Tag Archives: career

stuart_smalleyAs happens around my house, a conversation with my husband about a weird dream I had turned into a deep conversation about "imposter syndrome".  I've suffered from this most of my life and am only now starting to have any real confidence in myself professionally.

Anyone who knows me has heard tales of the multiple jobs I've had throughout my life.  My standing joke well into my 30's was that I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up.  The saddest part is that I know exactly what I wanted to be, and I didn't have the courage to do it when I could.  So instead I drifted through life, jumping at new opportunities when they presented themselves.  I'm lucky to be white, female, intelligent, and well educated.  These advantages opened up a lot of doors for me over the years.

Most of my working life has been spent in corporate IT working with databases, reports, and data warehouses.  While I was pretty good at it and learned new concepts and technology very quickly, I always felt that imposter syndrome.  I didn't have a college degree where many of my peers did, and no formal education in computers.  I spent most of my years feeling deep down that someone was going to figure out I was an imposter, and I'd get fired and wouldn't be able to take care of my child.  There's a constant anxiety level to deal with that makes everything stressful.  I still cringe when I'm asked to step into my boss' office (or worse, my boss' boss' office).

Once I got my initial nursing degree and moved back into the medical field, I started feeling more comfortable.  The hardest job I ever loved (before nursing) was working as a Paramedic.  I didn't do it long enough to get seasoned, but I knew I was reasonably competent.  I had the same training and certifications as my peers, the only thing I lacked was experience.  Nursing felt like coming home, and again I found myself with the same license and (mostly) training as my peers.  My comfort must have shown because I can't count how many times people I worked with were shocked to find I was a new grad nurse.  I was told many times that I didn't comport myself as a new grad, and they had assumed I had been a nurse for many years.  Having worked for some two decades feeling like an imposter, that was incredibly affirming to me.  I loved nursing and was sad when I had to leave.

Moving into healthcare informatics, I knew I would have more computer experience than a huge majority of my peers.  What I didn't expect was several rounds with recruiters essentially telling me I had nothing to offer because my computer experience was then three years old.  I started feeling the anxiety of imposter syndrome again.  I had just started my master's program in informatics and wasn't far enough along to feel like it gave me any credibility.  I'm very lucky to have found my current position because I'm reassured on a daily basis by what I accomplish that I can do this job, and do it well.  It's a small slice of healthcare informatics to be sure, but I have no doubt now that I can walk into an informatics job at any level and rock it out.

Interestingly, I thought it would be getting my master's degree that would help me get over the imposter syndrome.  I thought it would give me the informatics specific training as well as fill in some of the formal computer science education I missed.  What I'm finding is that higher education is more of an endurance test than actually teaching anything.  The professors in my graduate classes say that their job isn't to teach us any information.  That as graduate students, what they are teaching and evaluating is our ability to research and learn from existing materials and then translate what we've learned.  Hell, I've been doing that since high school.  I can honestly say I'm not learning anything in my classes about how to do an informatics job.  The best I can say about my incredibly expensive graduate degree is that I'm being exposed to sources of information I didn't know were available in the form of books and peer journals.  I know how to read and extract information.

I don't think I'm over the imposter syndrome completely.  I'm not sure if this syndrome is a function of misogyny in professional life or our overall culture.  I'm not sure if it's just something that people face when they're good at a lot of things and just "pick things up" along the way.  It could even be a function of age, and now that I'm getting closer to 50 (cringe) I'm just growing out of it.  I'll leave those questions to the social scientists.  What I do know is that I'm not alone in it and that it's an anxiety construct and needs to be dismantled as such.

So to quote Stuart Smalley,

I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.

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Dating is a necessary evil when trying to find someone you want to be with the rest of your life.  It’s not always awful, sometimes it’s a lot of fun, but mostly it’s stressful and sometimes it’s flat out awful.  Interviewing is a lot like that.

First there’s all the people who don’t bother to even acknowledge your resume’ or application, just like the people who don’t bother to respond to your chat message.  To be fair, just like online dating, I burn out on responding to people who obviously didn’t take the time to read my profile.  For the first two weeks of job hunting, I would politely respond to the recruiters looking for travel nurses in the ER or the ICU.  My resume and profiles on all of my online job sites clearly states that I’m looking to get out of bedside nursing.  I got tired of it and quit responding because they’re not bothering to read my profile, and I don’t have time to deal with it.  Back when I was online dating, I did the same after about a month of responding to the people who obviously hadn’t even read my profile: teenagers and people with opposite values to mine.

