I’ve changed my career path already 3-4 times in my life, depending on who you ask – and every time, there was a “valid” reason behind doing so. I’m here to say: normalize changing career paths at any point in your life for any reason. On this episode, I break down the top 5 reasons to change career paths and offer you 3 questions to answer if you’re considering making a big leap.
Oh, and don’t forget to join my newsletter community where I provide episode updates and resources for BIPOC young professionals figuring out their career moves!
Links Mentioned In Episode:
Sponsor, The Art of Applying – Get $100 off a Quick Call if you mention the ECM Podcast
Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger: And so, it wasn’t until years later that I realized, oh, I actually don’t want to do policy work, I actually don’t want to work in government or do work for a think tank or anything like that, and I realized that when I was in my early twenties. I mean, I could have decided to look at that as a failure, but I didn’t. I was just like, cool, I think it’s time for me to pivot now.
Priscilla: Welcome to the Early Career Moves podcast, the show that highlights remarkable young professionals of color killing it on their career journeys. I am your host, Priscilla Esquivel-Weninger, proud Texas Latina, daughter of immigrants, and lover of breakfast tacos. Meet me for a coffee chat every Friday as we dive into a special guest story and hear all about their challenges, milestones, and lessons learned. If you’re a young professional of color and you’re feeling lost in your career or just need a dose of inspiration, you’re in the right place. Let’s get started.
Priscilla: Hey, everyone, how’s everyone doing? By the time you hear this, it’ll be the end of April, and right now it is April, it’s April in Austin, April, 2021, and it’s just hard to believe that the podcast is already at its 20th episode. It’s been so fun to be able to share all of the guest stories with you so far and I’m just excited to continue to see the podcasts grow, but time has really been flying by. It’s really hard to believe that we’re nearly at that half year mark in 2021, and I know that COVID and the pandemic and everything, it’s muddled my concept of time completely. I don’t know if it’s done that for you too, but I think a lot of 2020, I felt like time was going by super slowly, but now, I feel like things are just speeding up, and I live in Texas, so things are reopening a lot and have been reopening for a while. There’s definitely this tension around like, am I ready for this? But anyway, I am really excited to be with you guys for the 20th episode. I’m talking about a topic that I care very deeply about today, which is basically the concept that you are allowed to change your mind about your career path at any point in your life and should feel empowered to do so, and even to just explore it.
I’ll start with talking about what are the top five reasons that I believe are great valid reasons to consider changing your career, and then I will also end with offering you three questions that I think are really helpful if you’re at a place in your career where you’re thinking about making a big shift, and as I tell you this story, I’m coming from a place of someone who did make significant career shifts in my twenties and someone who graduated college not really knowing exactly how I would use my degree. So, I think that this episode will really appeal to folks who either had a similar experience where you chose a degree in college but it didn’t directly lead to a specific career path or maybe you were not sure about which career path to choose, or you’re just someone who has gone one direction and is now considering taking a different direction. So, that’s the audience for this episode. If you’re someone who has always known what you wanted to do and you are now living that dream or making it happen, that is amazing, congrats, you really lucked out in the career department, but I would venture to say that most of us do have to do a lot of work around figuring out where to land, and it’s not black or white, it’s not okay, I got it or I didn’t get it. I think it’s very much an iterative process for a lot of us as we explore career paths and figure out what is the next best step and what is the best fit for me, and what worked for me yesterday may not work for me today, and that’s fine. So, that’s what this episode’s about, that’s the spirit of this episode, so let’s get into it.
