When you feel like you’re unqualified to be somewhere or participate in a conversation when you really are qualified, it’s called imposter syndrome. But what if you’re actually not qualified? In the third post in my technology career change series, We are going to discuss what happens when the imposter syndrome becomes all too real in your new job.
When Faking it Isn’t Enough
I hate that phrase “Fake it Til You Make it”. If all that you ever do to “make it” is fake it then is it really worth it to make it? What have you made but a pile of junk called fakery? I suppose it caught on as a phrase because it’s short and it rhymes and people like things that rhyme. I tried to think of another phrase that was more representative of the effort that it takes to make it in something new and all I came up with was ‘Work it Til You Twerk it’ and that just didn’t work. But I’m getting off topic.
For the first few weeks that I was employed here I really did feel like an imposter. I had been hired to this position and I only knew very little about the product that I was supposed to work with. I attended a couple of customer meetings with some very smart people who led the meeting while I didn’t say much of anything. It all kind of piled on to reinforce my feelings like I really wasn’t supposed to be in the position. I imagine that a lot of people that have been in the position of changing their careers have felt like this at one point in time or another. In fact, I was talking to a friend of mine recently and after I gave him an update of how things were going his comment was, “Oh yeah, that’s bound to happen. You’re making a huge change and that’s what you wanted, right?”
It is what I wanted and through this process I have to keep that in mind as I push forward. Yes, in one moment I may feel stupid, but I’m trying to look at those moments as more of a road sign to point the way I need to learn more things rather than a commentary on me as a person.
The Situationally Appropriate Humble Brag
I kept working on learning things. One of the nice things about this company is the massive amount of training materials that I have access to. I can choose to learn about any of the aspects of our products, or maybe I want to learn a little more about the sales process, whatever the case there is a training resource that I can bring up to learn a little bit more. Additionally, I have access to full instances of our software so that I can put this knowledge to a practical purpose and play with the nerd knobs to help me learn more.
In the process of my continual learning, a few interesting things happened that showed me some light to steer towards:
- My mentor for the job reached out to me a couple of weeks ago and asked me if I would be comfortable demoing a very specific feature of ServiceNow to my customer the next day. I had never worked with that specific area with the product, but he provided documentation and we talked about it a little bit and I said that I would be happy to help. I spent some time the night before looking through the documentation and familiarizing myself with the configuration of this feature. I built it and tore it down a few times and the next day I rocked the demo with the customer. So much so that they thanked me for showing it to them and later in the day called and asked me for guidance on how to configure what I was doing!
- Last week we had training class for all of the solution consultant and account manager new hires and because of some of the extra effort that I put in trying to get my team some points, I was selected as the MVP for my team!
- As part of the on boarding process I have to give demos to my boss so that he can see whether or not I am prepared to talk about the product in front of a customer. In preparation for the demo I did a trial run with another guy who has been here about as long as me. When I got through presenting this to him he said, “Well John, if someone were to ask me how long you had been working here based solely on that demo you just gave, I would say a year.” Wow! That’s was awesome to hear since I’ve only been here two months!
But What Does It All Mean?
Those are some great stories, but what does it all mean? In my mind it really comes down to one thing. You’ve got to work it til you twerk it. Ok, ok, all kidding aside you do have to put in the work so that you get out of imposter status and into, something else. I wouldn’t call myself an expert by any stretch, but I definitely would say that I can hold some intelligent conversations in the arena that I’m working in.
But the important thing, whether you’re at a job that you’ve worked at for a decade or more or you’re a newbie in a totally new field, you’ve got to want to learn. You’ve got to put in the effort to learn. And most importantly, you’ve got to work it til you twerk it.
Next month I’ll be taking a break from writing, so make sure to come back and check in February for all new adventures and potentially a new series!