Job Hunting

How to Combat Imposter Syndrome

If you've spent any time in the tech industry, you've  heard references to imposter syndrome – a psychological phenomenon causing talented and hardworking folks to feel like frauds within a professional environment. Imposter syndrome often goes beyond doubting oneself. It can even lead to persistent fears and self-sabotage.

Although this phenomenon can span your entire career, new professionals entering the field are the most susceptible to feeling unqualified for their hard-earned new positions. So how can you combat imposter syndrome and keep it from interfering in your life?

Here are some key tips to boost your confidence and prevent imposter syndrome. 

A person seated on a couch looking outwards with an open laptop on the table
Imposter syndrome can happen to anyone, no matter how qualified.

New doesn't equal unqualified

So you're applying for your first job in a new field. You have no “real-world” experience, but do have a portfolio of projects you're proud of. Plus, you have the enthusiasm to hit the ground running.

Then imposter syndrome hits. Suddenly, you begin to doubt your worthiness. You begin to worry about how you compare against a field of qualified candidates, and wonder if you should even interview for your dream job at all. 

Here are four helpful tips to reframe your concerns. 

  1. You're your hardest critic. You already have relevant skills for the job market. Try to focus less on what others might hypothetically criticize you for, and more on the skills you bring to the table. A potential employer will be looking for you to shine, not to fail, so focus your energy toward helping them see your value.

    And remember, you use 20 percent of what you learn 80 percent of the time. There will inevitably be things you don’t know in an interview or in the workplace, but a good potential employer will be interested in seeing how you might go about finding an answer. Show you're willing to learn. 
  1. Trying helps you shine. Employers are impressed by effort. When they see someone really trying, they better understand your drive and determination. That way, they're more likely to give you a chance than someone more focused on what they can’t do. The key factors they'll look for: your effort, work ethic, and ability to learn quickly. 
  1. Titles are fluid. Trends in software development and other tech fields are constantly changing. This means development titles and responsibilities are changing as well. For example, a front-end developer is now expected to have the skills of a full-track developer. This doesn’t mean you should avoid these positions, however. Consider your enthusiasm, passion, soft skills, and all you are capable of learning on the job.

    Bottom line: Don’t be afraid to apply for jobs you feel you are only 75% qualified for. Instead, apply for the jobs you want, even the ones you feel under-qualified for, and show you're eager to learn. 
  1. Bloom Institute of Technology (formerly known as Lambda School) has prepared you. Consider all the tight deadlines for projects and challenges you completed in school. Many of these projects involved skills you had not yet gained, yet you still did well on the project. In the real world you'll have additional time and resources to complete projects, and will be held more closely to budgets than to deadlines. 

Sell yourself 

Applying and interviewing for your dream job can feel intimidating. It’s important to feel you're displaying your best self and demonstrating enthusiasm for the opportunity. Here are three tips to show you are worthy of the position. 

  1. Allow flexibility in your resume summary. Convey you have a passion for technology rather than focusing only on specific frameworks or languages. This will allow for wiggle room if the position requires you to stretch your skills. 
  1. Allow flexibility in your cover letter. Capture your willingness to adapt by stating that if your qualifications don't fit the job responsibilities, you're open to other positions. Consider finding developers from the company on LinkedIn and including ideas they have blogged about in your letter. Show you're eager to work with those you admire and align with.      
  1. Build a brand. Stand out from the cover letter pack by putting yourself out there beyond your portfolio, cover letter, and resume. Create a professional blog about your experience and knowledge. Consider adding all of your professional contacts on LinkedIn, and post your blogs publicly. Getting eyes on your content will raise your value in the public sphere, and with each “like,” others in the field will be able to see your content. Building your brand early will help you showcase your talent and leverage what you are good at down the road. 

Negotiate your worth

You may view the applicant pool as more qualified than you are, but the interviewing process presents opportunities to showcase your skills and potential. Here are five things to keep in mind as you prepare to demonstrate your worth. 

  1. Remote work is more competitive. If you want to work remotely in your first position, you'll be compared against applicants like you fresh out of school and applicants who are currently employed and want to work remotely. Those who are currently working will have an edge on you having more real-world experience, so be prepared for your search to take longer. And if you can be open to an office position, you'll up your chances of finding work more quickly. 
  1. Have a value proposition. If you have other skills above and beyond the job description, offer them. You never know the value add something as simple as video editing might bring. Consider the soft skills and varied experience many nontraditional students have acquired from unrelated fields. These skills may distinguish you from other applicants and make you seem more versatile. 
  1. Focus on developers, not recruiters. It may be futile to aggressively pursue recruiters who are already inundated with requests from prospective applicants. Instead, find developers in the companies that most interest you on LinkedIn.  
  1. Focus on the positive. In an interview, recruiters will focus on what you’re focused on. If you say you’re nervous, others will focus on your nervousness. Instead, hone in on that’s going right and use the time to showcase your skills. If software is mentioned in an interview, ask to see it and get the opportunity to make changes in real time. Be excited and engaged, and ask to meet those on the team. By communicating with your words and actions that you want the opportunity, you'll send the message that you're serious and invested in the job. 
  1. Turn a full-time no into a part-time yes. If you are turned down for a full-time position, be open to suggesting a part-time role. If the company is a startup, argue the optics of hiring fresh tech talent, which can invigorate their growth. 

No matter what journey lies ahead for you, know that your career trajectory is, in fact, in your hands. You have the ability to determine how companies will see your value. Don’t let imposter syndrome keep you from reaching your full potential and showing all you can do. After all, you deserve to reap the rewards of your hard work to get here.