Okay, so my first valid reason for changing your career path is that you had limited information when you made early career decisions such as what to major in, what to do for your first job, or how to use your degree, and this reason applies to a lot of us that are first-generation college grads, first-generation Americans and bipoc communities. Why is that? Because again, we had limited information when we were making career decisions, we didn’t necessarily have parents guiding us or guardians guiding us or older siblings guiding us or anyone who maybe understood the system, and so if this is you, I want you to really sit in that for a second, like think back to who you were when you were an 18-year-old, 17-year-old applying to college, choosing your major, choosing your internships, or maybe you didn’t do internships because you didn’t realize you were supposed to do internships or you took jobs because you had to make money somehow and taking an unpaid internship was sort of out of the question, and then as you came up against your first job career search, maybe you just chose something randomly, right? Or maybe someone told you something about the career path that you chose, or maybe you went to an event and something sounded cool, and so you went with it, right? That is sort of what happened to me. I was an architecture major for the first year of college. I wanted to be an architect because my tia in Mexico is an architect and I look up to her, and I thought that sounds like an awesome career, I want to do that. Okay, cool, so I did it the whole first year of the coursework in architecture, I did a summer program at Harvard GSD, which was amazing in architecture. It was amazing because I realized I actually did not want to be an architect at all. I realized that was not the career path for me, and it was time for me to choose my major my sophomore year, so I came back to school my sophomore year and I had to choose a major, and it was around the time that Obama was getting really big in, like, politics and everything, and so I was just like, well, let me be a Poli Sci major. Political Science was a really strong department at Wellesley where I went to school, and so I was like, okay, sure, sounds good, and so that’s how I chose my major, right? Like, it was a very haphazard way for me to choose a major, but it ended up actually being like a domino effect in the sense that that was how I ended up doing a summer internship in DC and working in policy, and then I decided to get my master’s in Public Policy after college, and then kind of went through this whole little path where I was thinking in my head like, oh, I’ll just do Education Policy, and that was just an idea, like I didn’t know anyone who did this job, my parents didn’t do it, I didn’t really know what it meant. It just sounded cool and it was interesting, and so I went down that path, and so it wasn’t until years later that I realized, oh, I actually don’t want to do policy work, I actually don’t want to work in government or do work for a think tank or anything like that, and I realized that when I was in my early twenties, I mean, I could have decided to look at that as a failure, but I did it. I was just like, cool, I think it’s time for me to pivot now, and so the point here is really just that a lot of us made haphazard decisions in college around what to major in, where to intern, what to do for our first job, and if this is resonating with you, I feel you, like that was me. I was in that boat where I was just sorta like, I don’t know, this sounds cool, and like, my parents were like, okay, sounds cool, right? But it was not a well-informed decision where I understood all of my options, where I understood all of the pros and cons and what it would lead to, what it wouldn’t lead to. That was not available to me. I just think it’s so valid that if you didn’t really have information when it came to making those decisions, it makes total sense that a few years later, you decide to do something different.
Okay, so reason two that I think is super valid for wanting to change your career paths is you need to make more money, periodt, okay, period with a T, like, this is so important to level with yourself, and if this is something that’s come up for you, I think that it’s just really important to be honest with yourself about the role that the financial incentive piece plays in your career choice. I’ll talk again a little bit about my own personal experience. I worked in nonprofit, I was a school teacher, I pursued a career path up until my late twenties, that was really not around making money, like that was just not my motivator at the time. I think that my motivator was around making a difference, seeing systemic change for students and for kids, and making a difference in education was really what got me fired up, it got me excited. I was excited to get out of bed every day when I was a teacher, when I worked for a school system, that is on 100, like, that is the truth. I was so motivated by that, but there came a time when the balance started to become unequal. What I mean by that is that joy, that rewarding, fulfilling feeling that I got from working in mission-aligned work started to lessen over time as I started to realize that living paycheck to paycheck and being very much underpaid for how hard I was working was just not cute anymore for my finances, okay? So, I made a very strategic decision in my late twenties to pivot out of the nonprofit sector and move into the private sector, and I’m not going to front – money was a big part of that. I started to look at how much I had saved over time in my retirement, it was not a number that I was excited about at all, and so I felt like, wow, I really have fallen behind my peers when it comes to saving for retirement, when it comes to being able to buy a house and make a lot of these financial moves that are important to me as a first generation American, as someone who does not have a significant financial safety net to fall back on, and as someone who is increasingly aware of just the role that I need to play to create generational wealth if I decide to have a family for my kids, and when I was in my early twenties, I didn’t think about that stuff. I just didn’t, and I think that I was in a position of incredible privilege because I didn’t have significant student loans to worry about, and so I was able to pursue career paths that were very fulfilling for me personally, but ultimately, I was neglecting a whole part of the equation, which was planning for financial freedom and caring about financial freedom, period. So, I think that if you’re in this situation where you need to make more money and you’re realizing that that is starting to stress you out, worry, you’re not feeling good about that area in your career or in your life, I think it is a totally total valid decision to change career paths, to find something that does satisfy that and does help you pay off debt faster, build wealth to just be able to achieve financial freedom. I think that’s a really important part and component of changing careers, and I will say another part of this is transparency. I think for a long time, I just honestly didn’t even know the amount of money my peers were making. I think when I graduated college, I knew that friends that were pursuing private sector jobs would be making a lot more than me, but at the beginning, like I said, I just didn’t think too much about it, and I had this mindset around ‘I’ll just figure it out later,’ but I just think that, again, I was operating under very limited information, and I think that if this is you and you didn’t really think about the financial impact, it’s totally fair to want to revisit that and it’s totally fair to want to switch gears.
