Actionable Tips for Dealing with Imposter Syndrome at Work

Imposter syndrome has become a bit of a buzzword in many tech and business circles—but it’s not without reason. The data shows that only a small minority of tech workers (of both genders!) remain unscathed by these feelings of self-doubt. Whether it’s a constant issue for you or something more rare, these actionable tips can help to combat imposter syndrome if and when it strikes. 

Remind yourself of your achievements

When you’re feeling insufficient or unqualified, it can be easy to forget the amazing things you’ve done—so set up ways to remind yourself of what you’re most proud of: 

  • Consider writing a list of career achievements and keeping it by your desk or in a note on your laptop. Pull it up before you go into any intimidating situation—an important meeting, performance review, or even a casual catchup with someone impressive in the office. This can include things you’d put on a CV, but might be much broader: Perhaps a time a colleague came to you for help or your involvement with projects outside your normal scope of work. 
  • Similarly, keep a file of positive reinforcement that’s made you feel good about your work, such as emails or texts congratulating you on a work achievement or thanking you for a job well done. You can even write down kind things that have been said verbally to you if they made you feel particularly positive about your skills.

In sum, accumulate evidence—whatever that might look like—which can help to boost you up when you’re feeling particularly insecure about yourself or your work.

Develop constant feedback loops

While people who experience imposter syndrome are often hesitant to ask for feedback because it can feel like you’re opening yourself up to vulnerability, getting frequent feedback can actually be a powerful way to combat insecurities at work. 

To begin with, good feedback loops will surface constructive criticism, but they will also provide opportunity for positive reinforcement. Setting up the right feedback mechanisms with your manager and colleagues can thus help you to see what you’re doing well in the eyes of others—and give you more evidence to add to your achievements file. If you’ve noticed there are particular instances when you feel imposter syndrome more than others, try to establish feedback around these events. 

Further, frequent feedback can give you more real-time input into how your performance and behavior comes off to others. If you get nervous in meetings, for example, ask for feedback on a specific meeting or presentation soon after it happens. Those who suffer from imposter syndrome might dwell on a minor detail (like a sentence you stumbled over) for months, whereas hearing from someone else what went well and what didn’t can help to reframe your thoughts.

Learn from (and become) a mentor

While the importance of having a great mentor isn’t exclusive to people trying to deal with imposter syndrome, someone who you feel is particularly confident in the office environment can be a great resource to have—especially if they can offer tips specific to your industry, company, or team. In addition to tips and advice, a mentor often simply validates that feelings of insecurity are a normal thing to experience—and hearing that from someone you respect can help you feel more comfortable in these uncertainties. 

In addition, identify opportunities to become a mentor to others, particularly if you’re focused on a particular niche and have knowledge to share. Teaching others can not only be rewarding, but also serve as further validation that you are indeed an expert, despite your brain’s best efforts to tell you otherwise.

About the Author

Napala Pratini

Napala is a consultant to early-stage technology companies. Prior to going independent, Napala led marketing initiatives across both consumer and B2B fintech for employers including NerdWallet and Earnest. In past lives she was a ballet dancer and a cancer researcher.