Bottom Line — Imposter syndrome will kill your self-confidence in your craft. The solution is to teach your craft. Teach through writing or video work. You don’t have to be an expert to begin.
The imposter syndrome happens when you feel like a fraud with your career, your title, or your skills.
I graduated as a Petroleum Engineer. Although I could identify as an engineer because of the rigorous schooling in technical subjects, I had a problem identifying with the petroleum engineer.
Petroleum engineering is made up of several sectors: production, reservoir, and drilling. In the best-case scenario, you’d work for a major company and they’d rotate you around these three while training you up.
If you start working for a smaller firm, you’ll typically jump into one and get good at it.
In my head, I felt that to be a legitimate petroleum engineer, I had to be proficient in ALL of them.
I remember hanging out with other experienced petroleum engineers and realizing how little I know when they’d talk about drilling or reservoirs.
For me, it was a lack of confidence in my identity as a petroleum engineer.
There was a fear in my gut that one of these people might say “Hey, you’re not really a petroleum engineer”.
That would force me to question my identity as a petroleum engineer. What would I do then? What about the 6 years of university training? Am I not like my classmates that graduated with me?
That’s what imposter syndrome feels like.
Teaching kills the imposter syndrome
When I switched careers to software development, I did something different to lessen the imposter syndrome.
As I was learning the craft, I took down notes on how Ruby and Rails worked. I wrote down notes on how to build smaller features as I was learning them from courses and tutorials.
Those notes ballooned into over 100 pages of google docs and they continue growing.
I started to BUILD a portfolio and smaller side projects. I also started writing about programming and specifically touching upon topics that were initially hard for me to understand.
I found that the act of writing — specifically teaching — is what boosts self-confidence and kills the imposter syndrome.
When you’re writing, you’re teaching someone else how to do something. If you’re teaching, then you obviously know something about the craft.
Teach your craft
One of the happier times I remember as a petroleum engineer was when I worked as a teaching assistant and taught lab work to students.
I took the time to understand the entire lab procedure, simplify it, and try to teach it without confusing students (avoiding needless jargon).
I felt confident in my skills because I taught something to someone.
During my career path, the teaching faded out. Of course, I could have started writing about the industry, but I had no desire to. That was a BIG HINT that something was off. That’s why I switched careers.
There’s a whole sea of technology to get lost in as a software developer. I’m not an expert on it all. I do know some sectors better than others. Those are the ones I’m better suited to write about.
You can teach through writing or by making videos.
Look, it doesn’t matter if what you’re teaching is already known. Don’t put pressure on yourself to discover something unique. Instead, take the pressure off by bringing your unique perspective to what you teach.
The ideas in my own posts have been voiced elsewhere, but not quite the same way. I try to bring my unique perspective on how those ideas affected and shaped my life.