Okay, the third reason that I think is so valid for wanting to change career paths is if you realize that you are either underemployed or you are not using your strengths at work, they’re not being leveraged or showcased at all. Being underemployed basically means that you were hired for a job that you are overqualified for and you could be operating at a much higher level, and this could have to do with either the actual job description of the role, so the day-to-day tasks, the day-to-day responsibilities, and that could be either demotivating or create a situation where you’re just not feeling challenged, you’re not feeling very fulfilled, energized, and maybe the day goes by a little slower because it’s just kind of like, okay, yeah, I know how to do this. You’re going through the motions and it’s not exciting because you’re underemployed, and so I think that a lot of the times in bipoc communities, this can happen because sometimes we’re being targeted or talked to about roles that are way below what we can actually do and provide, and so we really need to watch for that. I think that it’s okay if you are in a situation where you just need to get a job, like, you just need to make money. Maybe you got laid off, something happened and, like, do what you need to do right? Like, I will never knock that. Do what you need to do. I think it’s just really important though, when you are being strategic and thinking long-term, ultimately, you want to be in a role that matches where you’re at. You want to think about a role that you’re even a little “underqualified for.” We’ve all seen the statistics, men tend to apply for jobs where they meet 60% of the requirements for the job, and then women feel the need to check every single box and if they don’t check every single box in their mind, they don’t apply, and so that’s what this is about. This is about making sure that the job that you’re in now is really challenging you and that you’re growing and learning, and you’re getting something out of it to take to the next place where you land, and if you’ve plateaued or you’re just going through the motions, or you’re groaning, not looking forward to anything, it might have to do with the fact that you’re underemployed right now, and I actually think that this is a sneaky one. This is one that you have to do a lot of self-reflection around to really ask yourself if you’re operating at 80%, 90%, 100%, or are you just kind of cruising? There is a time and place for cruising. There is nothing wrong with cruising in your job, so please don’t hear that, right? Like, that is not what I’m saying. I think that it’s a beautiful thing to get to a place in your role, in your job where you’re like, Hey, I kind of get this, I’m doing well and enjoying that, but you got to enjoy it, right? Like, if you’ve been cruising for a little too long and you’re just not getting any joy out of it, and you’re dealing with things that feel very tedious and more of a headache to you, then maybe it’s time to rethink the kind of work that you’re doing and what your role is.
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SOLO EPISODE CONTINUED
Like I mentioned on my last solo episode, take the strengthsfinder test, know your strengths, know the things that get you to light up, get you excited. Our strengths often are what give us so much energy and give us life, and so know what your strengths are and do the self-reflection work of asking yourself: Am I using my strengths at work? Am I actually showing up at the level that I know that I can show up as? And if the answer’s no, you’re not alone. This happens to a lot of us. It happened to me, and don’t make it a moment about shame. This is not about shame. This is about knowing your worth. It’s about knowing that you deserve not just ‘good enough’ or just ‘okay,’ but something really amazing, and something really amazing is waiting for you on the other side of that.