Then there’s the people who get me all dressed up for an interview (first date) and things seem to go really well and they say they’ll get back to me (call).  Then several days go by with no call or email (or text).  And several more.  Then it’s counting in weeks.  I go over every minute of the interview (date) in my mind, wanting to figure out what I did wrong.  Eventually I have to decide that they’re not going to call.  But for Pete’s sake, I put on PANTYHOSE for you (got dressed up for you), the least you can freakin’ do is drop a girl an email (text).

A few first interviews (dates) turn into second and sometimes third interviews (dates).  I get my hopes up, start imagining the way things are going to be.  I imagine decorating my office space, and meeting my new team.  (Okay, I’m not imagining house decorating and weddings on my third date, but you get the picture.)  And then days go by without any word.  I make excuses in my head…  someone’s out on vacation (busy with work), had an emergency come up (had an emergency come up), or any other reason why they haven’t called except that they didn’t really like me.  A few more days go by, and then I start worrying and going over every minute of every interview (date, phone call, text) in my head, wondering what I screwed up.  Occasionally someone will send a letter or email (text) and let me know it wasn’t me, they picked someone else (it’s not you, it’s me).  Mostly there’s no word.  Again, I’ve put on PANTYHOSE for you (dressed up), MULTIPLE times, the least you can do is call/email (text).

But then, every once in a while, the right one comes along.  The third interview (date) ends up with an offer (more dates, and maybe more) and things work out in the end.  I’m happy to announce that I’ve accepted an offer for a new job in Healthcare Information Technology.  This is a fantastic opportunity for me to move in a new direction with my career.  I’m now thrilled to be out of the job hunt, and off the dating market.  Life is good.

I’ll be 46 this year.

I have to pause to let that sink in.

I don’t feel that old.  I wonder sometimes how many other people feel like they are perpetually 17.  You remember, that time when you weren’t really a kid anymore, but you weren’t really an adult?  When everyone around you seemed smarter, prettier, cooler, more “put-together”, while you felt dorky and awkward and completely unprepared for the real world?  Maybe it’s just me.

I have always felt like “the kid” in the office, even after I built up almost two decades’ IT experience.  Then I switched careers to become a nurse, and was definitely the “newbie” though I apparently don’t carry myself like one.  The ink was barely dry on my license when I had people telling me I came across like a seasoned nurse, and they couldn’t believe I was a new grad.  (That was probably the biggest compliment of my career.)  I never felt like I was “adult enough” (whatever that is) for marriage, parenting, home ownership, independent travel, or whatever came up.  I always felt like I was faking it.

So now I’m on what statistically is the downhill slide.  Chances are, I’ve now lived over half my life.  That’s sobering.  The party’s not even over yet, but I can feel it coming on.  I’m not trying to be morbid, but them’s the facts.  Health problems have started becoming a major focus in my life, and I’ve known for years that the warrantee period was over for my body.  Having to deal with problems I’ve always associated with “old people” makes me start wondering when the hell I became an “old people”.

After all, in so many ways I feel like I’m just now getting the hang of this “life” stuff.  I believe I have finally found the right life partner for me.  I have finally figured out where I am going with the rest of my career.  I’ve successfully raised a kid, now that she’s heading for college and her first apartment.  It’s like I finally got everything on the right track and I’m ready to start my life… but wait, it’s mostly over?

It’s okay, really.  If this is the half-way point, then I have another four decades or so to live the life I’ve finally pieced together the way I want.  That’s a long time.  There’s also no guarantees any of us will survive the day, something I’ve known intimately since I was a young teenage Paramedic.  So it’s about making the most of every day and not putting important things off.

It’s also realizing what you’ve squandered.  What the poor decisions of your past have cost you.  Making the choices to clean things up so you can have the best experience of whatever is left.

I’m not sure I like this part of life.  It’s a lot to deal with when you still feel 17.  But, it’s also not like there’s another option.  So it’s up to me to make the best of it.