4 Key Ways to Beat Impostor Syndrome As a Tech ProfessionalReading time 8min
You’ve had it. I’ve had. Everyone’s had it at least once.
And no, I’m not talking about McMenu after a night out.
We’re talking about impostor syndrome. That feeling of inadequacy, of not being good enough for something or even not being deserving of a success you experience in life.
Impostor syndrome has nothing to do with being ungrateful. Rather, it’s about failing to recognize your value by negatively comparing yourself against other people’s skills.
Truth be told, regardless if you’re about to start a new career or if you’ve been at it for years, millions of workers around the world suffer with impostor syndrome.
If you’re working in tech and struggle with feelings of self-doubt, read on to learn the best ways to beat impostor syndrome as a tech professional.
What is Impostor Syndrome?
Have you ever told yourself you weren’t intelligent enough to do something? Or did you ever get a job role with responsibilities that simply felt unearned?
You’re most certainly not alone. These uncomfortable, negative emotions are rather common in any job role, regardless if you work in tech for Google or as a lion tamer at the circus. This feeling of not being worthy of your accomplishments is called impostor syndrome.
It’s a wrong belief that, regardless of the mounting evidence of your accomplishments, you still don’t see yourself as deserving of your success.
If you've ever faced the feeling of impostor syndrome at work before, you’ve basically experienced what it is like to be a fraud (not that it is true). This false sense of incapability can cause you anxiety, stress, and demotivation as you feel you are misleading your colleagues.
Characteristics of Impostor Syndrome
Below are some of the most common signs of impostor syndrome:
- An inability to perceive your competence and skills
- Attributing your success to external factors rather to your own merits
- Undermining your performance
- Fear that you won't live up to expectations
Is Impostor Syndrome Common in the Tech Industry?
According to Blind (2018), ‘’imposter syndrome is prevalent within the tech industry, with about 58% of tech employees stating that they currently experience some form of the condition within their careers’’. The article further states that the most common roles to experience impostor syndrome in tech are software engineers, developers, and even designers.
Perhaps the reason why impostor syndrome is relatively more present within tech rather than in other occupations is due to the very nature of the industry. With the variety of different approaches, new programming languages, and often more modern methods in circulation, it’s impossible for any developer to literally know everything in the book.
This is to say, when new (or even unknown) methods come into practice, when other languages, and more tools are needed, it’s easy to understand why tech workers can feel inept. Truth of the matter is, because of that, tech impostor syndrome might never go away.
Notably, impostor syndrome is usually at its peak when:
- You are new within the tech industry
- If you’re a part of a minority group
- If you come from a totally different professional background
How Tech Impostor Syndrome Can Affect Your Wellbeing
In our ever-evolving digital world, it’s no news that the mounting amount of pressure for tech workers to be successful is taking its toll on their wellbeing.
One of the most common ways impostor syndrome can affect your mental health (and career) is when you constantly find yourself worrying about your position and job performance. This can lead to unnecessary levels of stress, which might eventually lead to burnout.
This will cause a snowball effect because you’ll feel like you’re struggling to catch up with your peers, which might cause you to falsely validate your feeling of unworthiness. The result? A work life dominated by never-ending anxiety, exhaustion, confusion, uncertainty, and fear.
Because of all this, it's not hard for impostor syndrome in tech jobs to spiral out of control. For that, it’s imperative that you know smart ways to avoid this false sense of non-belonging, pronto.
So if this is something on the back of your mind as of late, worry not. Next, we will dive into the four best ways to beat your tech job impostor syndrome so that you may proactively combat those negative thoughts.
How to Beat Impostor Syndrome In Tech
So now that we’ve gone over the telltale sign of those suffering from impostor syndrome in tech, it’s time to delve into ways of overcoming them.
4 Top Ways to Get Rid of Impostor Syndrome in Tech Jobs
- Find a worthy mentor
- Remember your past experiences
- Keep track of your accomplishments
- Encourage teamwork
Let’s now dive into each of these in detail.
Good ol’ mentors.
This remains one of the best ways to get speedy knowledge and experience in a new job.
Having a mentor within your professional sphere will give you an edge and a better perspective on what people really think of you and your performance at work. A mentor will take your hand in those moments of uncertainty, and guide you out of your negative state of mind.
But more than giving you an outsider’s view to build your internal confidence, a mentor will further be able to clearly identify important knowledge gaps that you might be unaware of.
Once that is defined, your mentor can also suggest what skills are needed to fill in the gap (perhaps even recommend you a hands-on training to continually improve your abilities and overall confidence).
2. Past experiences
Don’t overlook what you’ve learned from your past experiences. Being able to look back on your past accomplishments will allow you to have a bird’s eye view on how far you’ve come.
Remember how you felt when you first started? How insecure you were with your daily tasks? Taking time to reflect on who you are and how you felt at the start of your journey will give you a realistic perspective on your achievements.
Remember that you’ll never know everything. You don’t need to be an expert in your field before you experience (and can acknowledge) success. Once you‘ve made your peace with that, it’s equally important that you know that you still have a lot to learn.
Which brings us to our next point.
3. Your accomplishments
On your road to self-discovery you’ll accomplish many things. Some might have huge impacts in your life and at your work, while others might be smaller achievements. Regardless of what your accomplishments are, keeping track of what you’ve achieved will help you to objectively see how much you’ve already done.
And you can (and should) give yourself a little pat on the back for it. Go ahead.
Here’s a practical example to illustrate my thoughts: Developers often find themselves with impostor syndrome by comparing their work to that of other developers. This irresistible comparison can often bring the developer's motivation down. However, having an ‘’accomplishment’’ booklet can do wonders to help you get out of that negative state.
So whenever you feel unworthy of praise or even a promotion, open up that document to remind yourself of all the great things you’re already achieved so far.
Remember this: if you are going to compare yourself to anyone, then compare yourself to who you were. Reflect on how you've levelled up from your past self to the person you are today.
4. Promote teamwork and work camaraderie
Last but not least, encouraging teamwork and a relaxed work ambiance within your tech team is a fantastic way to disperse the negative effects of impostor syndrome in tech jobs.
That’s because, when everyone within the team asks for help and isn’t afraid to share their opinion (feeling as if they are in a safe environment without judgement), each team member's unique capabilities become more evident.
This to say, if anyone within that team is facing impostor syndrome doubts, they can readily see that others in his own team don’t know everything either. And that’s totally fine.
It Never Truly Ends: Manage Impostor Syndrome As You Progress in Tech
One of the unfortunate aspects of impostor syndrome is that you never really escape it (trust me, I’ve also tried). It’s more about understanding and accepting it, and finding smart ways to change your mindset so it doesn’t consume you.
But you can manage how you choose to handle it. And the earlier in your tech career that you’re able to manage impostor syndrome, the less it will impact you in the future.
Whenever I start to feel like I’m not achieving enough, or that I could be more productive, I reflect on why it is that I’m having those feelings. It’s mostly about being aware of where those negative sentiments come from. Is there any reason in particular for why I’m not being as productive as I’d hoped? What could be causing me to achieve less?
Once you have garnered a few good reasons as to why you might be experiencing impostor syndrome, then it’s time to evaluate if any of those reasons are valid.
Remember: it’s ok to ask for help. Don’t compare yourself to others (unless you’re comparing yourself to your own past progress).
Once you have that under control, you’ll also be able to fully enjoy your job and grow in your tech career path efficiently, rather than second-guessing your steps.