Career Change And Impostor Syndrome — How To Increase Your Confidence When Changing Careers

– Posted in: career management, motivation

Impostor syndrome, or feelings of inadequacy despite having achieved recognizable success, is a phenomenon more commonly used to describe high-performing women who feel like a fraud (or impostor, hence the phrase) despite their high achievement. I have encountered clients (of both genders actually) who use the word impostor to describe how they feel when attempting a career change. When changing careers, you’ll be starting with less experience and achievement in your new field versus your existing one. As you rebrand yourself for your new field, it makes sense the career change may come with feelings of faking it, like an impostor.

So if you feel bouts of impostor syndrome as you pivot careers, that’s reasonable! Impostor syndrome should not stop you from pressing on with your rebranding and career change. However, you will need actionable strategies for dealing with bouts of self-doubt. Here are five strategies for maintaining your confidence when embarking on a new career:

Itemize your accomplishments

Go ahead and brag! Create a list of all of your accomplishments to date – go line-by-line through your resume so you capture every role, every project, every volunteer stint and every extra-curricular activity, where you have accomplished something. You will want this list anyway to demonstrate proof to prospective employers of the value you bring. At the same time, your list of accomplishments serves as proof to you that you have had wins before and you will again (i.e., support to battle impostor syndrome).

Identify wins, however small, in your new career field

In addition to accomplishments overall, you want to demonstrate wins specific to your new field of interest. By virtue of less time and less mastery of this new field, the wins will likely be smaller but itemize what you have so far. These may include completing a class, doing some volunteer work or consulting, getting active in a professional association, or even just reading exhaustively on your own time about your new field of interest. You need this list to demonstrate genuine interest and follow-through to prospective employers in your new field. You need to have examples of action specific to your new career. At the same, this list of accomplishments specific to your new field reminds yourself that you are further along than you think. As you continually add to it, you can build momentum (and a stronger shield against impostor syndrome) for your new career.

Prioritize networking with supporters

Don’t feel like you have to do all the motivating on your own. Expand your network to include people in your new field of interest, so you think and breathe your new career. Include people who are positive and optimistic. Entrepreneurs are typically resilient and self-starting, so if you’re finding your existing networking to be a more fearful bunch, seek out more entrepreneurial types. Steer clear of critics and naysayers to steer clear of impostor syndrome.

Practice your new introduction

When you go out and meet more people, you’ll need to introduce yourself, and you’ll need your introduction to reflect the new you and your new career, not your previous one. If you don’t practice your new introduction, it will sound foreign to you. You will seem less confident, and it will feed into your impostor syndrome. Practice your new introduction out loud and frequently. Record it (call your voicemail and launch into your new introduction) so you can hear yourself and refine it.

Practice some more

In addition to introducing yourself as your new career self, you’ll also engage in more back-and-forth about your new career – what you are doing individually, but also what is happening oerally in your new field of interest. Stay current on news in your new field, and practice sharing your insights and ideas. Since this is a new area for you, you will not have as much experience talking about it, unless you deliberately practice. If there are industry buzzwords or technical terminology that are commonly used, get comfortable with the definitions, and practice incorporating these key words and ideas into your day-to-day language. You will feel less impostor syndrome when your new career becomes a bigger part of your every day.

Impostor syndrome is a reasonable reaction to the challenge of changing careers. As a career changer, you are relatively new in the field you are changing into. You have less experience in this new field than you did previously. You have fewer contacts, less of a track record, and therefore less credibility than you did before. If career change doesn’t feel like taking a step back, then you’re probably overestimating yourself! That said, you are not an impostor but just a beginner. And you can ramp up from beginner status quickly because the experience and perspective you bring from your previous years will be helpful. In the meantime, shore up your confidence with the above strategies so that impostor syndrome doesn’t prevent you from making the career change you want.

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