experiencing microaggressions in your day-to-day life may feel impostor syndrome more strongly. 

How does impostor syndrome show up during the job search?

Impostor syndrome can strike at plenty of points throughout your career, but impostor syndrome and job applications seem to go together like peanut butter and jelly. 

Impostor syndrome feeds on uncertainty. Uncertainty exists at every level of a job search — from the time you submit your resume to the time you’re waiting to hear back after an interview. 

Potential rejection or the uncertainty of a career pivot can hold you back from applying to that amazing job that is clearly a match for you.

How to combat impostor syndrome and feel empowered

Overcoming impostor syndrome is possible with these tips.

1. Reframe the label

When we use words like “syndrome”, we start to label ourselves. Once a label becomes a part of your identity, it becomes harder to shake. 

Impostor syndrome starts to sound like a thing you’ll always have, rather than a situation you’re experiencing at the moment. Impostor syndrome is a normal reaction when you start to stretch beyond your comfort zone. It’s not a character flaw. This mental shift can help you feel empowered and like less of a fraud.

2. Keep track of your success metrics

So often, impostor syndrome strikes because we can’t physically see the evidence of all the good we do. Documenting your achievements can go a long way in helping you acknowledge your success. These achievements can be from school, an internship or career experiences. You’ve played a critical role in your own success. Don’t be afraid to own it. 

3. Ask questions during your job interview

Job interviews can be tough even for the most confident of us. Boost your confidence by focusing on what you can control, which includes the questions you ask during the interview

Example questions include:

  • How success is measured in the role?
  • What are the next steps in the interview process?
  • What professional development opportunities exist at the company? 

These questions show you’re interested in the job. They also give you clear information to get rid of some of the uncertainty that fuels impostor syndrome.

4. Speak kindly to yourself

Think of your impostor syndrome like a friend. It’s someone who’s trying — in their own way — to protect you. The next time you hear that inner critic, remind them that you’re confident and sure of yourself. You can say “Hey—glad you’re here. I’ve got things covered, but thanks for checking in on me.” 

5. Lean on your network

You’re bound to find someone in your life who is currently managing the same feelings you are. That person can be part of your support system. People you might consider reaching out to include:

  • Accountability partners who can talk through challenges with you, celebrate your wins, and nudge you in the right direction when you get stuck.
  • Friends and former colleagues in your network that have landed similar opportunities you’re applying for.
  • Your friends at Teal who’ve made it easier to build and tailor your resume with the AI Resume Builder.

Ready to overcome your impostor syndrome? Get organized and inspire your career confidence with Teal’s Job Application Tracker.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I differentiate between genuine skill gaps and impostor syndrome during my job search?

It's natural to recognize areas for growth, but impostor syndrome often exaggerates these perceptions. To differentiate, objectively assess your skills against job requirements. If you meet most criteria, it's likely impostor syndrome. Seek feedback from mentors to validate your capabilities and identify real skill gaps.

What are some practical steps I can take to document my achievements and combat impostor syndrome?

Start by keeping a success journal where you record accomplishments, positive feedback, and completed projects. Review it regularly, especially before job interviews or networking events, to remind yourself of your qualifications and boost your confidence. This tangible evidence helps counteract impostor syndrome's doubts.

Can impostor syndrome affect my salary negotiations, and how can I prevent it from doing so?

Yes, impostor syndrome can lead to undervaluing yourself. To prevent this, research industry-standard salaries for the position you're applying for. Prepare a list of your achievements that justify your desired salary. Practice negotiating with a friend or career coach to build confidence in asking for what you're worth.

Melissa Ripp

Mel Ripp is a freelance writer and communications strategist who loves sharing new perspectives on career change, employee and candidate experience, and company culture. When she’s not working, she’s most likely buying another houseplant, rearranging her record collection for the millionth time, or planning her next travel adventure.

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