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How do you overcome imposter syndrome?

As a self-taught web developer, I often wonder whether I am competent enough to apply for web developer jobs that typically require a degree in Computer Science & require 2+ years (or more) of relevant work experiences for junior web developer position.
The requirement section in the job post seems to expect A LOT from the candidates. Some front-end developer positions also require candidates to know back-end technology/languages. Some job posts simply list out all the preferred skills they are looking for in a candidate.
When I look at the job description, it just seems like I can never meet all of their requirements. Most likely, I only meet 50% ~60% of the requirements. While I'm confident about my ability to pick up things quickly, many companies want to hire experienced people :(

1. What's your career advice?
2. What would you do if you were in my shoes?
3. If you are a Hiring Manager / Engineering Team Lead, how much weight would you put on a candidates' soft skills during the interview?
Would soft skills trump the technical skills in your hiring decisions?
Candidate A: Technical skills(85%) + soft skills (60%)
Candidate B: Technical skills (70%) + soft skills (75%)

Thank you for your time to read my post & your willingness to help out a Web Dev Ninja -to-be

All the best & Take Care! :))

#july20
#career
#careeradvice
#technology
#coding
#interview-prep
#impostersyndrome
#webdevelopment
#technicalskills
#softskills
#hr
#humanresource
#jobpost


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Sindhu’s Answer

1. Companies ask for a lot from candidates, but what they put in a job description is usually for the "dream" candidate. The hiring process isn't black and white and the job description isn't a set of rules. Candidates, especially women, have a tendency to not apply for jobs where they don't meet 100% of the requirements. If you meet 60% of the qualifications, being creative in how you respond and (even better) if you know someone at the company and can use that relationship, you can still apply for and get the job.

2. In your shoes, I would apply for the job. Put your best foot forward - write a compelling cover letter and include any volunteer or other leadership examples in your life (e.g., coding camps).

3. Both soft skills and technical skills are important. When hiring, I typically weigh the technical skills slightly more heavily than the soft skills, but assess both. It is easier for companies to upskill you on the technical skills, but it is much harder and lengthier to build soft skills. For example, when I was a software developer, I was hired after one of my interviews for my soft skills and how the manager felt I would fit into the team even though I hadn't used the primary language that the team used for their major client.

Hi Sindhu, Thank you very much for taking the time to share your experiences and advice. I will work on crafting the answers and showing my value in the cover letter/resume. C L.

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Kelly’s Answer

So many great responses in here.

EVERYONE HAS IMPOSTER SYNDROME. You are not alone. It doesn't really go away, you just get better at dealing with it.

The most important thing if to stay true to yourself, and don't try to change to fit into any particular mold. You'll leverage your experiences, strengths, relationships along the way to building your career. If you're following your interests and passions, you'll gradually feel less and less like an imposter. If you've overcome Imposter Syndrome, then you may consider how you can challenge yourself to grow in new ways.

It's easy to focus on the negative and downplay your capabilities (it's human to do so), so it may feel unnatural to want to focus mainly on your strengths. More important than proving what you know is showing that you are able to learn. Be open to new and exciting (scary) opportunities coming your way. Taking risks and learning are the most sought after examples in the interview process - to demonstrate your willingness to learn and grow.

Unfortunately, rejection is part of the process but it is a blessing in disguise. The match is super important. You have to interview them as much as they are interviewing you. Know what you stand for and don't be afraid to ask for what you want. You have more power in the process than you may realize.

Hope they are helpful to those interviewing! Be well

Kelly recommends the following next steps:

Watch some videos about Growth Mindset (Carol Dweck) and think about how you can demonstrate this in the interview
Saved!
Use the STAR method when thinking about framing past experiences and what you learned from them
Saved!
Keep applying, show enthusiasm about why you want to work there, show you've done your research about the company and what you resonate with (technical innovations, market wins, cultural values)
Saved!
Be selective about only interviewing for the companies you're genuinely passionate about (not just a numbers game)
Saved!
Think about what's important to you and don't be afraid to ask for what you want - You're interviewing them as much as they are you (One way to do this is to identify your personal values and connect that to the company values). Imagine how you would sell your best friend to get a job, and use that tone of voice to talk about yourself
Saved!

