Impostor Syndrome During Job Search and How to Combat It
February 10, 2021
Job search can be challenging for many reasons, but often the worst part of applying for your dream job can be overthinking your qualifications and doubting your abilities. Although 70% people feel like a fraud during the application process, the isolating illusion of imposter syndrome regularly feels like you’re in it alone. Imposter syndrome, the feeling of others thinking you’re more intelligent or more capable than you really are, can be draining on your mental health, as well as damaging during job searching.
Perhaps this is due to a fear of not fulfilling the entirety of the job description’s criteria or fulfilling it yet worrying your capabilities and skillset are nonetheless inadequate or subpar.
Yet, what’s vital is recognising the true potential of your abilities, generating the confidence to apply despite the feeling of insecurity, and not allowing your impostor syndrome to prevent you from achieving that potential. Instead of doubting yourself when applying, recognise that many skills can be learnt on the job, and in order to gain true value to any career, enter the job market ready to learn with countless opportunities ahead of you, rather than assuming you need to know everything just to apply. No single applicant is infallible, or entirely prepared for any start in their career, so, if not you, then who?
But if you feel like you’re not good enough, you’ll need to continue to fight off that feeling of imposter syndrome in order to succeed in your job search and career. Here are a few tips to help you through it:
Recognise your successes
If you truly worry about not having enough transferable skills, or experience, or that you don’t meet the specific requirements in a job description, keeping a record of your successes will remind you of your abilities, as well as serve to show you where you can grow and learn.
When writing your CV or cover letter, keep a separate, private list of everything you have gained from any experience, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. A physical list can serve as a reminder of your skillset and capabilities, giving you reasons for not doubting your worth.
Identify the source of your imposter syndrome
Whilst you’re recognising your successes, it can be equally important to isolate the part of your career that is giving you that feeling of inadequacy. Whether it’s when you’re reading job descriptions and thinking that you don’t quite match the essential requirements, or when you look around the (virtual) assessment day room and compare yourselves to the other applicants. Maybe it’s once you’ve gained the position or promotion, yet still don’t feel worthy. Knowing which part you need to tackle will help you focus on how to reach your goals with that insecure feeling stopping you.
For international students, the source of your imposter syndrome may be a feeling that you don’t fit the image of an ideal candidate because — perhaps — you don’t know the local language or slang well enough or maybe domestic students understand the market better. However, it’s important to remember that these are aspects you can learn along the way over time and that your perspective is just as valuable. In fact, chances are you not only know the market just as well, but you’ll be able to bring an international, fresh perspective to the table.
Speak up about it
One of the myths of imposter syndrome is the idea that you’re going through it alone. And, as myths of self-doubt usually go, it’s not true. Talking to your colleagues, friends and family about how you’re feeling may help you notice that you’re not the only one, and that even if most people lack self-confidence, someone still has to get that job, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be you.
Another benefit of opening up about your imposter syndrome to those close to you will be that they can help you remember your strengths, and remind you of when your fears are just irrational. Whilst they’re helping to empower you, remember that by speaking up about imposter syndrome, you may be helping others realise that they’re not alone in this.
Language is key
When you start your phrases with ‘I don’t think’ or ‘Maybe’ you’re already presenting yourself as doubtful, and showing your lack of confidence to others. Swapping the hypotheticals for assertions of you and your ideas will not only present you as more confident and capable, but can also make you feel that way internally, and help to change your outlook.
Understand the process
Interviews and applications aren’t there to trip you up. Instead, they’re simply there to let you shine. The hiring managers of your dream companies want to know what you’re really like and why you’d be someone they’d want to work with. They’re not looking for someone who knows every single little thing, because that person doesn’t exist. Instead, they’re looking to see if you’re someone that can grow and develop as the company does.
If you feel unsure about how to approach the next step, remember that ‘Knowledge is power’, and if you learn more about the hiring process, perhaps through visiting your University’s careers services, you’ll feel more confident and secure in facing all the curveballs thrown at you.
It’s not a no, it’s a not now
The worst part of imposter syndrome is feeling it grow inside you at every rejection. However, it’s so important to remember that just because you didn’t make it through a certain stage of the application, or because you got rejected from what you thought was your dream job, doesn’t mean you’re not capable, it simply means now might not be the right time.
There might just be something else waiting around the corner that’s the perfect fit instead, so accept the feedback, use it to help you grow and you’ll be even more prepared for the next time. International students are known to have applied for more than 50 opportunities before they finally bagged the one!
Written By Meghna Amin
Meghna is an English and Philosophy student at the University of Durham, writing on various topics ranging from feminism to travel. Having interned and written for several publications including student papers and other freelance work, she's working to promote diversity in under-represented areas within the media industry.
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash