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Can Impostor Syndrome Help You on Your Desk?

Summer slowdowns might be a reality, but another phenomenon is equally real and pervasive, especially among high achievers: Impostor Syndrome. It’s that nagging feeling that you’re not as competent as others think you are. It’s a whispering voice calling you a fraud, and any moment now, everyone will find out. But here’s the twist: Impostor Syndrome can be your secret weapon.

Impostor Syndrome shows up in a bunch of ways. You aren’t sure if a candidate is good enough, so you don’t present them. You don’t follow up with a client after an interview because you’re sure they hated your candidate. You prepare, and prepare, and then prepare more. Maybe if you over prepare, they won’t realize you don’t know what you’re talking about. Maybe you’re scrolling through groups of listening to celebrations in Group Coaching and comparing yourself to others. These are all indicators of Impostor Syndrome.

Impostor Syndrome is mentally draining. It makes you question your successes, concluding them to be lucky rather than work output. But here’s where it gets interesting. Those who experience it often develop a unique superpower called grit or moxie. It’s the strength of will, the ability to persist despite challenges. Some call it a refuse to lose mentality. It’s the drive that pushes you to work harder, be more attentive, ask better questions, and ultimately, achieve your goals.

How can you harness Impostor Syndrome?

Recognize and Reflect: Understand that Impostor Syndrome is real. Worry of any sort is a waste of creativity. Imagine yourself as a truly overconfident genius trickster getting away with running your own successful business; what would you try to accomplish then? Reflect on past challenges and how you overcame them. Ask Tricia if you want the confidence builder exercise.

Tune Out Naysayers: There’ll always be haters and wet blankets. We’ll define “wet blankets” as people who love you so much, they are afraid of you failing on your behalf. (Jason’s mother clipped and sent every aerial accident prior to Jason joining the Air Force.) Focus on constructive feedback and remember every challenge is an opportunity for growth. This includes your own inner critic. If all you listen to all day is criticism, it’s hard to not believe it.

Impostor Syndrome as a Compass: The areas we feel like an impostor are often the areas we care about the most. Use these feelings as a guide for where you want to grow. Sometimes, your internal voice is telling you what you need to do in order to be successful. It may sound like, “I’m not really good unless I do X well, and I don’t do X well.” Changing the tone to “I’ll be better when I learn how to do X better” is the framing to change your Imposter Syndrome into a helpful assistant.

Focus Outward, Rather Than Inward: When we are focused on our candidates and clients, we can’t be focused on ourselves and whatever we find lacking. Sometimes an outward focus mentality includes meditation and deep thought. All it takes is focusing your energy on others, which increases feelings of connectedness and belonging, a natural shield to Imposter Syndrome.

Know When to Walk Away: Firing a client is scary, but often necessary. Not all jobs are fillable and not all clients warrant your focus. The record setting 1996 Bulls lost ten games, just over 12% that season – it’s the equivalent of a recruiter failing on 1 in 8 searches. You really can’t win them all even if you’re the best. Sometimes it really is them, and not you.

All successful people experience Impostor Syndrome. Accept it, embrace it, and look for ways to have it positively affect your desk and your life. If you didn’t sometimes feel like a fraud, you likely aren’t pushing yourself hard enough. 

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Tricia Tamkin, headhunter, advisor, coach, and gladiator. Tricia has spoken at over 50 recruiting events, been quoted in multiple national publications, and her name is often dropped in groups as the solution to any recruiters’ challenges. She brings over 30 years of deep recruiting experience and offers counsel in a way which is perspective changing and entertaining.

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