What Am I Doing Here? — Self-Confidence in Your Career

Today’s blog post is written by Samantha Colbert, Senior Client Administrator, PatronManager.

Last year, my supervisor, Director of Client Services Rachel Hands suggested that I submit to speak at Dreamforce ’18. For those who are unfamiliar, Dreamforce is the annual user conference hosted by Salesforce in San Francisco. To give you an idea of the scale of this event, in 2017 the conference drew in over 170,000 attendees! As I looked further into submitting a session, I found the suggestion to be a bit ridiculous. I had only been using Salesforce for three years, this year’s event was sure to be even larger than last year’s (gulp!), and attendees will have paid thousands of dollars to attend. Surely, there were others who were far more qualified and had better information to share that would be chosen as presenters over me.

All the same, I figured it couldn’t hurt to try, so I created a session called “The Top 5 Reasons Your Report Might Be Wrong,” and submitted it for consideration. Imagine my shock when, a few weeks later, I received the email that I had been chosen to present. Amidst my emotions of disbelief and excitement, I couldn’t help but wonder… why did they want me to speak?

The answer, while it might seem obvious, wasn’t one that I was prepared for. They wanted me to speak because I had an interesting topic, knowledge to share (with experience to back it up), I knew what I was doing, and I was good at it. I, however, was struggling with something known as “impostor syndrome,” which in short, meant that I still felt like I didn’t belong there, I didn’t know what I was doing, and as soon as someone realized they had made a mistake choosing my session, they’d take it away from me. This sensation is more common than you might think and something that many people struggle with; particularly in industries, such as the arts, where budgets (and staff) tend to be smaller.

I’ve learned a lot about impostor syndrome over the last year, and it’s something that pretty much everyone experiences in their life at one time or another. It’s the feeling of getting a promotion with the thought that you are not smart enough to handle your new role. The feeling of looking up instructions on how to do something for the 10th time, as you shake your head with frustration because you should be able to remember this by now. The feeling of being asked to take on a new project, and barely knowing where or how to begin!

But, simply acknowledging that you have impostor syndrome isn’t enough to make it go away, so how do you move forward? You take a deep breath, get your thoughts in order, and don’t give up. The best way to combat this feeling is by proving yourself wrong and having patience throughout that process. Impostor syndrome only wins when you stop moving, so keep moving forward.

Here are a few ways that you can work on combating this feeling:

  • If you’re working on a new project, start by mapping out what and who your best resources are. Talk to people who may have once been in your shoes or worked on similar projects. Even something as simple as doing a quick google search could be massively helpful in figuring out a starting point. 
  • Do your research ahead of time, but be prepared for plans to change. Flexibility is key.
  • Consider the fact that you having a fresh perspective could be beneficial to a project since you’re not bogged down with biases. That being said, don’t be afraid to ask for input, and don’t be afraid to ask questions; those who have the knowledge are often happy to help.
  • If you find that you have to keep looking something up, don’t be discouraged, embrace it! You’re choosing to make sure that the process is being done correctly, and saving yourself, and your colleagues, frustration in the long run.
  • Continue to educate yourself on topics that interest you within your industry, and share that information with others. (For clients, our PatronManager Certified Admin Course is a great place to start.)
  • Branch out and meet other people in your industry. Simply having a conversation and hearing others viewpoints can give you insights that you never even considered. Collaborate with other “like-organizations” in your area; maybe even form a regional cohort to discuss geographic specific challenges! Or if there are none in your immediate vicinity, an online community could be helpful.
  • Challenge yourself by trying something you don’t think you can do, like speak at a conference. There are several options out there for non-profits (many of which are directed toward arts organizations).

As for my Dreamforce presentation? It went well! The audience seemed engaged, there were good questions afterward, and I was able to fully experience all the wonderful things Dreamforce had to offer. It’s going to be a time that I look back on fondly and speak of with nothing but positivity, despite the stress and pressure that I put on myself leading up to it. And yes, I absolutely put the pressure all on myself. Impostor syndrome is an internalized perception of what everyone else around you must think of you. Once that’s out of your mind, focusing on the task at hand can feel much more possible.

It’s time to fight back that impostor syndrome, meet some new people, step out of your comfort zone, and share your knowledge with the world. What better time than the present?

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2 responses to “What Am I Doing Here? — Self-Confidence in Your Career

  1. I know this all too well. Thanks for sharing Samantha. The tips to combating were helpful.

    Maybe this will help me get over my nerves and maybe try to propose and present something at the next PMCM.

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