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No. 5 – I feel like a fraud. How can I overcome my Impostor Syndrome?

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17 March 2021

Each week, Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column “Got a minute?” This week, overcoming a sense of Impostor Syndrome, colleagues refusing to adhere to health guidelines, and how to build your professional brand on social media.

I’ve been away from the workforce for almost a year. Now that I’m ready to return, I’m finding the job market very competitive. I’ve started interviewing, but each time I get a huge sense of Impostor Syndrome. How can I overcome this?

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t feel the nagging doubts of Impostor Syndrome from time to time. Irrespective of whether you are searching for a job or looking to one day run a company, we all feel that insecurity, so you are definitely not on your own.

My own strategy for when doubts creep in, includes recognising Impostor Syndrome for what it is and consciously continue anyway. Being able to accept the doubts, and move forward anyway, helps us stay resilient and persevere.

Other things that I find work is to stop trying to predict what could go wrong – you have no reason to think you will fail, so seize every experience and go for it 100 per cent. Continue to be yourself and trust that you will be successful as you, not as the person anyone else thinks you should be.

And finally, say yes – while you may not think you are ready or that you don’t have the precise experience needed, trust that it will come; you will be successful. You will become a better leader for being willing to learn. And even if you don’t see your potential, others do. Believe in them.

I sit near two co-workers who have both been coughing and spluttering in the office. Neither have stayed home while unwell or have had a COVID test. They laughed at me when I suggested we all wear masks. The health guidelines say that anyone with flu-like symptoms should stay home but none of my colleagues follow this advice. My boss doesn’t seem to notice or care. What can I do?

It seems the idea of ‘soldiering on’ when you have a cold remains prevalent and perhaps especially so now that Australia seems to be easing back into a new sense of normality.

The bottom line is that COVID-19 is a health and safety issue for everyone and especially for every workplace. Let’s just imagine you were working in a factory and you saw your co-workers doing something that was putting their lives and the lives of others in danger. My hope would be that your boss would want you to speak up and say something; that the culture of your business encouraged Safety First. Potentially carrying a highly infectious airborne disease in the middle of a global pandemic is no different.

I would ask your Health and Safety representative, your HR Manager or your boss what the process is for anyone who has flu-like symptoms and suggest it may need to be clarified for everyone in the office. You don’t need to name your co-workers individually, but you should be able to speak up about a health and safety risk.

My expectation would be that your boss will be pleased you raised this with them since the consequences of an outbreak in their office is going to be much more significant for your organisation than not having some basic health precautions enforced as a preventative measure.

Between working from home and a lack of face-to-face networking opportunities, I know that building a professional brand on social media is really important to help grow my career. But I don’t know where to start or what I should be sharing. I’m worried I’ll come across as stupid, or a know-it-all. Do you have any advice?

There is no doubt that social media is an essential part of your professional brand and when someone Googles you, which they will, the professional information they read about you needs to be up to date, accurate and representative of who you are.

If you have a LinkedIn profile, for example, share news of work you are doing where you have expertise and an interest. If you remain authentic and don’t use your posts to try to sell something, you will end up connecting with a whole new world of people who have similar professional interests to you.

Send your curly questions about work, career, leadership and anything in between to Your name and any identifying information will not be used. Letters may be edited.

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