Imposter Syndrome Amongst Recent Graduates in the Workforce
What is imposter syndrome, and how can you overcome it?
On paper, it looks like I have it together and am living a successful life. I have completed three degrees, done multiple internships, held high level leadership roles, undertaken several volunteer roles, and I'm currently in a position where my title has the word "Executive" in it.
Yet my imposter syndrome will rear its ugly head and tell me that I'm not remotely near the definition of successful. Even as I write this article my mind keeps questioning if I'm the right person to be talking about imposter syndrome amongst recent graduates in the workforce.
Transitioning to the corporate world is hard enough without the added stress of constantly wondering whether you're good enough. Even after advancing through a rigorous application and interview process, you're left questioning whether they really meant to hire you.
As a recent graduate in the workforce, I've dealt with this self-doubt all too frequently.
So, imposter syndrome, what is it?
Imposter syndrome makes you feel like you don't deserve your success or position, and that everything you've achieved is because of luck.
You tell yourself you were lucky to be chosen for the job, despite having the experience and knowledge they were looking for. You're simply waiting for your luck to run out, and for the moment when you'll be exposed as a fraud.
Sadly, this feeling of uncertainty and self-doubt is not unique to me. According to a review article published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science, an estimated 70% of young people experience imposter syndrome at some point in their lives. While imposter syndrome can be experienced by anyone, in the past few years it's been discussed as a millennial issue, blamed on "ambition addiction" and the overuse of social media - the comparison of glossy highlight reels on Instagram catching up to us.
Imposter syndrome can manifest itself in many different ways. It can be editing and editing a report until it's absolutely perfect, or not applying for a job because there's one requirement you don't meet – even if you meet the other 90%. It can manifest itself as over-planning or procrastinating until you've stressed your way through a whole tub of Halo Top ice cream.
It's debilitating anxiety that is shouting at you, pleading you to give up and go to bed because you have no bloody idea what you're doing. Who are you to be doing this job when there are other people with actual degrees and expertise in this topic? They know what they're doing but you're just a fake.
In their book We: The Uplifting Manual For Women Seeking Happiness, actress Gillian Anderson and journalist Jennifer Nadel liken this critical inner voice to an "internal propaganda machine generating feelings of fear and inadequacy so that even when things are going well, the machine is at work warning us that it will never last. It's what we believe about a situation, rather than the truth, that influences our responses."
It's not just everyday people who experience imposter syndrome. Emma Watson, Serena Williams, and Alexa Chung are women who I view as role models and are at the absolute top of their game, yet they've all confessed to doubting their abilities or feeling out of their depth.
How do I overcome my imposter syndrome?
Overcoming your imposter syndrome is a journey only you can take with yourself.
When I mentioned my experience of imposter syndrome to a friend, she told me not to self-diagnose and put labels on myself, but I had to respectfully disagree. Once I was able to acknowledge the patterns and indications of imposter syndrome in my thoughts, it became easier for me to change the way I spoke to myself.
Every time I found myself thinking that I was out of my depth, I would bring the thoughts back to what I did know. I knew that I was hired for a reason. Out of 48 people who applied for the job (I checked), I was offered the role because they saw potential in me from a half an hour interview. If they saw my skills and talent, then why couldn't I?
Learning to befriend my inner imposter will be a long journey, but it has to start with acknowledging and understanding why I feel this way. It has been, and will be, reminding myself that this is my first full-time job and that I am still learning.
I'm constantly repeating to myself that no one, not even Beyoncé, has it all together. We're always learning in this wonderful thing we call life. I'm finding there is value in my voice – no matter how small or inexperienced I deem it. I'll take a look at my resume and tell myself that I am successful in my own right, without comparing myself to individuals I deem more successful.
Success is not a definite scale we can measure our lives on.
Plus, last night I received a message from the director and founder of our company saying that he appreciates my hard work and likes the content that I'm producing. While external validation isn't the be all and end all, it's confirming what I've been telling myself – I've got this.
