Imposter syndrome at work: manage the monster of self-doubt

Saffron Wildbore

~ 4min read

Arrows decoration graphic
Grid decoration graphic

~ 4min read

Do you worry that you’re not good enough to have a job you love? These negative thoughts can be paralyzing. But with the right approach, you can overcome the phenomenon of feeling like a fraud.

There are steps you can take to build the confidence you need, and there are organizations that can help you get the career you deserve. Here’s what you need to know in order to help you navigate those negative thoughts.

> “Imposter syndrome” is extremely common… and natural

Although the word “syndrome” makes it sound like an illness, imposter syndrome is not a formal diagnosis in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), the bible of psychology. 
Feeling like an imposter is part of being human. These days, everyone who isn’t a psychopath has moments of doubt about their potential. We live in a world where there’s a lot of pressure to achieve, which unfairly pushes us to judge our worth by external factors, and can be a huge part of what causes imposter syndrome. 
No wonder a 2020 review of 62 studies found that up to 82% of people say their life is impacted by these feelings, relating to different types of imposter syndrome.
We hope you find comfort in knowing you’re not alone. Still, as we’re all aware, this doesn’t make the experience any more fun! Psychologists acknowledge that imposter phenomenon is a genuine struggle that often comes along with depression and anxiety. 

> What does imposter syndrome feel like?

Do you find yourself wondering if you should really be where you are? Questioning whether you belong? Maybe you’ve earned a degree, started a new job or some other accomplishment that you feel awkward about…

Do you get the impression that people overvalue your skills and abilities? That you’re really nothing special, and that any moment now they’ll see through the facade?

Do you put your successes down to luck, and when you compare yourself to others, do you only see the ways you’re falling short?

These are some of the calling cards of imposter syndrome.

> 7 tips for overcoming imposter syndrome at work

1. Develop an awareness for “good enough”

Imposter syndrome goes hand in hand with perfectionism. You overstretch yourself to achieve something, and then you achieve it, and this reinforces the belief that only the best will do. It’s a vicious cycle!

The thing is, most tasks in life and work don’t have to be completed 100% perfectly. They just have to get the job done.

Sometimes 70% is good enough. Sometimes even less. Evaluate tasks case by case: in the grand scheme of things, how much does this matter?


2. You don’t have to meet all the criteria on a job description

It’s easy to look at a job description and think, “I don’t quite fit those requirements so there’s no point in applying”. But what you’re really looking at is a wish list.

The majority of hiring managers aren’t expecting to find a candidate who’s an exact match. They’re looking for someone with enough of a grounding to get started, and a desire to learn on the job.

3. Store positive reminders to look back on

Save the emails that make you feel proud. Write a journal. Put up post-its at home. Don’t just keep a record of your accomplishments, but also the times when you faced up to a tricky situation, went outside your comfort zone, or caught yourself in time to stop a negative thought pattern from working against you.


4. Stop comparing yourself to others

Does everyone else you encounter seem to have it sorted? Do your fellow graduates and coworkers all seem to be high achievers, whilst you feel sub par?

We all know the perils of social media for not showing the full story, but this also applies to colleagues at work and other graduates you’ve met. You never know what’s going on behind closed doors, or what struggles they’ve had in the past. Half of the time they probably feel like imposters too.


5. It’s OK to ask for help

Nobody has all the answers. Especially when they’re starting out in their career. So if you’re not sure how to tackle something, or you can’t find the information you need, ask. Most people you work with will enjoy having the chance to share their expertise and experience with you.

Is technology your area of interest? The pace of change is so fast that everyone is learning on the job, even at the very top. And this is true in all industries to some degree.

6. Get a mentor

A mentor is someone you can be totally honest with about your feelings of imposter syndrome. Someone who’s been through what you’re going through and can support you on your journey. You could find one through friends and family, or try an official mentoring network.

Many larger employers have an in-house mentoring program, so it’s always worth checking. You’ll be paired up with someone you don’t work with directly who's been there long enough to lend a valuable ear.

7. Join a supportive graduate program such as Wiley Edge

You don’t have to apply to companies directly. Instead, you could choose a graduate program like ours. We believe you’re good enough – you just need a hand to unlock your potential.

At Wiley Edge, we give you specialist training to help you gain confidence and prepare you for a role in technology, banking or business with a leading global employer. Afterwards, we give you ongoing support to help you succeed over the long term. The training is paid, and there are no unfair contracts.

Are you ready to ditch the imposter syndrome and kick off your career? Apply today.

Saffron Wildbore is a Senior Marketing Executive at mthree. She has worked in marketing, specialising in creating content for over 4 years. Saffron focuses on writing tips for graduates, Alumni interviews and more!


Wiley Edge is now mthree

We are excited to announce that we have been acquired by Inspirit Capital and returned to our roots as 'mthree'. 

Read the press release >> >>