Okay, the fourth reason is you are burnt out mentally, physically, and or emotionally, and this is really important. I think that this happens to a lot of us where we have just been running, running, running for so long in a job in a career, giving so much of ourselves and getting to a point where we’re neglecting ourselves, we’re not taking care of ourselves, and it’s just such a bad situation. When I think about this reason, I think a lot about teachers because I was a teacher for two years, I know how hard the career path is and how undervalued it is, and yet just the incredible amount of physical work involved with being a teacher, the emotional toll that it can take on teachers, and also just the mental pressure and just how high stakes it can be. I didn’t teach for a long time and I would never compare what I did for two years to what veteran teachers go through, but I know so many incredible educators that leave the teaching profession because the burnout is real and it’s so hard to constantly be carrying those burdens, and so I think that it’s a totally fair thing, and again, there’s no shame around it. It is fine to switch gears and to do something that is not so taxing on you, like, at the end of the day, you are providing services, labor in exchange for money and benefits. Yes, I am simplifying things, but there’s always people that post about, if you die tomorrow, your role would be filled next week and people would keep it moving, like, that’s just the truth, and so I never want my listeners to feel like, okay, this podcast is about how your career is the most important thing. It’s not, it’s not. I really believe family and relationships, friendships are the most important thing, because that’s what life is about in my opinion, right? Like, yes, have an amazing career, do something, like, that’s so fun and challenging, but like, the reason that I care so much about careers is because we spend so much of our lives doing this and there is so much fulfillment and impact that we can have through the career piece but like, it’s not everything, it’s not worth your sanity, your mental, physical, emotional health, and so if you’re at that breaking point, it’s really time to ask yourself if it’s really worth it. In my opinion, it’s never worth those things. I just want you to hear that I think that is just such an important valid reason for you to be like, this isn’t for me, like, I can’t give this much of myself.
The last reason that I have for you for wanting to shift career paths is just because you feel like it. Yes, I just walked through some reasons that I told you are valid for wanting to change your career paths, but the truth is, you wanting to do it is good enough and it’s worth doing. I think life is way too short and it’s very natural as a human being to at some point, want to try something different or want to just see what else is out there. I mean, it’s almost like dating a little bit, right? Like, some people do find their forever person in middle school or high school. That’s amazing, but some of us do have to date lots of different people, and it’s the same thing with careers. Sometimes, we have to try on different things to figure out what really fits, right? That is the point of this episode. I want to encourage you to not feel shame or not feel scared to change your mind about your career because if you are someone who randomly chose your major, didn’t know how to use your degree, and that domino effect has run its course, or you realize that I’m underemployed,
I’m not using my strength, this isn’t actually, like, interesting or intellectually captivating for me at all, or you’re someone who says, “I need to make more money. I need to pay my bills. I love this initially, but now it’s really not cutting it for me,” or you’re someone who’s like, “I need more work-life balance. I need more personal time.” That’s worth it to me more now. There are just so many reasons why you might want to shift gears, and I really want us to normalize doing that and making that a normal part of the discussion because there is nothing wrong with being like, this ain’t it, like, this really ain’t it anymore. What’s out there?
I told you that I would leave you with three questions to ask yourself if you’re at the point where you’re thinking about shifting career paths, and so here they are.
Number one, am I learning, being developed and, or growing? Number two, do I feel at least neutral every day when I wake up and it’s time to go to work as in not negative, not like a negative feeling, I feel neutral, or I actually feel positively, and then number three, if in five years I wake up and I’m still doing this, will I be okay with that.
Okay, that’s all I have for you today has been so great to talk about this topic. In my head, we’re, like, having coffee somewhere and I’m sharing these ideas with you, but I would love it if you could screenshot the podcast, tag ECM Podcast and share, like, a nugget, what did you like about this podcast? What are your thoughts? And I would love to reshare your content, but yeah, let’s normalize changing our minds about our careers.
Have a great rest of your week.
As a Latina daughter of immigrants who’s had to figure out my early career years on my own, there’s been plenty of times that I’ve wondered a) how to do something, and b) if I really have what it takes to succeed and do something for the first time (in my family). Over time I’ve built a strong muscle of resilience and I’m now pretty used to that beginner feeling, but every now and then I’ll get a flash of imposter syndrome. On this episode, I share my top 5 strategies for battling imposter syndrome, all based on neuroscience. I hope they help you when you’re battling your own moments of self-doubt or insecurity. Below, find the free FULL 10-STRATEGY PDF with my best strategies to combat imposter syndrome.
Oh, and don’t forget to join my newsletter community where I provide episode updates and resources for BIPOC young professionals figuring out their career moves!