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- How Zapier Director of Compensation Jocelyne Wright-McLemore Is Tackling Imposter Syndrome as a Black Woman in HR - PowerToFly Blog ›
Joseph Arquillo doesn’t work in Human Resources — he works in People Operations. And the distinction matters.
“It was named ‘human resources’ because it saw humans as resources, utilized for certain tasks or behaviors. But that’s not really what it’s about,” says Joseph, who is a Senior Manager of People Ops at Clyde.
“Calling it ‘people ops’ adds back what you lose with ‘HR.’ My philosophy is that I am there to support you. I am there to work with you, empower you, and enable you so you can be your best self.”
For Joseph, a key element of helping employees become their best selves is making sure that the workplace, whether in-person or virtual, is an inclusive space for all. That doesn’t happen by accident — it requires a dedicated DEIB strategy and leaders who are committed to asking hard questions of themselves and others.
We sat down with Joseph to hear more about his professional journey, and the practices of leaders who create environments where everyone feels included.
More Than Just a Number
As a college freshman, Joseph planned on sticking with liberal arts when it came to choosing a major. But then he took a class in Boston College’s School of Education, and loved its holistic approach to applied psychology.
This inspired him to switch his major to psychology and human development, and select minors in political science, and management and leadership, where he enjoyed learning about organizational psychology.
After graduation, he explored the consulting space to put theory into practice, but found out during an internship at a multinational consulting firm that finance or accounting weren’t the places he wanted to build his career.
“Since Big Four companies have 250,000 employees, you become just a number,” he says of the experience. “It wasn’t my cup of tea. Too corporatized.”
That kicked off Joseph’s interest in startups.
“It’s always fun to get in the weeds! One thing that’s very interesting to me is a challenge,” he says. “When you’re helping a company like Clyde grow and scale, joining when they’re at a Series B and helping them get to the next level, you really get to focus on the interaction between people, process, and product,” explains Joseph. “You need to hire the right people to work towards increasing efficiencies in all areas, but also make sure that we’re enabling them to create a strong product.”
6 Keys To Building Inclusive Spaces as a Leader
Across the different industries and companies that Joseph has worked in, he’s identified the behaviors that create truly inclusive environments — as well as those that discourage them.
Here’s what he’s seen:
- First, recognize your own privilege. “If you’re a man, you have privilege, even if you’re a gay male. If you are a white woman, you have racial privilege. It’s really important that you’re cognizant while you interact with somebody how they might interpret the interaction based on your identity.”
- Leaders should always speak last. This is important always, but especially in in-person spaces, where it might seem even more nerve-wracking to speak up in a crowd, says Joseph. “You want to make sure you’re creating that space for employees who aren’t as senior to feel comfortable voicing their thoughts.”
- And, leaders should use check-ins liberally. “You need to ask yourself how you’re supporting your employees. Are you checking in on them as people before you ask about certain tasks? You want to foster a workplace where employees from all walks of life can feel supported,” he says.
- DEIB isn’t just about adding new initiatives — sometimes it’s about removing barriers. “You need to remove unnecessary bias,” explains Joseph. “That can mean making sure you have appropriate policies and practices that don’t hinder people depending on who they are or where they live.”
- Maximizing participation requires planning with a diversity lens. Joseph has helped the Clyde team gather together and bond as a group. Along the way, he’s been careful to consider physical and psychological safety for everyone involved. “For instance, if you’re doing an event, do you have someone who’s not drinking? Have you set up the environment for people who might have a physical disability, or carefully planned the flow of activities for people who might be neurodivergent?”
- Saying you want to be better isn’t enough — articulate actions you will take. “Pride is a great example,” explains Joseph. “Yes, June is a time to celebrate. But it’s also a time to march. And beyond that, how do you show up and celebrate with the LGBTQIA+ community throughout the year?”
Embracing the Unknown
If you visit Joseph’s LinkedIn profile, you’ll see his personal motto: “Without challenge, change, and a bunch of unknowns, it’s no fun.”