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Dhairya’s Answer

Hi Cindy,
Short answer, yes apply for any jobs that you find compelling, regardless of if you meet all the requirements. There is honestly no downside to applying. Worst case scenario, you get no answer or its a no, and you're in the same situation as if you didn't apply. And with any application there's a non-zero percent it works out. Personally, most of the jobs I applied and got, I only had somewhere between 20-40% of the required qualifications. In one case, I wasn't a good fit but they liked me enough to create a new role just to bring me aboard. So you never know what will happen. Take the chance and apply.

Your story resonates with my own experiences, as I'm a self taught developer and AI researcher as well. You should feel very proud that you've taken the initiative and dedicated your time to hone your skills in the web development and software engineering. It's not easy and it speaks volumes about your determination, grit and hard work. Almost 95% of students who enroll in online classes will not finish the course ( most dropping out after week 1).

You're not alone in feeling like an impostor. Even professionals at the highest levels feel that bit of uncertainty that perhaps they squeaked through the cracks and someone will realize that they don't belong. It's an all too human experience, especially when we live in a world where all we see are superficial signs of success on LinkedIn, social media, that TEDx talk or Forbes 30 under 30 list. What you don't see publicly are the moments of adversity, shortcomings, and uncertainty that we all face in our journeys. It's normal to feel like an impostor and often it's good because it signals you care deeply about doing a good job and pushing yourself to become better. Take that anxiety and positively channel it towards continuing to learn and grow.

Having been on several software engineering hiring committees, there are many things that go into a hiring decision. Often job descriptions are written broadly because they want to cast a wide net or the employer has an unclear idea of who they're trying to hire. Rarely do candidates check all the boxes. So really it comes down to the interview and the impression the candidate makes on the hiring team. What is the candidate's potential to learn, how confident are they, how motivated are they, are they a self starter, how well do they communicate, are they a good team member, etc. Soft skills definitely matter. Candidates who are organized, good communicators, and are good colleagues and collaborative are very appealing, especially for software engineering roles, where socialability and emotional IQ are traits sterotypically not associated with engineers.

If I were in your shoes, I'd focus on highlighting the following aspects of your resume:
- projects you're most proud of (what technologies did you use, what problems did you solve, and what you learned)
- your ability to be self starter and fast learner (how were you organized and what did you do learn on the fly)
- what you're passionate about in the context of web dev (is it developing React components, or perhaps more broadly building compelling UIs, or the challenge of async processes (jk no one figuring async calls), etc)
- what you are seeking to learn
- your soft skills and examples of them (e.g. you like writing documentation (major plus!), you're good at facilitating brainstorming meetings, etc)

Good luck and I hope you find your next opportunity soon!

Hi Dhairya, Thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions! I appreciate you sharing your personal experiences and providing great advice. I'll keep those things in mind when revising my resume! C L.

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Anand’s Answer

Imposter syndrome is something which exists in all of us in some percentage or other. It is just someone realizes it and some do not. What is important is that are we aware of it and are we willing to do something about it. Hence is it is always good to realize that what insecurities you have and speak to someone you trust or believe.

Imposter syndrome is there for all people i.e. those who are successful and high achievers and also those who have been not so great in achieving things in life. That leads to the point that it is very natural and common. Once we get this then we have achieved the first step. Because once you start understanding that it is not just you but many other people (actually all) have this and undergo the same.

Apart from above, read good books. May be biographies or may be some motivating ones. One I can think on top of my mind is "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living". These help a lot.

Get into positive criticism for others but be cautious as looking into others faults constantly may also lead to wrong habits forever.

Hope this helps.

