Podcast: Career Chat Vol. 9 – Unveiling the Imposter Syndrome Gremlins—Featuring Amanda Chenkin
On this episode of RTWT Career Chat, Amy Pierce-Danders welcomes Marcia Wall, Career Success Coach at MW Career Services and Amanda Chenkin, Founder & Career Strategist at Career Choice Counseling LLC to the podcast to discuss what Imposter Syndrome really is and how this can impact our personal and professional lives. Amy asks Marcia and Amanda to share their personal history with Imposter Syndrome and why we need to be careful not to let the ‘gremlins’ take control of us and our work. This is one conversation you do not want to miss.
Amy Pierce-Danders: Hey, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Career Chat on Real Talk with Tedi. My name is Amy Pierce-Danders with E3 Coaching Studio, your host today. I’m so excited that you’re joining us for another episode of our monthly podcast that is dedicated to helping today’s professionals become tomorrow’s world leaders.
On today’s episode of Career Chat, I am excited to chat about Imposter Syndrome with Marcia Wall, founder and career success coach at MW Career Services, and Amanda Chenkin, the founder, counselor, and career strategist at Choice Career Counseling LLC.
Good afternoon, Marcia and Amanda. Welcome to Real Talk with Tedi. How are you doing today?
Marcia Wall: Just fine, thank you. Thanks for having us, Amanda.
Amanda Chenkin: I’m excited to be here.
Amy Pierce-Danders: Awesome. I’m excited for you to be here too. So thank you again for taking the time to join us on Career Chat on Real Talk with Tedi.
Before we get started with our conversation, I would like to ask the two of you to please share with our listeners a little bit about who you are and what you do.
Marcia, let’s start with you, and then we’ll hear from Amanda.
Marcia Wall: Thank you. My name is Marcia Wall, and I work for myself with MW Career Services. And I’ve been doing Career Services work in one way or another for about 20 years. I specialize in working with people who have a growth mindset.
I also work with transitioning teachers as well as people who are mature workers, kind of the 50-plus and fabulous crowd. And because of my background working with San Diego Pride, I also have a lot of clients in the LGBTQ+IA community.
Amy Pierce-Danders: La, blah, blah, 50 and fabulous in all of the communities, Marcia. What about you, Amanda?
Amanda Chenkin: [I’m Amanda] Chenkin, and I am in private practice with Choice Career Counseling. And I have also been in some form of career development for nearly 20 years.
I am also a licensed clinical professional counselor – so I work in the intersection or the blending of mental health and career. So focusing on transitions, adults who are just feeling stuck and not really sure what options exist. And really thinking about the whole person and career and what a holistic good life means.
Amy Pierce-Danders: I love it, Amanda. Thank you so much to you both for sharing that information.
We will be sure to list your contact information under today’s podcast narrative, as a reminder to our listeners. And our last episode of career chat: Carrie Rosingana spoke with Ross Woodstock, an executive coach, leadership consultant, and author from Kolt Communications. You can listen to this episode by visiting TediTalks.com.
For our listeners who are unfamiliar, imposter syndrome is a very broad term. I’d love to hear your thoughts about the phenomenon, Marcia. What is imposter syndrome?
Marcia Wall: That’s a great question, and I’m also glad that they use the word phenomena because it’s not an actual syndrome that can be diagnosed. Although that word has typically been used, it is more a phenomenon like you said. And it can encompass a lot of things, but when it comes right down to it, it has to do with the feelings people have about their worthiness professionally.
There may be a lack of self-confidence; there may be negative self-talk; maybe people are working with ideas that they’re just not good enough or that perhaps they only got their job out of luck. So at the end of the day, it’s really self-doubt and self-negativity to a degree.
Amy Pierce-Danders: Amanda, what’s your take on the broad term imposter syndrome?
Amanda Chenkin: … Marcia and that it’s more like a phenomenon versus a syndrome. And like Marcia, it comes down to self-doubt, not really sure if I can do it; I think the term fake it till I make it comes to mind when we think about this. And I think it can also come up in other parts of our life.
I think we just talk about it and hear about it more as it relates to career, particularly if some of us are, maybe, first-generation college students or other… hold other identities that are trying to pursue areas that we don’t necessarily know we have role models in.
Amy Pierce-Danders: Yeah, I can’t agree… I mean… more Amanda. In the fact that we have these gremlins that pop up in all facets of our world. We just happen to speak about imposter syndrome a lot to our professional lives. So thank you for adding that extra little piece there.
See. I’m super curious. Have you ever experienced imposter phenomena yourself?
Marcia Wall: Oh, absolutely, probably a little bit every day.
You know, I’m credentialed through the National Career Development Association. I have other degrees, a master’s degree in writing. And I’ve been doing great work for a really long time, but that doesn’t mean that I have always felt super confident, or does that mean that every day I feel like I know exactly what I’m doing.
I mean, I think at the end of the day that I do, but there’s always that bit of feeling like am I good enough, am I as educated as the next person, do I have as much experience?
