Don’t Confuse Your Crisis of Confidence with a Crisis of Competence

“Imposter syndrome: A collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success.”  Harvard Business Review, May 2008.

I’ve had three recent clients express concern about their abilities to be successful as they progress in their careers.

All three have some common characteristics:

  1. They’ve either recently transitioned or looking to transition to another industry or function;
  2. They’ve been spectacularly successful in their past careers;
  3. All three are “mid-career” folks. That is, they have 15 or more years in the workforce; and 
  4. They all struggle to define their next role in terms of their most recent title, which they’re trying to move away from.

 These three folks are frustrated by how to convey how they can best contribute to an organization. They’re hung up on which job titles they should seek out. 

They’re suffering from a crisis of confidence (also known as imposter syndrome). 

They need to shift their thinking from job title to the value they bring. 

And, they need to reframe their value from commodity to asset.

A Lack of Confidence Does Not Equal a Lack of Competence

One of these clients is seeking a new role because he just sold a successful food retail business that he started from scratch. This, by the way, was his second successful startup effort.

Another is looking to shift from a highly specialized and commoditized field — corporate law — to a role where he can be more strategic in his work.

And the third had transitioned to a private sector role after a number of very successful years in the public sector, where she developed innovative programs at both the national and state levels. She successfully brought those talents to the private sector. However, she’s in a dying industry and needs to find a field with more positive energy.

These folks are HIGHLY competent people. They have tremendously successful track records. 

However, as they look forward to their next career stop, they’re having difficulty defining what that looks like specifically. So they tell their stories from their most recent context: “I managed a coffee shop.” “I’m in sales for a digital media company.” “I’m a corporate lawyer.”

They get frustrated when they use their network to help them define their next career move and they get retail management, media sales, and transactional legal roles suggested. 

Hence their crisis of confidence. They feel they can’t escape their current situations.

Time for a Reframe

Our work together, for all three, focuses on reframing their value, not just highlighting their recent experience.

We’re developing stories that convey their value. We’re framing their value as strategic assets. And we’re developing language for them to use to convey their value to their network to generate better — and more accurate — leads on the roles they should be seeking, the organizations that need those roles, and the people within those organizations to talk with.

As we focus on value, their confidence increases. They shift from the commoditization of their career and present themselves as strategic assets that add value to an organization.

What About You?

How do you see yourself in your career — as an asset or a commodity? 

Are you struggling with how to reframe your experience from a commodity to a strategic asset? 

Can you describe the value you bring to an organization? 

Can you align that value with the organization’s needs? 

If you’re suffering from a crisis of confidence, reach out. Hit reply. Tell me what’s on your mind. Let’s see how I can help.

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If you’re struggling with how to achieve your career goals let’s chat about how I can help. You can use this link to my calendar to schedule the best time to talk.

Image Copyright : Brian Jackson