Looking for work? You’re not alone. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 10.7 million unemployed people in the U.S. in November 2020. This is almost twice the number that was recorded in February 2020.
The good news is that the unemployment rate has been trending down as the world continues to come to terms with the COVID-19 pandemic – including finding promising vaccines. Job opportunities are springing up in various industries every day, so you could be back in business soon. But getting a job is more than just about the existence of vacancies. It’s about believing in yourself.
When it comes to searching for employment, some people hold themselves back due to impostor syndrome. And, considering the fact that this phenomenon affects about 70% of Americans, according to research, at some point in their lives, many job seekers could be self-sabotaging right now.
What is impostor syndrome?
First brought to national attention in the 1970s by Ph.D. psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes, impostor syndrome involves doubtful feelings about one’s abilities, and fears of being labeled as a fraud. People who are affected commonly feel inadequate and that they only have ever achieved anything as a result of luck or other people liking them.
Many jobseekers afflicted with impostor feelings are not aware, resulting in them being stuck for a long time in their current predicaments. If your job search is taking longer than it should, you may just be caught in an impostor loop. Addressing it sooner than later may help increase your chances of getting the job you want. But how can you know? Below are six warning signs.
- Not sending out job applications
A critical step in finding employment is sending out targeted job applications to firms you are interested in working for. Often, the more strategic applications you make, the higher your chances of being called for an interview and eventually landing a job. Feelings of intimidation when you think about the job application process – including crafting a solid resume and cover letter, as well as the rigorous interview process – can cause you to not want to apply for jobs that may be right for you. In this case, impostor syndrome causes you to feel you are going to slip up somewhere along the line, so you decline to apply, even though the job description may be a good career fit.
Only applying for jobs, you feel you qualify for
Impostor syndrome can prevent you from ever venturing out of your comfort zone. It also causes you to underestimate your abilities. You may see a job offer with better remuneration, more suitable working conditions, and heftier benefits than what you are used to, but you refuse to apply for it because you think it’s out of your league. Instead, you only seek out job posts that you feel you would be comfortable doing based on your past jobs or experience level. Sure, you may eventually find unemployment with this strategy.
However, this is one reason why people remain stuck in jobs that they are unhappy with because they are afraid to take risks. The truth is, most people are hardly ever fully qualified for the positions they find themselves in. Many simply learn as they go along, so your chances are as good as any.
- Neglecting to grow or interact with your network
Feelings of not being good enough or being discovered as a “fraud” may cause you to shy away from colleagues and people with influential positions. In addition, you may feel you could be presented with opportunities that you are not yet ready for. Out of fear of disappointing the person offering to help, you decline to reach out. However, networking is an important component of the job search process. Often, your contacts can help you uncover opportunities you did not (or could not) learn about otherwise. They can also offer advice and pointers to help you improve yourself and your job search.
- Harboring negative thoughts
The fear of failure happens to everyone. When coupled with impostor syndrome, the negative thoughts can come fast and furious. You may start to think you will never find employment again due to the heightened competition in the job market (especially if you feel you are past a certain age). You might also believe you will only be able to get into low-skilled, minimum wage positions with the least barriers of entry. Furthermore, impostor syndrome might cause you to beat yourself up and think the worst of your employment prospects if you failed to land a job you set your heart on. To counter negative thoughts, try your best to think about good things happening for you, and surround yourself with people who will offer positive feedback and advice.
- Failing to prepare
One reason why some people take a long time to find employment is as a result of not preparing. Sometimes this is because they think they won’t get the job anyway, so they only do the bare minimum. They will simply send generic applications to every company and show up to interviews with very few ideas as to what the position or firm is about. This also happens if the applicant is unsure of what job they would do well in, or if they will fit in anywhere at all. But a key part of any successful job search is showing readiness. From tailoring each resume to match individual job descriptions to doing research on companies for ammunition to use during the interview, you want to demonstrate that you took time to prepare.
- Waiting to “get lucky” again
Many people who found success in the past are afflicted with impostor syndrome due to their belief that they only prospered due to luck or happenstance. They think success is all about being at the right place at the right time, and not because they are smart or hardworking. As such, becoming unemployed sees them lacking the motivation to go about job hunting in a serious way. Contrary to such belief, doing well in any field often requires great skill and ability. So, even if you felt that things fell in line for you, a great deal of why people were willing to trust you with certain tasks was because of the strengths and aptitudes that you demonstrated.
The impostor phenomenon affects people from all walks of life, including many in high positions and those looking to elevate themselves. Overcoming this phenomenon takes much strength, but once you recognize the feeling, you should take steps to get advice and support from positive people in your life. It also helps if you set strong goals and commit to taking actionable steps towards achieving them.
Dr. Tina Persson |CEO| Career & Leadership Coach| Author | Helping people to fulfill their goals