You know, I think, ultimately, I come to that confidence, but there’s definitely been times in my life where I’ve struggled even more, especially after being out of the workforce for a while due to illness. Or especially when I was younger and feeling like that older people really knew what they were doing, and I was just a newbie.
Amy Pierce-Danders: So true, the bane of existence with imposter phenomena is comparison. So I hear you there.
Amanda, what about you? Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome?
Amanda Chenkin: Yes. Absolutely. Also, probably a little bit every day, particularly now that I am in my own transition. So I just made a cross-country move. I’m essentially starting my private practice from scratch all over again. And so there’s… there are many times where I’m not really sure if I made the right decision or people are doing things better than me.
I also have degrees and certifications that I seem to collect. So I’m a certified career counselor. I’m also a licensed professional counselor, as I mentioned. And so there tend to be pretty consistently little gremlin voices questioning whether or not I am doing things well or as good as I could be.
Amy Pierce-Danders: Thank you so much, and for bringing up the term, gremlin, you know that is my favorite term to talk about when we’re talking about imposter phenomena, Amanda. And before we move ahead, I just want to acknowledge and do a little bit of cheerleading here because you both freaking rock at what you do, and I fangirl as another career coach on you both all the time. So the next time the gremlin pops up, you could be like, no, Amy thinks I’m a badass. I got this.
All right, off my soapbox. So Marcia, how do you see imposter gremlins manifest in the work with your clients professionally and personally, perhaps?
Marcia Wall: That’s a really good question, and it really depends on the type of client that I’m working with, but I would say for sure there’s that comparison coming up that people will think, well, this person has more education. Or perhaps they have better experience, and you know, people think that they’re the only one feeling that way. And that’s what’s really interesting to me when in fact, all of my clients feel that way.
I would also say that people come to sort of these feelings of self-doubt from many different avenues. They may be neuro-diverse, dealing with a mental health challenge.
Perhaps, they come from a socioeconomic background where they haven’t seen people like themselves in different positions. I think anytime someone comes from a marginalized community, there is the danger for imposter syndrome because maybe they don’t see themselves in the professions that they want to move into.
Same for stay-at-home parents or other people who’ve been out of the workforce for a long time. So I think there’s many different reasons and causes, and I think no matter where you come from or what your background is, there’s going to be a way that these gremlins get into your mind. But at the same time, I think it’s possible for everyone to deal with them to transform their lives and to go on and do great things with confidence.
Amy Pierce-Danders: Yeah, you bring up a really good point there, Marcia, in that the identities that we carry and identify with… that it really can contribute, you know, from the stay-at-home mother to the 2SLGBT community. Individuals of color, with, sometimes maybe, we have that lack of social capital that can really manifest in different ways.
So thank you for sharing that. Amanda have you had different experiences with your clients as you walk alongside them?
Amanda Chenkin: I don’t know that they’ve been drastically different. I think very similarly, the part that sticks out is a feeling of aloneness. Like I’m the only one who feels like there’s somebody better than me or has more education, or I’m not doing this – I’m using air quotes as I sit here – right. And that creates a sense of like isolation when in fact, most of us, most days, probably have some thought or thoughts that we’re not really sure we’re good enough to be doing the things we’re doing.
And so I think the more we can bring that to light and really be like honest about yeah, you know what today probably the gremlins are a little louder about my ability to… or inability to get this done or to apply for this job or whatever it might be.
I think the more we can be supportive and quiet those gremlins and make them a little smaller.
Amy Pierce-Danders: Thank you, ladies. I appreciate it.
So Marcia, what are some strategies that people can use when they’re battling imposter syndrome?
Marcia Wall: You know what, there’s so many, and that’s the wonderful news. I always tell my clients to start collecting data, and by that, I just mean record your accomplishments; record the things that you’ve already done or that [are] fantastic so when you think I don’t know if I’m good enough, you can actually go back and say you know what I actually improved that process or I help these number of people to succeed because the evidence speaks for itself and facts, sometimes, can give us truth over feelings.
Another tool that’s really easy to use is, go to people whom you trust and ask them, especially if you’re working with a coach, you can say you know what I’m working with a career coach, and she’s making me ask other people what is fabulous about me and when you ask other people to speak to your strengths and abilities you’re going to be surprised at what they say.
And the third thing that immediately comes to mind is to use practices that calm your nervous system and get you to a place where you’re not overwhelmed by your feelings. For some people, that’s meditation, other people, it’s prayer, maybe exercise, or simply doing some deep breathing exercises.
So I think there’s a lot of ways to deal with those feelings, and I’m really interested to hear what Amanda has to say.
Amanda Chenkin: I think we have very similar approaches. My first thought was data and collecting that data. I, in fact, myself have a feel-good folder where I have emails or notes from maybe four of our clients or colleagues, reminding me that, in fact, I am good at what I do and that I can make an impact. So I definitely am 100% around the collecting data; asking others is another fabulous idea.