That belief has led him to study what he’s passionate about, to take on new and exciting roles at growing startups, and now, at Clyde, to help formalize what world-class people operations looks like at a fast-growing company.
“I view myself as a connector that really empowers people, challenges teams, and helps drive us towards what I consider to be an improved future,” he says. “I feel like it’s my responsibility to be the chief advocate for each of our employees, and remove any barriers in the way of their growth.”
We all have our favorite websites– the ones we frequent, bookmark, and recommend to others. You might even enjoy some website features so much that you’ve found yourself wondering why they aren’t more popular. Or maybe you’ve experienced times where you were frustrated with a website and wished you could add features or even design your own!
If you’ve ever found yourself intrigued at the prospect of designing and developing your own websites, then a career as a web developer might be just for you!
As a web developer you would be responsible for coding, designing, optimizing, and maintaining websites. Today, there are over 1.7 billion websites in the world and, in turn, the demand for web developers is on the rise. In order to figure out what kind of web development work best suits you let’s start with an introduction to the three main roles in web development that you can choose from.
The Three Types of Web Development Jobs
Front-End Web Development: The Creative Side
In addition to programming skills, front-end developers need to be detail oriented, creative, willing to keep up with the latest trends in web development, cyber security conscious, and geared toward user-friendly designs. The median salary for a front-end developer can reach well into the $90,000 to $100,000 range.
Back-End Web Development: The Logical Counterpart
While a house can be beautifully decorated, it’s incomplete without a solid foundation and efficient infrastructure. Similarly, a well-designed website depends on logical and functional code to power the features of that website. Back-end web development is code-heavy and focused on the specifics of how a website works. If you enjoy the analytical challenge of creating the behind-the-scenes code that powers a website, then back-end development is for you.
Full-Stack Web Development: A Little Bit of Everything
A full-stack developer is essentially the Jack (or Jill)-of-all-trades in web development. Full-stack developers need to be knowledgeable about both front-end and back-end roles. This does not necessarily imply that you would need to be an expert in both roles, but you should fully understand the different applications and synergies they each imply. In order to work in this position, you will need to know the programming languages used by front-end and back-end developers. In addition to these languages, full-stack developers also specialize in databases, storage, HTTP, REST, and web architecture.
Full-stack developers are often required to act as liaisons between front-end and back-end developers. Full-stack developers need to be both problem solvers and great communicators. The end goal for a full-stack developer is to ensure that the user’s experience is seamless, both on the front-end and on the back-end. In return, you can expect to earn a median salary of $100,000 – $115,000 a year for this role.
Taking the Next Step
Web development is both in-demand and lucrative! All three roles described above contribute to specific aspects of web development and the scope of each one can be customized to the industries and positions you feel best suit you. Regardless of which role you choose, all of them need a foundation in programming.
To gain the programming skills needed in each role, you can enroll in courses or learn independently. Coding bootcamps are a great way to boost your skillset quickly and efficiently.
Click here for some of our highly rated programming bootcamp options! Make sure to check out the discounts available to PowerToFly members.
Insight from SoftwareONE’s Jeff Cannon and Chris Lecosia
SoftwareONE’s Jeff Cannon Business Development Executive US) and Christopher Lecosia (Senior Consultant) share a similar adventurous and brave spirit, which has led to a long trajectory of creative experiences for both of them. From taking care of two new puppies to backpacking across Europe — neither of them back down from a challenge.
As members of the LGBTQIA+ community, Jeff and Chris spent a large portion of their careers fighting for inclusive workplaces where they feel a sense of belonging, and opportunities to use their experiences to serve people, no matter what career stage they’re in. And they’ve both recently found that in the global provider of end-to-end software and cloud technology solutions SoftwareONE.
We sat down with Jeff and Chris to hear their stories on how they navigated mid and late career changes and their journey to finding a company where they felt valued. Keep reading to the end for four major tips on how to successfully pivot careers.
