IF YOU WANT TO GROW your career, Wharton Lecturer and EMBA Career Director Dawn Graham recommends in her book Switchers, that you “continually put yourself in situations where you’re the least qualified person in the room.” That is, “put yourself into professional situations where you have some foundational knowledge, but are still a novice.”
Not only do you grow from the experience but you’ll have a roomful of experts to learn from. At first you may feel inadequate—feel like an imposter—but with enough grit you’ll succeed and move forward.
When you feel like you don’t belong—like you are not up to par—know that it is a side effect of growth that everyone experiences at one time—or many times—throughout a career. If you are a high-performer, it comes with the territory. Graham offers 7 tips for overcoming Imposer Syndrome:
1. If You Aren’t Struggling a Bit, You Aren’t Growing Much
“When you’re taking on a new venture like a job switch, it’s normal to feel behind the curve. This doesn’t mean you’re a fraud or not cut out for the work. Don’t compare your start to someone else’s peak.”
2. Quite that Inner Voice
“We are often our own worst critic and hardest on ourselves. If you’re new at something, have realistic expectations and give yourself the latitude to learn.”
3. Perfection is Slow Death
“Perfectionists have an all-or-nothing view. Even as a seasoned expert, you’re human and not immune to bad days or learning curves. Mistakes can indicate that you need to prioritize, delegate, or take a break. Or they could just be mistakes. Don’t make them into more than they are.”
4. Honor Your Accomplishments
“Life isn’t about keeping a scorecard. Reminisce about past successes, and then engage strategies that worked before to tackle the problems you’re facing.”
5. Drop the “Yes, but….”
“Do you deflect or write off compliments? Perhaps you attribute your success to luck. We are masters at believing negative feedback while shrugging off the positive. Take time to listen to praise from others and own it.”
6. Plan for the Worst-Case Scenario
“The worst-case scenario rarely happens, but if you have an action plan should it become a reality, you can be confident you’ll handle the lesser obstacles that do arise.”
7. Fake It ‘til You Make It
“When you come across as self-assured, other sense that it creates a positive spiral. Self-assurance doesn’t mean you have all of the answers, rather that you’re confident you can use resources to find solutions as problems arise.”
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And here’s a fact of life. The more you learn about something the more you’ll realize how little you know about the topic in terms of all there is to know. Stay humble and curious. It will give you unprecedented depth in this day and age.
Beyond what I’m sharing here, Switchers is an invaluable resource for those looking to make a career switch. “If you’re like most Americans, you’ll spend around five years of your life engaged in some type of job search activity.” Today though, people aren’t just changing jobs, they’re changing professions. And this requires a different approach than the typical job search.
Graham writes from a recruiter’s point of view sharing not only what they think but also the psychological principles that underlie the Switcher’s journey. She covers the five job search killers, networking and the 2nd Level Contact Strategy, rebranding your social media profile, and crafting your professional identity.
Bias is a reality in the hiring process, and can be an especially difficult hurdle for Switchers. Learn to identify it and engage strategies to overcome it such as using your network to become an insider.
Your career story is what will convince the hiring manager to pull the trigger and make the offer. It should be logical, compelling, attention-getting, and genuine.
You need to network to make a career switch. Second- (and third) level connections are where the action is! Most people in your immediate circle have the same information you do, so the goal is to get their network, because that is where your next opportunity lies.