I have a lot of mindfulness practices in my work with clients because it does calm our nervous system and helps our, kind of, logical brain re-engage so that we’re not overtaken with spiraling thoughts for emotions.
I say, take three deep breaths. Maybe you don’t have time for much else, and nobody knows that you’re breathing. Literally, you can do it anywhere at any time. And that can just help make us feel calm in that moment until we can get to another space.
Those are probably mine for now. I’m sure I’ll come up with a whole list after we hang up.
Amy Pierce-Danders: Of course, you will, Amanda, of course. A couple of things that I want to speak to, and reiterate that you’ve both mentioned is – Marcia, can I have permission to begin utilizing your phrase truth over feeling? I love that.
Marcia Wall: Absolutely.
Amy Pierce-Danders: Oh my gosh. I totally have in my practice that feel-good holder, the data collection, the smile file. But just those three words – truth over feeling – is… it just encompasses it all. So thank you for that gift today.
And then Amanda – no one knows your breathing because we’re all breathing. I love it! So thank you for that, just that reminder, that you can do it and nobody knows that it’s happening. So I appreciate you both. Switching gears here a little bit.
I’ve been in leadership roles where I see imposter phenomena is holding someone back. Marcia, what advice would you give to a people leader who has a team member they believe is experiencing imposter syndrome?
Marcia Wall: Well, you know I’ve never heard that question before, Amy. I would say, first of all to just… leaders should be checking in with their people all of the time. So it shouldn’t come to a point where someone says oh, looks like that person is dealing with some imposter feelings. Let’s have a meeting about that.
I think that what people can do on an ongoing basis is to help employees identify their personal strengths, ask the employees where their challenges are, work with your employee to collaboratively develop a plan to address those challenges.
And if you still see that someone is, you know, dealing with those kinds of issues just to ask in general. You know what, I’m really here to support everyone I work with. Why don’t you let me know the best ways that I can support you because I believe in you; I know you’re capable of great things. You’re already doing great things. And want to help you do your very best both for yourself as well as the organization. So how can we work on that together?
Amy Pierce-Danders: Love it, thank you. Amanda, when you’re coaching or what coaching would you provide a people leader in that situation?
Amanda Chenkin: Similarly, having an open conversation. Sometimes that can be difficult right to bring up some of these things. So I like to use something like the Gallup Strengths as a tool to open up the conversation. And maybe show the person on paper what their strengths are and have them talk through it, and with some examples. Because if we can remind ourselves through a creative way like that, it might help that employee really start to embrace what they’re capable of, and it will help that people leader have a structured way to have that conversation.
I think it is important to have those ongoing conversations from the very beginning and not just waiting until something’s gone wrong because then it’s probably too late.
And so really starting from the beginning to build that sense of psychological safety at work and by honoring people where they are and supporting them in the way that will help them be most successful.
Amy Pierce-Danders: That’s awesome, thank you. And I love the idea of using an assessment like strings to showcase because it goes back to what you both mentioned about data collection. That smile file. You have a history of evidence that shows you can do this. And it’s that gremlin that’s keeping you from taking this next step or moving into a project role, or a program role, or what have you. So thank you both.
So Marcia and Amanda, thank you again for joining us on this episode of Career Chat. I’ve truly enjoyed the conversation and look forward to seeing you back on the podcast again soon.
Any final words for listeners before we say goodbye? Let’s start with you, Marcia.
Marcia Wall: Absolutely. My tagline, which some people think it’s cheesy, but I think it’s true, is that the best is yet to come for us all. So no matter what space we’re in, whether we’re feeling supercharged and we feel like we’re living our best professional lives. We can still use that idea that I’m achieving great things, but there’s even better things yet to come. And in those times when we’re feeling smaller, we’re listening to those gremlins, or perhaps we’re dealing with depression or something that feels really dark and where there’s not hope. If you choose to believe even if you don’t feel it deep inside, if you choose to believe that the best is yet to come, then you’re going to be able to persist and persevere and ultimately get to a place where there are better things in your life.
Amy Pierce-Danders: I don’t think your tagline is cheesy at all. I love it, Marcia. I think it’s amazing. Amanda, any final words for you?
Amanda Chenkin: Well, thank you for having me today. And I would just let everybody know that you’re not in it alone. We all have gremlins to some degree, and the more we talk about it and share those experiences, the more we can support each other and help each other move forward.
Amy Pierce-Danders: I appreciate you both so much. And friends, unfortunately, our time together is coming to an end. You can stay connected with us by liking our Facebook page and heading on over to teditalks.com to learn how you can connect with us, stay informed, and how to catch up on past episodes.
Also, make sure to tune into our next episode of Career Chat, where Tedi has a fascinating conversation about emotional intelligence in the workplace with Amina; my apologies if I pronounce your last name incorrectly; I meant to practice this beforehand; Amina Hedayat Khalil. So hopefully, I did somewhat okay with that.
Your success is important to us, and we are committed to helping you grow, prosper, and succeed. We look forward to having you join us on the next episode of Career Chat. I want to wish you a most amazing and successful day.