The Journey to SoftwareONE
Jeff Cannon was born in Tacoma, Washington, but considers both Texas and Georgeia his home. After graduating from college with a bachelor's degree in English and History, “I wanted to go to graduate school for history,” he explains. But upon arrival, he realized graduate school was not the right path for him, so he packed his backpack and set out for a trip through Europe instead.
This adventurous spirit led him back home to pursue exciting challenges, such as opening a hotel in Austin, working as a flight attendant in New York and Hawaii, and eventually pursuing a sales career at Dell. “I was an account executive for large university systems and large K-12 systems providing information technology to students to be able to further their education. It really fit in with my mantra around how important education is in society,” Jeff explains.”It's kind of my thing.” But after nearly 20 years at the company, he decided to look for new opportunities. “I was tired of doing the same thing all the time.” Enter SoftwareONE.
“This was an opportunity to do something completely different and take the information that I learned and use it to help build a practice that can accomplish some of the same things,” Jeff explains. He joined the company as a Business Development Executive Executive where he works to build the company’s education practice within the public sector in the United States.
SoftwareONE is a company where Jeff can thrive professionally and personally. He specifically cites the company to be people-first, which his coworker Christopher Lecosia agrees with. “SoftwareONE is a place where you can thrive as an employee, and where your creativity can flourish,” says Chris.
SoftwareONE is a leading global provider of end-to-end software and cloud technology solutions, with headquarters in Switzerland. The company itself prioritizes people as their “greatest asset” and advocates for life-work harmony. Their company’s core values are Employee Satisfaction, Customer Focused, Speed, Passionate, Integrity, Humble and Discipline, to name a few, and they ensure that they have “a welcoming – and constantly evolving – work environment for all”, no matter the racial, ethnic, religious, sexual or other preferences.
Christopher works as Senior Consultant for SoftwareONE. He entered the field of IT in 1974. “Back then it was called data processing,” he jokes. “But I kind of fell into IT consulting.” He enrolled in college as an accounting major, but quickly realized that was not the path for him. “I drove into the parking lot of this college for the first day and I got very scared,” explains Chris. “I turned around and went home and I found a job.” And he was able to pursue jobs that allowed him room to change and grow with the market. He began as a systems programer and, progressively, he scaled to managerial data processing roles at multiple software companies, including IBM. He played a key role in leading and growing software asset management programs, directing support for configuration and asset management, and serving as a senior project manager for multiple teams in his previous companies.
His successful 40+ year-long career led to the start of a well-deserved retirement. “I turned 65 last October, and I thought, ‘okay, I think I’ve had enough,’ and I decided to retire in full.” But his retirement was short-lived. “A few months before I retired, [my company] had put out an RFP to the street, which SoftwareONE responded to, and I'll never forget,” says Chris. “I was hearing them respond to me and I thought, ‘Wow, these people know what they're talking about. They're really sharp and I really believed in the value that they could bring.’” So when he was offered a position as a Senior Consultant, he didn’t think twice about coming out of retirement. “In November, a recruiter from SoftwareONE called, and I started in January of 2022.”
Changing jobs after working for a company long-term can be risky, especially later in your career. But both Jeff and Chris agree that the benefits of working at a company like SoftwareONE are well worth the risk. And for the first time, they’ve felt like they can show up as their full, authentic selves at work.
Jeff recalls past workplaces that, when push came to shove, “had an undercurrent of non-acceptance.” This undercurrent brought many challenges, but he credits them for his confidence today. “I have no issues whatsoever showing up originally as myself. And at SoftwareONE, everybody's been really lovely.” Even remotely, he finds ways to connect with his coworkers, and he feels like he can do so authentically.
Chris reiterates this in his own trajectory at SoftwareONE. “When I started, my Regional VP asked me for a bio. In my bio, I talked about my husband and my two dogs and how long we've been together. That got sent out to everybody in the organization. So when I onboarded, everybody already knew,” he explains. “It was the first time in 65 years that, right from the get go, there was no pretense at all as to being something different than I am. And that's how I came out at SoftwareONE. It was good to do that. I feel truly authentic.”
