Monday, December 28, 2020

4 Solutions to Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is something that affects most of us at one time or another, but many people don't know what to do about it when it hits them.

Imposter syndrome is a "psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a 'fraud.'"

I've interviewed many people over the years -- including c-suite executives -- who suffer from it. They've shared many strategies about how they've learned to believe in their own abilities and let go of their constant fear of being "found out."

Here are some of their ideas:

1. Find support. This may be a friend, mentor or professional colleague. Confide in someone you trust that you feel like an imposter. More than likely, you'll find that others feel the same way -- and that can make it easier to discuss.

2. Let go of the past. Yes, you've made mistakes. We all have. But that doesn't mean you should dwell on them and let them undermine your confidence and ability to move forward. Think about what you learned from that mistake and how that experience will make you better in the future. Mistakes can be a gift to your career if you learn and grow from them -- but not if you agonize over them and remain stuck in that mindset.

3. Step outside yourself. Many of those who suffer from imposter syndrome are incredibly supportive of others, always offering words of encouragement to those who need it. Yet, they never offer those same words to themselves! The next time you start feeling down on yourself, think of how you would respond to anyone else who says, "I'm really no good at this," or "They're going to find out I'm a fraud and don't know what I'm doing." Instead of offering "You're smart and you'll figure it out," to someone else -- say it to yourself. Think of the words of support you give to others and make sure to also say them to yourself on a regular basis.

4. Celebrate your victories. Don't be down on yourself if you learned how to do X but not Z. Celebrate that you learned X and tell yourself that Z is also something you can do. Replace your negative thoughts with remembering what you've done so far -- and how much more you're capable of doing when you believe in yourself.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Can You Ask for a Raise During the Pandemic?

Many people believe asking for a pay raise during this time of crisis for many companies is a no-no.

They're right. Sort of.

If you're working for an employer that is barely scraping by, one that has already laid off too many of your colleagues and is an industry hard-hit by the pandemic (hotels, restaurants, event management), then asking for a pay raise doesn't make sense right now.

But, if you're working for a company where business is doing very well, and you've had a direct hand in contributing to bottom-line success like bringing in new customers, coming up with a more efficient process that saves money or designing a new product that is paying off, then you wouldn't be amiss in asking for a pay raise based on those clear results of your worth.

Still, we are in the grips of a pandemic, and you don't want to appear callous as to what everyone -- including your boss -- is experiencing. So, just like you would during non-pandemic times, you need to bring up your request for more money when it's a good time (not when the boss is under pressure to meet a deadline or his partner just came down with COVID).

You want to ask for a raise when you're seen as doing a great job -- a recent performance evaluation went very well or you received a glowing, appreciative email from the boss or someone in the executive ranks.

Ask for a private meeting or Zoom call to talk to the boss about your request. You don't demand it. You don't say you need a raise to pay for a new car. You ask for a raise based on your contributions and your research of what others in your position are making.

Then, you let the boss think about it. It's likely he or she isn't just going to say "Okey dokey!" and give you what you want. If you get turned down eventually, don't start sending out resumes, but instead look for ways you can become even more valuable. A boss who says "no" to a raise may just be saying the timing isn't right. Keep a good relationship with him, and let him see that he can count on you -- and you may be rewarded when things improve.

Monday, December 14, 2020

4 Steps to Achieving Career Goals During a Pandemic

During the pandemic, your career goals may have withered a bit. At this point, you're just trying to keep your job and cope with everything life has thrown at you.

But it's not a good idea to just forget about your career goals, and in fact, you can take this time to think more deeply about what you really want and how to go about getting it.


1. Your resume. Give it a good look and try to be impartial. Does the resume show how you've grown? How you've achieved results? Or, is it just a laundry list of job titles and company names? This isn't what gets you noticed, either by hiring managers or those in your industry. You need to be able to constantly show that you're taking that next step, either through key projects in your current job, educational or training efforts or even through professional associations.

2.  Your boss. What does she think about your performance? You're not asking for a performance review, but rather a conversation about whether your boss thinks you're progressing in the right areas or whether she believes that you're stalled. What can you do to get more responsibility? What needs to happen for you to be in charge of the next project? While you may not always agree with your boss's assessment of your skills, you're not going to progress at your current position without your boss's support or input. 

3. Your network. You might find it challenging to maintain your network during this time of social distancing, but really, that's just an excuse. You can still interact with people on a phone call, during a Zoom meeting or -- if they work in the same town -- at a meeting in a park or other outside venue. Your network is critical in growing your career, and people are longing for contact now more than ever. By reaching out, you're helping to seal a relationship that will be beneficial now and in the future.

4. Your initiative. When was the last time you read a book that really challenged you? Or listened to a podcast concerning a subject you know nothing about? Have you tuned into a webcast that has speakers that are unfamiliar to you? These are all things that force you out of your box and introduce you to new ideas. That's an important step when you're growing yourself as a professional.

Monday, December 7, 2020

For many people looking for work during these tough times, turning down a job -- any job -- isn't an option.

But recently I talked with a job seeker who interviewed for a job and got really good feedback from the hiring manager. In fact, the hiring manager hinted strongly that an offer would be made by the next day.

The big problem, however, was that after talking to the hiring manager, the job seeker no longer wanted the job. 

While she had done some research on the employer, she learned things during the interview that concerned her. She not only felt the working environment was unsafe, but her hours would be grueling and her pay below industry standards.

After talking it over with her partner, she sent an email to the hiring manager thanking him for the interview. Then, she explained that after hearing more about the job, she didn't feel it was a good fit for her and she no longer wanted to be considered.

This job seeker really felt like she dodged a bad situation, but she was torn. The job market is tough in a lot of industries. Right now, she's working a minimum-wage job after losing a management position in the travel industry. While this potential job would have given her a foot back into the travel industry and better pay, she decided that it was better to stay where she was than take a job that she believed would only be short-term.

"I knew that if I took that job I would be looking for something better the entire time I was there," she told me. "I got depressed just thinking about it."

The reason I share this story is that while the job market is bad, that doesn't mean you have to make career decisions that could hurt you in the long term. Always make sure you step back and talk it over with your family or trusted friends. Here's some things to consider:

1. Your safety. This job seeker truly felt the location of this job was in a dangerous area, and there had been violence in and near the building before. She would be asked to work -- often alone -- and without security measures in place. Even if the employer had offered better security, she didn't feel it was worth the risk.

2. Your health. The hours required on the job were very long, often for 14 days at a stretch without a day off. The job seeker told me that she had nearly ruined her health once before with such a job, and didn't want to do it again.

3. Pay. This is tricky, because if you need to pay rent or make a car payment, you are desperate to get a job. In that case, this comes down to your individual situation and what you can and cannot manage financially. But in this job seeker's case, she was bringing in enough to live on, along with her partner's salary. She felt that if she took a lower salary in her desired industry, it would impact her for years and her earning power might never recover (she's absolutely right). She has decided that she will take some online courses to improve her data skills (important in her travel industry job) and wait for travel jobs to begin to open up as vaccinations flatten the coronavirus.

I share this story because I think it provides a good example of someone who really wanted a job -- but didn't jump at just anything that came along. She weighed her options and made a decision that was best for her personally and professionally.

When times are tough, employers have the upper hand. They may offer lower salaries, substandard work conditions and even try to make you do dangerous work. Working for such employers will never get better. If they hire you without a good faith effort to compensate you for your talents and provide a safe working environment, then they're not going to change once things improve. Keep that in mind when considering a job.