Ways Imposter Syndrome Could Be Hurting Your Career & How to Beat It

woman in job interview

Photo by Getty Images

Photo by Getty Images

Ever felt like a fraud after a job interview or while starting a new job? Imposter syndrome is that little voice in our heads telling us we aren’t good enough, don’t know what we’re doing, and aren’t deserving of opportunities we’ve worked really hard to get. It could be silently affecting your career. We enlisted Megan Trice, Finance Director of International Consumer Lending at American Express, to guide us through helpful tips for beating that pesky voice and navigating the work environment like a boss.

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When is imposter syndrome most likely to kick in?
According to the , 67% of U.S. women say it’s very important to feel empowered in their careers. So, when we don’t feel we have the support and advocacy from our leaders to accomplish a task and succeed at our job, we tend to see our confidence wane. As women, it is critical that we not only seek out our own empowerment, but also work to empower others.      

What can women do to combat these thoughts? 
First, tell yourself you are good enough, you do know what you are doing, and you are deserving of opportunities. Second, remind yourself that you have a great deal of power. You have the choice to decide what organization and which leaders should benefit from your unique talents, time and skills. Third, give yourself permission to take risks, hear “no,” and ask for constructive feedback. Rejection happens, but it’s not the end of the world. 

Imposter syndrome can also kick in once you’ve already interviewed and even gotten the job. What’s your advice for women who experience it while starting a new job?
I always start a job with a clear plan in place for my first 100 days. You won’t be able to do and learn everything on day one so it is critical to prioritize. First, set time aside to get to know your team and key stakeholders. Second, gain credibility, deliver a quick win to your leaders. Third, narrow down your top five deliverables and set aside the rest to revisit once you are settled and confident in your role. In addition, accept that you can’t be the subject matter expert on everything. Concentrate on your strengths and focus on the unique value you can bring to the table. And, make sure you have a large network to draw upon when you need additional guidance. 

What other tips do you have for women to navigate the work environment in a secure and confident way?
I started my career at American Express while I was in school for my MBA. I had decided to change career directions after working for five years as a manager of Broadway shows. At the time, a career in corporate finance was not an obvious next step. But, I took the risk of going to graduate school and ended up at a company that valued the unique point of view I brought from a less traditional career path. Today I go back to campus to interview prospective summer interns. I am energized by the diverse backgrounds of those I meet. Women starting their careers today have an important perspective to bring to the table that is valued by organizations like American Express. Don’t hesitate to speak up and share that perspective.

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There are still more men than women in corporate environments. What grassroots initiatives should companies implement in order to bridge this gap?
As a woman in finance— a more traditionally male-dominated field—I’m a big fan of Sheryl Sandberg’s #mentorher initiative that’s focused on promoting mentorship of women in the workplace. And, I am proud that our new Chairman and CEO recently signed on in support of this effort. Throughout my time at American Express, I have been a beneficiary of direct feedback and sponsorship from incredible male (and female) leaders, and I believe now is definitely the time to encourage those types of informal relationships.  

I also feel that as a people leader, it is my responsibility to mentor and sponsor women who are starting out in their careers. I have written reference letters, served as a sounding board, and advocated for my more junior colleagues when they needed it most. 

What advice do you have for women who want to continue to climb the ladder and become more successful at work?  
Know what drives you and keeps you excited about your work. For me, that is developing my team, having a seat at the table to influence business decisions, and being a role model for my daughter. I spend a lot of time trying to focus on these areas so I have the energy and drive to bring my best self to work every day. One of my leaders at American Express once told me that career trajectories are not linear—you will inevitably have times where you feel stuck or even need to take a step back. Keeping my passions and priorities front of mind helps me stay in the game, even in the face of daily challenges. It’s a marathon not a sprint!

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