Links Mentioned In Episode:
Gallup Strengths Finders Test
Mindset by Carol Dweck
Sponsor, The Art of Applying – Get $100 off a Quick Call if you mention the ECM Podcast
Priscilla Esquivel Weninger: When I doubt myself, when I have a hard day at work or I encounter a challenge that I don’t know how to approach or I get scared if I can do something, I think about my grandparents. I think about my parents who were immigrants who came to the us with nothing, the risks that they’ve taken…I think, like, if they could do that, if they could face their worst fears, be subject to incredible hostility, take risks, figure things out on their own with such little resources, then I can get through this.
Welcome to the Early Career Moves podcast, the show that highlights markable young professionals of color killing it on their career journeys. I am your host Priscilla Esquivel Weninger, proud Texas Latina, daughter of immigrants and lover of breakfast tacos. Meet me for a coffee chat every Friday as we dive into a special guest story and hear all about their challenges, milestones and lessons learned. If you’re a young professional of color and you’re feeling lost in your career, or just need a dose of inspiration, you’re in the right place. Let’s get started.
Priscilla: Hey there. So, today I’m really excited to be recording my first ever solo episode for the podcast. I promised you that every 10 episodes I’ll be coming on here to talk about a specific topic, something related to the themes that we discuss on the podcast, where we can dive deep into something related to my own career journey, life experiences, or really anything that’s on my mind.
Today’s topic is on imposter syndrome. By now, you’ve probably heard these words, imposter syndrome, ad nauseum. I mean, they come up all the time, especially on the interviews on the podcast, but just in case you haven’t heard of this term or need a refresher, imposter syndrome refers to a constant feeling of self-doubt, insecurity and incompetence despite evidence that you’re skilled and you’re successful. It’s the fear that you’re going to be “found out” for being an imposter and then fired or something. This feeling can affect anyone, but it hits particularly hard if you’re a woman or identify as a person of color, and can you really blame us when we live in a world where there’s so few of us in positions of power or even just in the room on the team with us?
So, on this episode, I’m going to share five strategies that have worked for me to battle imposter syndrome, and if you want to learn about the other five that I’ve written about, head over to my website, ECMpodcast.com to download the full PDF and also become part of our newsletter community.
Okay, let’s dive in. So, number one, make a greatest hits list, so I love this one because it directly addresses what psychologists call the negativity bias that we have as humans. So, as humans, we tend to remember traumatic experiences better than positive ones. We recall insults better than praise, we react more strongly to negative stimuli, and we think about negative things much more frequently than positive ones.
So, tell me if this has happened to you, you might be having a really great morning and day at work, you might even be getting some compliments or some shout-outs, you’re feeling good, but then suddenly someone, maybe a manager, a coworker, or even a friend makes an offhand comment to you that you find irritating and you take it personal. Suddenly, you can’t get that thought out of your head, and then later at night, let’s say someone asks you, you know, “How was your day?” You reply that it was terrible, even though overall it was actually a good day, but that one negative incident totally tainted the day for you.
Has that ever happened to you? Have you ever let one person’s negative comment just stew in your brain over and over again and you ignore the 10 other positive things that went well during the day? So, yeah, that’s literally your brain doing its job. This is how the brain kept us safe in the hunter and gatherer days. Even though we’ve evolved, this primitive part of our brain still exists and it still registers events as life or death, and that’s why it seems to always be scanning for danger and for what’s going on negatively but if we don’t control this, it can go a little too far and interpret all kinds of mundane things as life or death. So, part of what we have to do is use our prefrontal cortex, basically like the human part of the brain, to rein it in, take a step back, and recognize what’s really happening.
So, to address negativity bias, we need to be really intentional about focusing on what’s going right and focusing on the good and that’s where the strategy comes into play. So, all it is is grab a sheet of paper or just type it onto your notes app, you know, list out every single accomplishment that you’re really proud of that’s taken place in your life. Literally try to go through all of the years of your life and don’t just think about the traditional milestones like graduating from college, because you’re not just your resume, you’re not your academic professional accomplishments. There’s so much more to you and to who you are. So, you even want to think through what are the things that may be. Nobody really knows about me, right? Like what are those silent or invisible challenges that you’ve had to overcome on your own? Did you help your parents with raising your siblings? Did you ever have to translate for your parents? You know, have you had to overcome significant trauma? What kind of challenges have you overcome? And when you actually sit down to do this, this actually may be somewhat of an emotional exercise, ifyou let it. One of mine, for example, is being a daughter of immigrants and figuring out the college process by myself, figuring out the FAFSA, writing essays that no one could check for me, right? Like, just doing it alone, asking friends, asking parents of friends, and that’s something, when I look back, I’m just so proud of her, right? I like to refer as my younger self as third person, but I’m proud of her. I’m proud of young Priscilla just figuring it out, you know, and, like, that fills me with pride.
