In this post, I reflect on how I was overcome with the impostor syndrome when I quickly promoted within my first year at my company. IMPOSTOR SYNDROME When I first started out at my job, I moved through our tiered promotion system at an aggressive rate. Our tier system identifies and facilitates promotions for employees who are capable of increasingly demanding tasks, requiring us to pass tests and complete training labs to earn the promotions.
I had put in hours of overtime every week to complete the training labs, prepare for the tests, gain hands-on experience, and learn from my more experienced peers... as a result, I quickly completed the labs and passed each test on the first attempt, promoting to the highest tier within my first year at the company. Some people had been with the company for many years, but hadn't even passed the first tier test. Of course it was upsetting to see me promote at a quicker rate. I overheard coworkers say that they thought I was getting pushed through the tier system quickly just because I'm a woman. I was devastated when I caught wind of the rumours. I started to doubt myself, quickly forgetting about the efforts and contributions I put forth to earn my promotions.
I worked hard, put in overtime, completed labs, and spent all of my downtime studying for those tier tests, but after hearing what my coworkers thought of me, I didn't think about that. All I could think was:
"What if I'm being promoted because of my gender, rather than my work ethic and accomplishments?"
It was the impostor syndrome in full swing. I ended up reaching out to another woman from a different site and asked if she had experienced the same feelings before. This is the Slack message I sent my fellow female coworker when I was overcome with the impostor syndrome... It's kind of interesting to look back and see how wrapped up I was in this idea that I didn't deserve something that I had worked so hard for.
She told me that she understood where I was coming from but to stop thinking like that because it wasn't the case. She reminded me of all the hard work that goes into earning a promotion. I listened to her reason and logic and it matched up with my own reason and logic, so I came to terms with it, and tried to internalize that I earned my promotions on my own accord. The people who were spreading those rumours about me probably didn't see all of the overtime I put in. They probably didn't know how much I studied and prepared for the tests. They probably didn't think to schedule time with their shift leads to train and prepare for the tier test. They probably thought that I was favoured because they didn't take the initiative to do any of those things on their own. They probably felt bitter and upset that they didn't promote as quickly as I did, failing to realize how much work went into it.
TAKEAWAYS My advice to anyone starting out in their career is to take a moment and think about your work ethic. Separate your feelings from the facts. If you consistently put out quality work and seek out opportunities on your own, you're not simply coasting to the top. You've earned your spot, just like everyone else. If anyone says otherwise, they likely don't see the whole picture.
That said, it's okay to have your doubts, but don't internalize them. If you’re a minority in your workplace, it’s only natural to feel like you don’t fit in. Instead of taking your self-doubt as a sign that you are undeserving, realize that it is a normal response to being an outsider.
Reach out to others who have been in your position and ask them about their experiences with impostor syndrome. Ask your leadership chain for detailed feedback on your performance for external validation that you've earned your spot on the team. Your success is well-deserved. Focus on the facts and be kind to yourself.