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Nathalie’s Answer

Hi Cindy, you are feeling what millions of us have felt at some point or another. the straight forward answer is: Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway! When women look at a job posting we see all that we are not yet fully qualified for, experienced enough for etc.. so we hesitate and unfortunately most of the time we let amazing opportunities pass us by. What men do when they see a job they are 20% qualified for but want? They apply and give it all they got in the interview because their attitude is to figure out the rest later - and you know what? They are right, this is what we should all do. All new jobs require a learning curve, all companies will ask you for an MBA on paper; in reality everybody knows that the best person applying with confidence, having the right attitude (hunger to learn and being authentic) and interviewing well will be picked; MBA (or other certs) or not.

1. What's your career advice?
Apply for your dream job and get comfortable with the fact that you will not be fully qualified for it before you start. Be ready and hungry to learn.

2. What would you do if you were in my shoes?
Apply and emphasize who you are - use all the interpersonal skills in your repertoire - dry run your interview with mentors. Be AUTHENTIC.

3. If you are a Hiring Manager / Engineering Team Lead, how much weight would you put on a candidates' soft skills during the interview?
Would soft skills trump the technical skills in your hiring decisions?
Soft skills are extremely important; if you have the right attitude for the hiring manager you will make his life easier; pushing you to the top of the pile of Resumes for the job.

Thank you Nathalie! C L.

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Jessica’s Answer

Hi Cindy,
It's awesome to hear that you're a self-taught web-developer. Just saying that shows that you are tenacious and have the ability to learn very quickly. You should feel extremely proud of yourself for what you've already accomplished and will continue to accomplish in the near future. Imposter syndrome is inevitable in the tech industry because there is so much to learn. The more you learn, the more you release that you don't know everything and you need to continue learning. You know a lot more than you think you know and with the skills you have already acquired, you will be able to figure out how to solve new problems.

Don't limit yourself when it comes to applying for jobs, because what is the worst thing that can happen if you apply to a job that you don't fulfill all the requirements? You may be declined. However, if you don't apply you're missing out on a lot of opportunities. So, apply to as many jobs as you possibly can, I'm wishing you godspeed!

Soft skills and Technical skills are both very important for a job as a software developer, however, technical skills can easily be taught and soft skills are very difficult to teach. If you think that your soft skills outweigh your technical abilities, don't fret, the company that you work for will teach you the skills that you need to successfully complete the job!

Hi Jessica, Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I appreciate your kind words and encouragement. I wish you all the best too :) C L.

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BARBARA’s Answer

I would say to ignore the job requirements (well, don't ignore completely -- i just mean don't let the fact that you don't check all boxes stop you from applying). Your work will prove your value. Talk about your creative process, what you've learned, how you leveraged resources to learn, how you had an idea then figured out how to use the technology to make the idea come to life, and create a portfolio.
One thing you will find is that job descriptions are a rough estimate of what they are looking for -- not strict requirements. Go sell your skills and talents!!!!

THANK YOU BARBARA! C L.

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Hooman’s Answer

Lots of good advice on here, so will keep mine short and sweet.

I find almost everyone I know feels like they aren't "ready" or "qualified" for the job they want or the job they have. In other words we all have imposter syndrome. Don't let it stop you.

Something I always remind myself is that every time we have a new president (or in your case prime minister) it is that person's first time in that job too and they never meet all the "requirements" for the job.

Thanks Hooman! I actually just laughed in front of my screen C L.

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Chad’s Answer

Hi Cindy!

I'll tell you, it's extremely refreshing to hear that you are self taught. It's quite admirable, and says a lot about you as a person, as well as your work ethic. Despite the fact that it might seem as though every job that you find right now requires a degree (or you feel you miss other requirements), hiring people without degrees is more common than you think.

While I'm no expert in web development, the topic of lacking credentials is very near and dear to my heart, as I too do not have a degree. While I was in my freshman year of college, my part time job needed to become my full time income, and the rest is history. I bounced around a few blue collar jobs, and, after a series of events, I applied for an entry-level contractor position for a company then known as EMC. I had no degree, no experience, and absolutely zero knowledge about IT or the industry. The only thing I had going in my favor was that I was a decent typist and I had strong communication skills. Going into that interview, I wondered what business I had even showing up. But I remember saying to myself, very simply, "Why not me?" I am happy, and proud, to say, they gave me a chance and I never looked back. I've now been with the same company, now Dell Technologies, for over 12 years. I've changed career paths twice, going in completely opposite directions. I currently train new hires globally, and monitor the performance of all of our global Managed Onboarding new hires.