Advice for Mid-Career Pivoters
Both Jeff and Chris have successfully pivoted roles and companies later in their careers. They offer four tips to consider before making the jump to a new role or joining a new company.
1. Find a place that values service to the client. “Have the mindset of service,” says Chris. “ I'm a service oriented person and part of being of service is to share my experience, strengths, and hope with other people. Whether that's on a, social, spiritual, mental level, or on a professional technical level, this helps bring growth to you, and to the company you’ll work for.” Jeff shares that, “with this mindset, we see the challenges that customers face, so we're able to better articulate to customers what our value proposition is. We can help clients achieve their goals, and everything comes a lot more easily and naturally.”
2. Believe in what you have to offer. Chris and Jeff share that aligning with the company’s mission is another key aspect to consider before changing companies. “I never thought that anybody would want to hire me at 65 years old,” Chris shares. “I had been in my former job where I saw many opportunities that I thought I was perfect for, in terms of advancement, but I wasn't given those opportunities because of my age. I started to feel dried up a little bit. When I got the offer at SoftwareONE, I felt I really wanted to come back, be of service, keep my brain sharp, and do something. I do believe I have something to offer to many clients, as well as colleagues. And that's what made me make the move.”
3. Think of the experiences you bring to the table. Jeff shares how he transferred his knowledge to his new role. “I was able to take everything that I had learned about building an organization and bring it over to a company that needed that expertise specific to the United States. Being able to have the opportunity to do some of that background work and build on alliances has been, and continues to be, a great opportunity.”
4. Find a workplace that prioritizes diversity. “Each one of us brings a certain set of characteristics with us that sit well with our clients,” explains Chris. “The diversity we bring to the company — whether it be age, gender, color, educational background, intellectual capacity — all of that color makes us more relatable to our clients and our customers.” This leads to the company’s overall success.
SoftwareONE is constantly looking for dynamic employees like Chris and Jeff. Check out their company page to find out more about their roles!
So you’ve spent some time job searching, found the perfect role, aced the interview, and finally got your dream job.
But what happens if accepting a job offer means having to decline another one?
We’re living in a candidate’s market, and that means it’s becoming more and more common for job seekers to receive multiple offers. The good news is that this gives the candidate the opportunity to choose their perfect position. The bad news is that the candidate will probably have to turn down an offer or two when choosing the best role.
But how do you turn down an offer, without severing ties and keeping things cordial and polite?
Keep reading for our top tips on how to professionally decline a job offer — and keep your network strong for future career opportunities!
How to Professionally Decline a Job Offer
When turning down a job offer, it’s important to maintain a healthy relationship with the hiring manager and company you interviewed with. After all, you never know where your career may lead you next, and just because you decline one position with a company doesn’t mean they won’t have a place for you in the future!
Not prioritizing relationships in your job search can be detrimental, so here are some important points to keep in mind when you decline an offer.
1. Make your decision carefully.
This may seem obvious, but, before you give your final decision, make sure that it’s the move you truly want to make.
Ask yourself: Why do you want to decline it? Why isn’t it a good fit? Weigh out the pros and cons and examine how they could affect your career in the long run. Even though they’re important, don’t just focus on immediate benefits, like salary and flexibility. Consider how this career move could affect your mental health, whether or not it will help you advance professionally in the long run, and if you would be a good fit with the company.
This is a big decision, so make sure that when you do say no, you mean it.
2. Don’t wait to give your answer.
If you’re sure the position just isn’t right for you, it’s wise to contact the recruiter or hiring manager as soon as possible. This is the most considerate and professional approach you could take when turning down a position, because the sooner they know, the sooner they can find someone else to fill the position.
Waiting too long to give your answer could push the hiring process back to the beginning. A hiring manager will appreciate an efficient answer so they can move on to the next candidate and keep the process moving forward without too much delay.
