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I can't do this! - Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is a psychological state where you doubt yourself and your skills and you don't believe that you are worthy to fulfil a role!

You may not have the experience, may be younger than everyone else, may not be as qualified, may not be as articulate or confident. You are constantly worried that you will be caught out as a fraud. Almost everyone would have felt like an imposter at some point in their career when starting out or maybe on multiple occasions as they step up the ladder.

I have felt like an imposter many times. It usually takes the form of a feeling that "I can't do this job" or I looked at others displaying a particular skill and thought "I'm never going to be able to do that".

Sometimes this feeling has subsided within a couple of weeks and has been irrational. Sometimes it has gone on excruciatingly for many months and has not been irrational, there is a genuine gap in my capabilities.

In one particular scenario, I went from a fairly inexperienced project manager to a senior project manager overnight, running an extremely important strategic project for my consultancies largest enterprise customer.

The meetings I was now hosting were bigger than ever before and with more senior stakeholders. The organisational politics were more complex and it was extremely challenging to gain any clarity or stakeholder alignment. The team I was managing contained various different challenging personalities that added to the complexity.

So it probably doesn't surprise you that the project didn't start well and a few months in was deemed RED. The pressure was really building now and the project became all-consuming. I was working 12 hour + days in an attempt to get the project back to green. It was always in the back of my mind, I would feel anxious all weekend knowing the nightmare would start again on Monday. At times I questioned if I wanted to be a project manager anymore or if I had what it takes.

Fortunately, I stuck it out, and it turned out to be a career-defining moment. As I was going through this extremely stressful period and being forced into situations beyond my initial capability, without realising it I was gaining two things.

1) A broad set of interpersonal and project management skills

2) Experience working under real pressure and the ability to cope with it

This single 6-month experience, in particular the many failures, taught me more than I couldn't have learnt in many years within my comfort zone, if ever!

In the end, the project did return to green, I was successful and ended up as a stream lead with a team of project managers reporting to me. It wasn't easy, the long hours and constant pressure took its toll but I lived to tell the tale, and now I feel like I can handle any situation. I went to war and didn't just survive but eventually flourished.

The moral of the story, if you really want to get the most out of your potential, progress within your career and achieve financial rewards, then always strive to be an imposter.

Don't settle for roles that you're comfortable in as you will not grow and will not progress.

Be an imposter, work hard, learn, stick with it and grow.

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