So, another reason that I have first hand experience with this is my job is so closely related to the hiring process and the performance of new hires. I can speak from experience that performance has zero reflection on possession or level of degree. For a lot of companies, hiring is based more on potential rather than experience anyways. I can also speak for the fact that every manager I've met in the last 7+ years would rather have someone with strong professional skills over technical skills, as the latter is much more easily taught and learned. So for your example, I'd even take you a step further and say I'd rather hire Applicant C: 75-80% professional skills vs 40-50% technical skills.

It's interesting that you brought up the statistics, as I have some specific, recently acquired info related to just that. I attended a workshop last week called #iamremarkable. It was a great session around developing more confidence, selling yourself in an effective way, and being more positive overall. One very interesting takeaway I had was the difference between men and women when it came to applying for jobs. On average, men were willing to apply for jobs when they meet just 60% of the requirements. On the other hand, women would apply only when having met 100% of the required criteria. I bring this up, because I believe it is very important for everyone to understand the general mindset of their competition, and the big picture in general.

All that being said, here are a few things you should keep in mind:

1. As Wayne Gretzky said, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." Don't EVER let a listed credential or bullet point hold you back from trying something you have passion for and want to do, EVER. And that goes for applying for a job or even things in your personal life. Take as many interviews as you feel comfortable with - practice makes perfect, especially with interviewing. If you give yourself a bigger sample size, the more of a chance you'll have, and the more choices you'll have to meet YOUR terms.

2. Looking at the glass half full never gets old. Focus on everything you do well and that you bring to the table of a potential employer. One of my recent bosses had a uniquely refreshing outlook on development. From day 1, people almost always tell you to focus on your developmental areas (or weaknesses) to catch them up with everything else. But her view was to, of course, put some work into your developmental areas, but more importantly, identify your biggest strengths and focus on those areas to perfect and showcase.

3. Be confident. It's easier said than done. I've been working on this for years and am far from perfect, and even from where I'd like to be. But, I have to say the most helpful trick for me has been to give myself a pep talk. Whether it's a presentation or an interview, there's going to be nerves. There's no better time than to remind yourself of what you're good at, and how good at it you are. If you run into issues thinking of things in the moment, just simply remember that nobody knows you better than you - you are the subject matter expert in that area. Even if you have nothing else, you'll always have that.

Best of luck in your career! I hope you conquer all the dreams you create!

-Chad

Wow Chad, that's very inspirational! Thanks for taking the time to share your advice & personal story! C L.

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Kelly’s Answer

So many great responses in here.

EVERYONE HAS IMPOSTER SYNDROME. You are not alone. It doesn't really go away, you just get better at dealing with it.

The most important thing if to stay true to yourself, and don't try to change to fit into any particular mold. You'll leverage your experiences, strengths, relationships along the way to building your career. If you're following your interests and passions, you'll gradually feel less and less like an imposter. If you've overcome Imposter Syndrome, then you may consider how you can challenge yourself to grow in new ways.

It's easy to focus on the negative and downplay your capabilities (it's human to do so), so it may feel unnatural to want to focus mainly on your strengths. More important than proving what you know is showing that you are able to learn. Be open to new and exciting (scary) opportunities coming your way. Taking risks and learning are the most sought after examples in the interview process - to demonstrate your willingness to learn and grow.

Unfortunately, rejection is part of the process but it is a blessing in disguise. The match is super important. You have to interview them as much as they are interviewing you. Know what you stand for and don't be afraid to ask for what you want. You have more power in the process than you may realize.

