- I nearly didn’t apply for the job at Microsoft because I didn’t have one of the suggested skills on the job description, but in the end did get a job offer and had a successful career that lasted more than 15 years.
- I wanted to quit my position because I felt I wasn’t being supported and my opinion didn’t matter until my husband reminded me that I’d received a top rating only 2 weeks earlier.
- I was convinced I was doing a bad job as a nanny when I did a poor job putting a band-aid on a cut and I was going to get fired, until the mother gave me a raise as she thought I was doing an amazing job with her girls.
You have no idea how many times I have imagined Julie Andrews swinging a guitar case, holding onto her hat and singing, ‘I have confidence in sunshine’ as I have entered situations at work, to confidently take a seat at the table and look ready and able to handle the situation when inside I’m quaking with fear of being asked questions I didn’t know the answers too, or didn’t possess imagination for a brainstorming session. Yes, well I’m in good company with the ‘C’ level women of technology. Ginni Rometty, Chairman and CEO of IBM, tells a story that earlier in her IBM career she had been asked by her boss to step up to a senior position with greater responsibility. She knew the job would require skills she didn’t have and so she told her boss what she lacked and said she’d think it over the option of the new position. In the evening she told her husband. He couldn’t believe her response and asked her, ‘Do you think that’s how a man would’ve answered the promotion?’ Needless to say the next day she took the job.
Yes, I know you probably sympathize and have your own experiences of feeling like a faker or imposter. Now I want you to consider how many times you have been frustrated at work because you know you could do a better job than the person assigned the project, or presenting, or taking the job. You’ve experienced it so many times its not funny right? We are in so many meetings where a guy is presenting, or leading a meeting or announced in a promotion and we wonder how he got put in charge. Think about it though, if we’re not putting ourselves forward and a job needs doing, who is going to be selected? Probably not someone who suffers from imposter syndrome and is hiding their talents or waiting for explicit discovery – this is extra work for a manager to handle.
So how can we bring the self-doubt perspective of the imposter syndrome together with the imposter-envy syndrome (where we see an imposter and want them gone or replaced)? Seriously – if we could remove the stress from doubting ourselves and being mad over less-qualified individuals getting into situations we know we can do we would be able to make strides forward.
There are many different approaches to dealing with self-doubt and envy of imposters. Let’s start with a simple fact that needs to be shared.
Men are likely to apply for a job with far fewer skills listed in a job description than a woman, who feels she must have most of them to apply for the job.
How does this make you feel? Is he an imposter because he’s willing to apply before he has the skills or is she not suitable for the job because she hasn’t got the confidence to apply and willingness to learn on the job? A favorite coaching question of mine is, ‘What have you got to lose?’
Sheryl Sandberg, CIO for Facebook, provides a simple example of the dual-imposter syndrome and what she did. She talks of lacking confidence in early meetings at Facebook when sitting around the table with the guys, then she realized that although she wasn’t 100% sure of the details, neither were the men at the table and that wasn’t stopping them from speaking up, which kicked her into action.
So this week when you hear either the voice of self-doubt in your own skills or are shocked or frustrated to see yet another under-skilled or qualified person having a go at something that might be beyond their abilities your job is to push aside these emotions and get focused on what you want. You can do it, and to get opportunities to do it you’re going to have to let them know you’re up for it. Can you do that? Yes you can.
So you pick your ‘She Can’ role model that will help you through self-doubt/frustration moments whether it is Sandberg, Rometty, or Julie Andrews, but if you hear me humming a tune as I enter a room you’ll know who I