Telling the Imposter Syndrome to take a hike
It’s easy to get swept up in self-doubt as a junior designer. Here are some ways to fight back and believe in yourself and your work.
Recently, I had the privilege to speak at an alumni panel for my design bootcamp, and a few upcoming designers asked me a few questions about how I deal with imposter syndrome as a junior designer.
Imposter Syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments or talents and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.
In a tough job market where lots of bootcamp grads are competing with career designers for their first real design job, it’s easy for new designers to feel discouraged. There’s no doubt that times are tough and there’s lots of competition out there, however, giving in to the idea that you’re not good enough won’t get you anywhere.
Your past experiences and the skills you’ve built up to this point are extremely valuable, and as long as you continue to create, grow, and reach out, you will find valuable opportunities.
Here’s a few things I’ve learned over the past several months since I graduated my design bootcamp. They’ve taken me from feeling too stressed and defeated to get up in the morning to landing consistent and rewarding contract work.
1. Find Your Inspiration and Keep Creating
Image Source: dribbble.com
What you see before you is dribbble.com if you search for “UI Design.” What I saw as a new design graduate out of the gate was an incredible brick wall of talent. A wall of beautiful designs that I thought I’d never scale nor come close to replicating. I became immediately discouraged and stared at my blank computer screen for hours, paralyzed by my own perceived shortcomings.
The internet is full of work from professional designers with years of experience. While it’s easy to feel a bit outmatched at times, these designs are made by passionate, talented individuals who took the time to learn and hone their craft. They had to start somewhere, and likely were inspired by other designers too!
Try not to see professional designs as a flashy brick wall of defeat. See them as a long chain of inspiration that will drive you forward to your next masterpiece. Challenge yourself! Tackle a few design challenges a week and share that work on your portfolio and amongst your network.
I was able to find design inspiration in all sorts of places! If you’re curious about learning more on where to look, you can read my article about finding the inspiration to complete my first design challenge here.
2. Challenge Yourself to Close Skill Gaps
Image Source: Pixabay on Pexels
Imposter syndrome is a sneaky creature, and while there are times in your job search where you will be in its clutches, it can’t hold you for long if you are on the move.
Keep on your toes by always seeking out the new tool to put in your design toolbox. The pace of design technology is breakneck, and keeping abreast of new design trends and technology keeps you sharp. Not to mention it showcases to potential employers that you’ve been developing your learning agility and been keeping busy.
Some of my favorite up-skill endeavors have been learning some basic HTML and CSS, as well as learning to animate in Figma with the Figmotion plugin.
If you want a quick intro to Figmotion, you can read my article about it here.
3. Write About Your Experiences
Image Source: Pixabay on Pexels
Nothing quite shows you’re alive and kicking like blogging regularly. Blogs posted and shared amongst your network showcase your unique perspective and ideas. Blogs are also great ways to develop your communication skills and to build your network with other design blogs.
Start by blogging about the design of things you like! What are products that frustrate you? Which ones are absolute delights to use and why? Show the world that you can think deeply and critically about a myriad of design topics, and your online presence becomes a fleshed-out body of work –not just a static name and profile picture.
Blogging is one of the toughest things to start doing, and can be ripe bait for imposter syndrome, but the name of the game is to keep active and busy. Like most things, it gets easier as you go. Don’t put the expectation on yourself that you are writing the next best-seller, rather, focus on crafting and telling a concise story.
4. Connect with Other Designers
Image Source: Pixabay on Pexels
Networking is absolutely critical in your job search, and one of the biggest hurtles when it comes to squaring up against imposter syndrome. Understand that there are countless connections out there that are willing to give you advice and help you to your next step along your career path.
In a time where much of the design workforce is remote and networking remains strictly virtual, it’s crucial that you get acquainted with different networking avenues, like LinkedIn, Slack, and Twitter.
When it comes down to reaching out to individuals you may have met once, or likely never, remember that you are worth the outreach. As long as you have a direct, specific, and reasonable ask, you are not bothering these individuals, as they were likely in your shoes once upon a time.
I’ve personally had the most success with networking outreach on LinkedIn.com. If you’d like to learn more about how I use LinkedIn to leverage my online network, you can read about my methods here.
5. Practice Self-Compassion, not Self-Doubt
Image Source: Prateek Katyal on Pexels
Lastly, to beat imposter syndrome, you have to stop beating yourself up. One of the most powerful tools in your design toolkit is empathy. Empathy for your users and clients is one of the most important facets of good design, though have you thought about it reflexively?
You’re going to have tough days. Job searching and design in general are rife with setbacks and failure. At the end of the day, imposter syndrome lives or dies within you depending on whether you practice self compassion.
What that means is whenever you feel inadequate, whenever you fail, understand that it is part of the process and it’s just another stepping-stone to your next success. So tell the voice in your head that says you can’t do it to take a hike! Get out there and show that you’re not an imposter — you’re the real deal.