Hope they are helpful to those interviewing! Be well

Kelly recommends the following next steps:

Watch some videos about Growth Mindset (Carol Dweck) and think about how you can demonstrate this in the interview
Saved!
Use the STAR method when thinking about framing past experiences and what you learned from them
Saved!
Keep applying, show enthusiasm about why you want to work there, show you've done your research about the company and what you resonate with (technical innovations, market wins, cultural values)
Saved!
Be selective about only interviewing for the companies you're genuinely passionate about (not just a numbers game)
Saved!
Think about what's important to you and don't be afraid to ask for what you want - You're interviewing them as much as they are you (One way to do this is to identify your personal values and connect that to the company values). Imagine how you would sell your best friend to get a job, and use that tone of voice to talk about yourself
Saved!

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Harry’s Answer

Hey Cindy,

I have struggled with the same thing as well. I'm a Pre-Sales Systems Engineer with degrees that don't really line up with the area of focus that I am in. What I would suggest is as a Web Developer build a portfolio of the work you have done so that you can submit your work with you are applying for positions.

I used to be in a position where I would be directly involved with interviewing and hiring people. What I would always look for is foundational knowledge. To make sure you knew the concepts so that you could think on your feet and not rely solely on memorized facts. I would always view people favorably when they admitted that they didn't know but would ask if they could google it or get back to me with the answer because it showed a willingness to dig in and continue to learn. Really that's what technology has always and will always continue to do, evolve and change.

Another aspect that I would not really judge someone on is how confident they are in an interview. Some people just interview badly but are great resources. I would look more at how much they understand the concepts than how they handle themselves in an interview. I would say the split for me would be 75% Technical Skills 25% Soft Skills.

Hopefully this information helps you out in your journey and I applaud you for being a self learner as that is actually really hard to do :)

Regards,

Harry Zwez

Thank you so much Harry!! C L.

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Brittany’s Answer

Hi Cindy,

Although I cannot speak directly to Computer Science or web development, I am very aware of what imposter syndrome is and I have been researching ways on how to directly manage this myself!

As a refresher, imposter syndrome is a feeling of “phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” While these people “are highly motivated to achieve,” they also “live in fear of being ‘found out’ or exposed as frauds.” Unlike men, who tend to own success as attributable to a quality inherent in themselves, women are more likely either to project the cause of success outward to an external cause (luck) or to a temporary internal quality (effort) that they do not equate with inherent ability.

This is really a case on how you can feel and think more confidently, as well as ensure others perceive you as confident too. Some mental solutions to increase confidence:

- Think that you are capable and in command
- Be self-aware of strengths and weaknesses; be forgiving of your flaws
- Avoid negative self-talk (linked to depression and anxiety). Positive thinking fosters self-acceptance and self-efficacy, and is linked to improved performance, mood, self-esteem
- Challenge your negative thoughts
- Speak to yourself as if you'd speak to your bestfriend
- Happiness depends on having the right attitude - change saying “I have to” to “I get to”
- Reframe behaviours and ideas: transform failures into lessons, challenges into opportunities, weaknesses into strengths
- Avoid thinking deeply about past struggles and focus on past achievements

Physical solutions to enhance confidence:
- Adjust body language (shoulders back and “power pose”)
- Exercise regularly
- Deep breaths
- Keep a list of your successes
- Say "thank you" more vs "sorry"
- Smile

As a hiring manager, I know the importance of hiring for attitude over enough technical skills, since personality traits are a lot harder to teach. Apply for the job, and keep the above tips in mind. I hope this helps!

Thank you Brittany for offering a few mental solutions to cope with the feeling of incompetency! Great tips! C L.

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Keegan’s Answer

A strategy that helps me is to remember that imposter syndrome is primarily caused by comparing yourself to others, but this comparison is often skewed because we tend to amplify our own weaknesses compared to others' strengths. As many other answers here have stated, this is a really common experience.

Beyond that, I think it tends to come from growth: the more you learn and the better you become at anything, the more aware you are of the limits of your experience (Dunning-Kruger theory, essentially). If you focus on the fact that you are constantly learning and growing, and remember the times you felt overwhelmed but eventually succeeded, it can help to mitigate the feeling of imposter syndrome in the moment.

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