Imposter syndrome is a real problem. It keeps so many of us from really giving ourselves the chance we deserve. Think about how many times in the last year you’ve shrugged off an opportunity because you didn’t think you’d succeed. If you can think of less than 5 occurrences, you’re doing better than me.
We all know the old adage, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” While that’s true, it feels like an over simplification. First of all, no one is saying that an English professor with a life long dream of being an astronaut should take a chance on building and launching a rocket. At least not right away. But there is a lot she could do adjacent to her dream that won’t throw her completely out of her element.
Quite recently I left a job I’d had for over four years in a support role. I was pretty good at that job. I was one of the people that created the department I worked in, and a lot of the company looked to me for answers every day. I’m a few months away from completing my BS in Computer Science, and I wanted to transition away from support and into a technical field before graduating so that I have some experience.
If you’ve never looked at tech jobs in California, I recommend taking a peak. They can be pretty daunting, especially for someone just starting out. I didn’t meet 100% of the qualifications for any job I wanted. So how did I find a new job in the software development space? I looked for adjacent opportunities.
If you can, draw a straight line. Somewhere else on the page, draw another line going a different direction. One of these is where you are, and the other is where you want to be. Sometimes the space between your lines is huge (English professor to astronaut). Sometimes it’s not (systems engineer to senior systems engineer). Either way, you might not be able to jump straight to where you want to be.
Consider my crude illustration:
Find the point where your path intersects the path you want to be on. Use that intersection as the start of your journey.
In my case, I had a lot of experience in support and writing support documentation. The position I found was QA specialist — which is not something I had any experience in. Partway through the list of requirements I saw they wanted this person to help write the documentation for their software. Bingo! I refactored my resume to highlight the work I did on creating documentation in my previous role.
It got me an interview. I was up front with them about my limitations. I didn’t have experience QA testing software, but I did have experience providing support for software and creating documentation for it. I explained my career goals, and why I thought this role and I would be a great match. I was not 100% of what they wanted, and they were not 100% of what I wanted, but I focused on the parts that did match.
Sure, it’s going to be a long road to where I want to be, but two adjacent lines traveling with even a 1° angle toward each other will eventually meet. For the English professor, maybe she gets a job at NASA writing press releases or editing their online content. As she learns the domain she moves closer to her goal.
At the end of the day, you might feel like you don’t belong. Some days I feel like I’m in way over my head with QA stuff, but I don’t feel like an imposter because I was honest with where I was at the start and my plan to get to where I want to be.
Never give up just because it feels like you’re too far away from your goals. Just keep taking steps 1° in the right direction and you’ll get there soon.
Love what you see on Medium? Consider signing up for a membership. Your membership fees help me and other writers that you read here on Medium.