There is a factor of uncertainty with the most exciting things in life. As a new graduate, I was super excited to land a job in my field, but was incredibly nervous about my first day. Walking into a new job is scary enough - let alone your first job. I did not know who to talk to, when I should ask for help, or what the expectations from me were.
Uncertainty become my biggest enemy.
The thing is though, I wasn't alone. The day I started, I started with twelve new hires, and that was just at Astrodyne TDI alone. Think about how many new employees around the world were simultaneously in the same position as me - all of us afraid to disappoint the people who hired us, all of us afraid that we would fail.
We give ourselves imposter syndrome. We begin to doubt ourselves and forget all about our accomplishments that brought us here in the first place. We convince ourselves and forget about all our accomplishments that brought us here in the first place. We convince ourselves that we faked our way to where we are that someone is going to find out - that we will be exposed for the frauds that we are. We start drowning in the fears that maybe we are not intelligent enough, and every time someone believes we are, we think we fooled them.
The issue with imposter syndrome is that it is most commonly found among successful people. Your imposter syndrome is a sign of your greatness, because you care enough to have it. A true imposter knows that they are faking it and are working to continue to fake it; they are not working hard to learn and do a good job.
So here I was, week one at work constantly afraid that I was about to get caught and I found myself doing one of two things:
- When I was assigned a task, I made sure to follow all directions; find out exactly how things are normally done and make sure I did not for a second stray from expectations. I constantly checked and rechecked my work and triple read every email before I sent it.
- I sat back and didn't say anything, shied away from difficult tasks - even when it caught my interest. Part of transitioning to a new job is figuring out what you do like, and what you dislike and then learning how to work efficiently.
Both reactions are a normal reaction to the fear of failure, but what we don't realize is that they are even worse than failure. In fact, changes are that everyone is going to expect you to fail. The faster you do, the faster you can learn from your mistake and correct it. When we hold ourselves back, we deny ourselves the ability of learning from our failures.
Growing up, I, as well as others, realized that I thought outside of the box. Coupled with math, creativity was my strength. However, as I got older, I realized imposter syndrome began to stifle my creativity.
The reason engineering is a respected field is because engineers think differently. The problems that they face, and will continue to face, in their coursework and careers have trained them to approach solutions from a different view. After four years of college, and an internship, by biggest take away was to work smart, not hard.
To ultimately get over my imposter syndrome, I did two things:
- I had an open discussion with my boss about expectations. Since expectations leave room for error, it is best to be clear of everything that is expected from you. Knowing all of this put my mind at ease; at least now I knew what I should be putting my efforts to.
- I forced myself to get up and work, and it felt great. My boss had been out for a couple days for business, and by now people have begun to discover that I existed and what my true capabilities were. By forcing myself to do tasks at hand that make me nervous, I learned a lot. I got the chance to interact with more people in the office and solve new, more exciting problems. It gave me the confidence I needed to realize my importance.
I've been in my position now for just over three months, so my imposter syndrome still has a small hold on me. I still find myself a bit nervous every time I get a new email with a new task, but after a moment of hesitation, I remind myself that it was sent to me for a reason. At this point I am still slowly learning, but everyday I am grateful that I get to learn more, and with this comes continual improvement.