So, write down at least 25 of your greatest hits, leave it somewhere where you can refer to it and see it often, and when you’re having a rough day or doubting yourself, read through the list, remember how much you’ve already accomplished because trust me, your brain needs it.
Okay, the second strategy is about strengths, which is one of my favorite topics. Another way to make the brain focus on the positive is by being super aware of our strengths. If you haven’t yet taken the Gallup Clifton Strengths Assessment online, which I’ll add to the show notes, then you need to do that ASAP. It’s not free. I think I paid around maybe $50, it kind of depends, there’s different kinds of reports that you can get, but I really do think it’s totally worth doing this assessment. So, what this hour-long assessment can do for you is that it tells you your top five natural strengths out of a list of a possible 34, and the 34 strengths are grouped into four major themes, which are strategic, executing, relationships, and influencing. This report helps give you a language and vocabulary to your strengths and figure out where you shine, how you shine, and how these strengths can manifest for you at work. The reason why I think strengths exercises can be so effective to building confidence is that imposter syndrome often has us thinking that we’re either A, good enough or B, not good enough, like there’s some kind of binary, but really, there’s so much nuance. We’re constantly growing and we’re growing on a spectrum. We all have different strengths. That person who you think is “good at everything,” you know who I’m talking about. There’s a few people that, you know, you look at them, you see their LinkedIn and you’re like, Ugh, they’re so amazing, right? Well, even that person has growth areas. Maybe they’re just really good at leveraging their strengths and making sure that they are visible to others, and you want to ask yourself, am I doing the same?
So there’s an opportunity to just figure out, are you using your strengths? Are you bringing them to work? Sometimes, this work helps you realize that you’re in a role that’s asking you to constantly use strengths that are not in your zone of genius, so for example, for me, my strengths are almost entirely relationship and strategic based skills. I’m a people person, I’m future-focused, I love to plan big picture, long-term exciting, you know, plans, right? And that comes naturally to me. That’s my zone of genius. What’s not in my zone of genius is rigorous quantitative analysis, which by the way, was a huge part of business school, um, being super methodical or detail-oriented, and it’s kind of embarrassing to admit this, but I only have one strength in my top five. That’s considered to be an execution skill, which is the strength that people have when they’re really good at getting stuff done. Now, does this mean that I’m never good at executing or I don’t do the things that I say I’m going to do? No, it just means that I have to work a little harder to create systems to make sure that I do fulfill the projects and plans that I get so excited about. In terms of the detail stuff. Does it mean that I automatically get an out and I don’t have to do these detail-oriented tasks at work? Absolutely not, I still need to work hard every day to meet the bar when it comes to being detailed-oriented, but I’m also going to make sure to seek roles and opportunities where generally, I can really shine through my strengths. My strengths help me be successful as a consultant because I work with clients. I’m client-facing, I work with people on teams constantly, and we’re working to achieve very long-term strategic projects and goals, so that’s where I really get to shine, but trust, I can’t get away with not being detail-oriented, right? So, that’s something that I’m always thinking about in my growth and development. It’s helpful to understand your strengths and areas of growth through a report like this because it helps contextualize when you do make a mistake, we don’t need to automatically make it mean that, you know, we’re a failure or we’re an imposter. Instead, you can contextualize the error and understand how it fits into your areas for growth and development plans. It allows you to keep it moving and do better next time, And so I wouldn’t be able to talk about all of these things if I didn’t understand my strengths through this report. So, I definitely recommend you do that.
