How to Combat Imposter Syndrome

We’ve all felt the sinking feeling of Impostor Syndrome at some point in our careers. You feel like you’re fooling everyone into thinking you’re good enough. You’re secretly hiding that you actually don’t know anything, you constantly question yourself, and you feel like you’ll never improve.

These feelings tend to run especially rampant in the fast-paced environment of an ad agency. Agencies are full of incredibly smart individuals who are constantly innovating, and if you don’t feel like you’re able to do the same, it can be debilitating.

The good news is that Impostor Syndrome is almost always all in your head - you were hired for a reason. If you didn’t have the ability and potential to be great, you wouldn’t be where you are!

There’s plenty of ways to convince yourself that you have what it takes to be successful. Seek out a support system, keep track of your progress, and learn from your mistakes. The feelings of Impostor Syndrome are under your control!

Brand New to Your Company? Seek Out a Mentor

Have you noticed anyone in your company going out of their way to champion newer people on the team? Sharing resources and helpful tips? Providing learning opportunities? These are prime mentor candidates!

These are the people who are already taking time out of their day to help new hires to succeed. Because you already know that they care about your success, you don’t have to feel intimidated to ask them for help. Reach out to one of these people and ask them if they have 30 minutes to meet with you to grab coffee and chat.

If you’re not sure what to talk about, start by asking them about their experience at the company! Everyone loves to talk about themselves, and you can learn a lot just by hearing about somebody else’s journey. If they seem receptive to opening up to you, you can ask more personal questions about how they deal with Impostor Syndrome, tackling obstacles, and if they have any advice for someone like you who is new to the team.

Don’t be afraid to repeat this process with as many people as you can, even if you don’t work directly with them or if they work in a different division. The more you broaden your network, the more you’ll learn.

Confide in Your Peers

Chances are, you’re not the only person at your company who is experiencing Impostor Syndrome. There is a lot of learning and support that comes from finding solidarity with your peers, so don’t be afraid to tell them what you’re going through!

This is different from a mentor relationship because you are even more in the trenches with your direct peers. Find a couple of people who have the same job title as you and share what you struggle with most, the things you learn, and how you’re feeling. This will help you to feel less alone if you’re having a hard time, and you’ll be able to learn things faster when you pool your findings.

If you’re too intimidated to share your vulnerability with people within your organization, at least talk to a trusted friend outside of the company. You’ll realize that pretty much everyone experiences the feeling that they are not good enough at some point.

Keep a Record of Your Submitted Work

The best way to see how far you’ve come is to look back at where you started from.

Find a system that works for you, and keep all of your submitted work in one place. As you get further into your career, you can look back at the work you submitted when you were brand-new, and you’ll be shocked by how much you’ve grown.

As your submitted work gets progressively better, this file of work can even be a great tool to show your value when you’re ready to ask for a promotion! I recommend splitting it up based on deliverable category, so it’s easy to see which areas you don’t touch very often. Those are the places where you can seek out additional opportunities to practice your skills!

Save Your Praise (& Even Your Criticism)

Each time you receive feedback on your work, file it away to look back at later.

Keeping a list of all of the different skills you’ve been praised for can be incredibly helpful when you’re having a bad day and feeling like you aren’t good enough. Review your praise, deliverables that didn’t need any changes before going to the client, and other work that you are particularly proud of. Looking back at this will remind you that people think you are doing a good job, you are capable of creating great deliverables, and you were hired for a reason.

Sometimes it can feel really bad when you get negative feedback on your work or need to make a lot of changes before delivery to a client. This kind of feedback can trigger some of the strongest feelings of Impostor Syndrome and questioning your skill and ability.

Rather than thinking of this feedback as an attack on your abilities, or getting down on yourself because you don’t feel like your work is good enough, use feedback to fuel your fire to learn and grow.

Each time you receive feedback that you need to change something about your work, you have an opportunity to prove that you are a fast learner and you know how to learn from feedback. When you learn why that item wasn’t quite right, you’re much less likely to make the same mistake twice. Managers notice this a lot more than you realize!

If you receive the same constructive feedback more than once, it can be helpful to write down that feedback in a place that you can reference easily. Keep a list of areas where you need to improve, and then actively seek out opportunities to polish those skills.

If there’s a certain type of analysis that you don’t think you’re very good at, don’t avoid it - embrace it! Challenge yourself to tackle difficult things over and over again until they become easy. Once you successfully complete an item from your list without getting the same constructive feedback again, you can remove that skill from your list!

Impostor Syndrome is Normal!

Remember that the feelings of Impostor Syndrome are normal, and are most often shared by those who are very successful!

Find a solid support system who understands how you feel, learn from mentors, and remind yourself of your successes. Learn from the mistakes you’ve made and don’t be afraid to make new ones. Mistakes present the very best opportunities for growth.

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