The Institute - September 2019 - 14

career guidance

Three Cures for
Imposter Syndrome
MANY ENGINEERS have shared

their experiences in dealing with
imposter syndrome. They include
Emilee Urbanek, a software engineer
at Uber, who said in a post on the Uber
Engineering blog that her feelings of
being a fraud started when she made
the transition from college student to
full-time employee.
Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when
individuals doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent feeling that someone will notice they're
frauds. According to research on the
characteristics of imposter syndrome
published by the International Journal
of Behavioral Science, nearly 70 percent
of individuals experience signs and
symptoms of the phenomenon at least
once in their life.
Here are three ways to help overcome imposter syndrome.

imposter syndrome while pursuing
her doctorate in mechanical engineering at the University of Washington in
Seattle. While there, Shaw and another
doctoral student created a group called
Ladies in Engineering Graduate Studies.
"We met once a week and talked about
classes, taking qualifiers, and hurdles
we faced in graduate school," Shaw says.



Cultivating strong professional relationships can help alleviate the feeling of
being an imposter. "In my experience,"
Urbanek wrote, "confidence is not found
but built, both on our own fearlessness
and the people who support us when we
make mistakes."
A supportive manager and team, for
example, can help an employee build
and maintain confidence. It's advantageous to surround yourself with colleagues and managers who remain
positive and encouraging, even when
something with a project goes wrong.
Fay Shaw, a researcher at the Tufts
University Center for Engineering
Education and Outreach, in Medford,
Mass., also found that peer support
is important. She told the website
ThinkSaveRetire that she experienced


SEP 2019



mistakes, which can help you grow both
personally and professionally.
"One thing that helps me is keeping a
'hero' file," Florencia Rios Nicolas, president of the Ryerson Aerospace Course
Union in Toronto, said in an article
she wrote for Medium. Keeping prizes,
certificates, and letters as mementos
can be useful visual reminders, she said.
Shaw had a similar approach to creating a positive narrative. She would write
down on paper such statements as "You
have been studying as hard as you can"
and "You are taking this seriously, and
you will do the best you can." Because
those concrete affirmations were
grounded in truth, looking at them
helped her feel more confident before
tests and presentations, she says.

Having a support system can
decrease stress and make you feel
more connected, especially when others around you feel the same way you
do, according to research on the consequences of poor social support published in Psychiatry.
Mentors are also a great source for
support. They can reassure you that
what you're feeling is normal. Knowing
others have been in your position can
make it less scary.

It's important to remember your
successes instead of focusing only
on your missteps. Everyone makes

Working with experienced professionals is an opportunity to learn. You can
gain confidence as you learn from
others, and that can help decrease your
feelings of inadequacy.
"I realized that there will always be
people who are better than me at anything," Shaw says. "It means that I can
learn from them."
Asking questions and brainstorming
with a manager or more experienced
peers can help you gain knowledge.
You get to see others' perspectives on
how to solve issues, and you can learn
to think outside the box.
It's easy to get pulled into the
imposter-syndrome cycle, especially
in a field as competitive as engineering.
With more knowledge and experience,
you can feel less like an imposter and
be more confident in your abilities.
This article originally appeared online as "Three
Ways to Dispel Imposter Syndrome."


Brian Stauffer

The Institute - September 2019

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