Okay, third one, remind your brain that you can do hard things by trying something out of your comfort zone regularly. So, back to the brain, your primitive brain does not like it when you try to do something brand new out of your comfort zone. Why? Because your primitive brain is concerned with three things only: one, seeking pleasure, two, avoiding pain, and three, conserving energy, so basically doing one and two with the least possible effort. This is why it’s so much easier to order that pizza, stay in bed and watch Netflix than it is to maybe work on editing your resume or going on a three-mile run. It’s always a battle between the primitive reptilian part of the brain and the prefrontal cortex. Anyway, this is also why we get totally freaked out when we’re asked to do something completely new, especially at work, or when we ponder doing something risky or out of our comfort level, the thing is it’s going to be hard to get better and improve, or see a lot of rewards, whether that’s a promotion salary increase, getting the new flashy job that you want, getting into a top grad program without taking some risk. So, you might as well embrace doing things out of your comfort zone and make it a habit to try new things constantly. There are two ways to do this. One is at work and two is in your personal life. So, the work option, I only recommend for people who have already been at their organization for a while or in their role for awhile and have built up credibility, you’re already meeting or exceeding expectations, and you have the room to try something different. This option involves telling your manager that you’re interested in getting involved with a stretch project. A stretch project is a project on the side of your normal work that will require you to use a skillset that you may not yet have or you’re insecure about, so it’ll make you stretch your skillset a little bi Bonus points, if it’s a development area that you’ve been told that you need to work on, that’s even better, right? So, what happens when you do a stretch project is that you have to become resourceful, you have to ask for help, you have to get a little vulnerable doing that, you have to admit to people that you don’t know something, which is actually a really great skill. You also have to network sometimes and meet new people, which actually helps you, right? You make mistakes, you learn, you grow, right? Like, you realize that the world doesn’t end when you don’t know something or you’re faced with a big challenge, even when your brain is freaking the F out, which it will do because that’s its job, right? You may end up doing a great job and teaching your brain that you can do hard things and that you’re more than capable and have everything within you to succeed.
Now, if you’re not at the stage at work, then do it in your personal life. I really think it’s important to make it a habit to regularly try new things that sort of freak you out in your personal life. I have done this in the past with taking improv classes in the evening after work. Taking improv really freaked me out. It was really awkward, and talk about looking stupid and not knowing what’s happening next on stage with, like, strangers watching you, right? Like, that’s scary or it was scary for me, but I’m actually super grateful that I did that and that I put myself in those uncomfortable, awkward moments because they made me a way stronger public speaker and it also made me a lot more flexible and comfortable when it came to those moments where I didn’t know what was happening next, right? So, we have to provide evidence sometimes to our brain, even if it freaks us out to show ourselves that we’re capable of doing scary things, and what happens is, that seeps into your professional life too. The next time you do something out of your comfort zone, whether that’s taking a standardized test, submitting an application, raising your hand when it comes to a promotion, asking for a promotion, negotiating for a higher pay, whatever that is that freaks you out, you’re going to be a little more comfortable with that risk.
So, what is that thing for you? Start small or go big. I’ve heard stories of people who have gone skydiving and that experience alone and overcoming a major fear changed their life in ways that they couldn’t have imagined by just taking a lot more risks in their lives and seeing lots of positive changes happen, so it’s worth pushing through that fear to see what’s on the other side.
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Priscilla: Number four. Number four is a little bit related to three and it’s called embrace being a beginner bad-ass. So, this one’s a mindset shift that is inspired by the fixed versus growth mindset concept. If you haven’t read Mindset or listened to Mindset by Carol Dweck by now, I cannot recommend this book enough because for me, it really helped me realize that a lot of my imposter syndrome came from a place of having a fixed mindset and not a growth mindset.