The best way to do this is to try and give them a specific day that you will contact them with your answer, or keep them apprised during your decision-making process. As soon as you’ve made your decision, it’s important to let them know. As difficult as saying no can be, the sooner you do it, the better for everyone.
3. Call before you send an email.
Most of us would probably prefer to give our answer in an email, and that’s understandable! But calling to verbally decline the offer first shows an extra bit of care. This will demonstrate that you care about the time and energy invested in you during the hiring process and are grateful that you were chosen for the position.
It’s also a great way to maintain a good relationship with the employer, because it demonstrates your professionalism and maturity, and will give you an opportunity to be specific about why you are declining. If you are unsure of what to say, write your response down before you call.
You can follow up with an email that reiterates what you said on the phone so that the recruiter or hiring manager has written proof of your response.
4. Be appreciative and humble.
The hiring process isn’t simple. It requires a lot of time and energy from multiple stakeholders, so it’s important to show your gratitude before you decline the job offer. Thank everyone who was involved and acknowledge the investment they made in interviewing you. Let them know you are honored to have been chosen and that, while you carefully considered the offer, the position just isn’t right for you.
5. Explain why you’re declining.
While getting into specifics isn’t always necessary, and you should only share as much information as you feel comfortable, letting the hiring manager or recruiter know why the position isn’t right for you can help keep the communication portal open.
Maybe you received another offer that better aligned with what you were looking for in terms of pay, or perhaps you need more flexibility than the one you are declining can offer you. This feedback can be helpful to share, and sometimes the company might even respond with a counter offer to better suit your needs!
Perhaps the reason you are turning the offer down is due to more personal reasons that you don’t feel comfortable sharing. That’s okay too! Either way, it can be helpful to be transparent about why you are declining.
6. Utilize the opportunity to network for future career moves.
So the position isn’t right for you — that’s okay. But maybe your values aligned with the organization’s, or perhaps you felt that you connected during the hiring process and you’d like to keep the door open to other positions in the future. Just because the role now isn’t right for you now doesn’t mean that the organization won’t have a place for you down the road.
Networking is key for career growth. If you really like the company, don’t be afraid to let them know that you would be interested in other positions in the future. Giving them the means to contact you, like your email and your LinkedIn, will give them the ability to reach out if any other positions open up.
If you find that the company itself just doesn’t fit you, keep in mind that networking and maintaining a good relationship is still important. You don’t have to plan to work there in the future, but you never know who is connected to who, and how that good relationship may pay off in time!
Email Templates for Declining a Job Offer
Turning down a job offer is a delicate task, but it is becoming increasingly necessary in this competitive candidate’s market. If you’re unsure of where to begin or how to write your email, we have included some examples with links to help you get started.
Example for when the position isn’t a good fit
Subject line: Job offer – [Your name]
Hi [insert last name of hiring manager],
Thank you very much for offering me the role of [insert name of position]. However, I have decided that this is not the right fit for my career goals at this time.
I sincerely enjoyed our dialog as well as discussions with your team, and I very much appreciate your taking time to share information about the role and vision of [insert company name].
Again, thank you for your time and consideration; best wishes in your continued success.
Example for when you’ve accepted another offer
Subject line: Job offer – [Your name]
Hi [insert last name of hiring manager],
Thank you very much for offering me the role of [insert name of position] with [insert company name]. Though it was a difficult decision, I have accepted a position with another company.
I sincerely enjoyed our conversations and very much appreciate your taking time to interview me over the course of the past few weeks.
Again, thank you for your time and consideration; best wishes in your continued success, and I hope our paths cross again in the future.
Example for when you’ve already accepted the offer
Thanks so much for offering me the position of [Job Title] at [Company]. It was a pleasure meeting you.
Unfortunately, after a great deal of thought, I have decided to turn down this gracious job opportunity. I am truly sorry for any inconvenience this decision may cause and hope it will not affect any future relationships with your company.
I wish you continued success and hope to hear from you in the future.
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