So, embracing being a beginner bad-ass is the opposite of faking it until you make it. I’ve heard many people talk about faking it till you make it as a strategy that they used to overcome imposter syndrome, and there’s just something about this that has always rubbed me the wrong way and just hasn’t really felt right to me, and recently I realized why this was. So, the culture of faking it till you make it is based off of this fixed mindset idea where we either A, know something or are smart or B, don’t know something or are not smart. So, there’s no in between, there’s no acknowledgement that we are capable of learning and growing. Faking it till you make it assumes that you lack something innately and therefore need to pretend to know what you’re talking about in order to achieve a goal, and I do think that a lot of people do do this, but I think it can be very damaging to collaboration and actually, even working more efficiently, but that’s another conversation, lastly, it’s just not authentic, right? Like, literally, you’re faking something you’re lying. So, anyway, instead I want you to consider a different option, which is being a beginner. Bad-ass being a beginner bad-ass means you’re not afraid to tell someone that you don’t know something but that you will figure it out, and sometimes you don’t even have to say straight up, “Hey, I don’t know this.” It just looks like figuring it out. You ask great questions, you pull resources, you work quickly, you’re open to feedback. Being a beginner bad-ass means you understand that subject matter expertise can be learned and it has nothing to do with your value as a team member or a person. First of all, your value comes from you. It has nothing to do with work. You decide that right, but at work, your “value” manifests through those intangible soft skills that propel you forward. So, being humble, collaborative, inquisitive, a strong communicator, a constant learner. I often find that people respect you a whole lot more when you’re upfront about what you know and don’t know, and have a plan in place to figure it out. Like, Marie Forleo says everything is figureoutable, and when we’re honest about where we are, other people can also relax because they know that you’re leveling with them and they can also help you get the help that you need, the resources that you need to be super effective. Of course, I’m not referring to highly technical roles that do require very specific skill sets. I’m not talking about faking knowing how to do brain surgery. That’s not what we’re talking about. I’m talking to all of you who work in roles where your imposter syndrome gets the best of you and is actually holding you back from asking the questions or using your time efficiently to fill in the knowledge gaps needed to be successful. If you want to get ahead and reach your goals, you have to embrace being a beginner and you might as well get comfortable with those growing pains, take the pressure off by thinking that you should already be somewhere by now and just allow yourself to be a beginner, give yourself that grace. To me, that’s freedom and it also clears the way to act efficiently and quickly to actually be successful.
Okay, last strategy, know about your ancestors, be proud and thank them. So, this is my favorite strategy of all time and it’s based on the fact that it’s no accident that black indigenous people of color in the United States and the world have been systematically, disenfranchised and disempowered, and it’s not an accident; it’s been intentional, so the more reading and resource that you can do about your ancestor’s history, the more amazed you’ll become at the incredibly resilient, courageous group of people that you come from, and that’s really important when we’ve grown up in a society where we’ve received so many media messages about everything that’s wrong, deficient about the groups that we come from, and like I mentioned earlier, it’s by design. We have to spend intentional time filling our mental schemas with all of the positive contributions and incredible resilience from our groups that our schools did not teach us about. So, go beyond what you learned in school, look up incredible historical figures that share your ethnic or racial background or gender, watch documentaries, read books, make sure you’re consuming empowering media that is providing positive representations of your people and filling in those history gaps, and this doesn’t actually have to just be about famous historical figures. This can be your actual own family, right? I have a picture of my maternal grandparents on my wall that I look at every day and they remind me of how hard they have fought and how strong they are. Ben, my grandfather was an orphan. He grew up very poor in rural Mexico and had to drop out of elementary school when he became an orphan to support himself and live on his own, and over the years, he worked really hard and as an adult, he actually built his own successful business that still exists today that my uncle runs, and he was able to have five kids, send them all to college, build a house, have several properties and really become a successful businessman through his own merit, and so when I think about his story, I think, you know, he didn’t have the opportunities that I’ve had, but dang, he played the hell out of the cards that he was dealt. And that’s all I want to do, is play the hell out of the cards that I’ve been dealt. I don’t want to worry about the people around me, what their cards look like. I strictly look at mine, I look at my lane and I play the best hand possible. That’s what keeps me going in those moments when I doubt myself, when I have a hard day at work, or I encounter a challenge that I don’t know how to approach or I get scared if I can do something. I think about my grandparents, I think about my parents who were immigrants who came to the US with nothing, the risks that they’ve taken, I thin, like, if they could do that, if they could face their worst fears, be subject to incredible hostility, take risks, figure things out on their own with such little resources, then I can get through this, I can get through the presentation through the project, through this test, whatever it is. So, definitely, take that moment to thank your ancestors. Think about your family, the people that have raised you, the people that I’ve helped you, the people who inspire you draw from that, make sure to draw from that intentionally.
All right, y’all, so that’s where we’ll end for today. I had a lot of fun talking about these strategies. I have five more waiting for you on my Overcoming Imposter Syndrome PDF which is available on my website, ECMpodcast.com. Make sure to grab that and also make sure to follow us on Instagram ECM Podcast is the handle, and definitely let me know. What’s your take on imposter syndrome? How do you handle it? All right, have a great weekend.