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SFU Student

image of the author in front of her company
To my surprise, I actually managed to find a silver lining during my struggle with impostor syndrome, which is that it can push you to work smarter and make you a better leader.

According to Psychology Today, an introvert is a person who is drained of energy through social encounters, is energized through solitary pursuits, and prefers to avoid social interactions. I had taken the Myers-Briggs Personality Test and realized that I was, in fact, an introvert (thank you to Zorana Svedic, my former Organizational Behaviour Instructor for making me take this test).

Being an introvert, I had come to terms with the fact that I would have to work with other people to get certain tasks done; and as a business student who has completed many group assignments, I thought that I had overcome my reluctance with working in teams. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

BCLC Company that the author worked at

Once I started my first co-op term, I was communicating throughout the day with friends, co-workers and peers and constantly felt mentally drained. Throughout my two co-op terms at British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), a crown corporation in charge of managing everything casinos and lottery in British Columbia, I was tasked with publishing and creating content for all of their social media platforms. By the end of my term, I was working in multiple teams while trying to manage six brands across over 15 different social platforms. I reflected on what was draining my energy, and I now have some tips to share that helped me throughout these past eight months:

1. Lunchtime is the Perfect Me-Time

If you’re spending more than eight hours a day chatting and working with others, consider blocking off all your lunch hours and spending that time with yourself. This is the perfect time to recharge from your morning work and will provide you with time to prepare for the day ahead!

2. Learn to Say No

“Hey, a bunch of us are going to Cactus Club after work for dinner. Want to come?” “Of course I - I mean, sorry, I can’t make it. Thank you for the invite though!” As much as you want to go to the Cactus Club with all of your friends, you must learn to say no. Disclaimer: I have not yet mastered the art of saying “no.”

3. Know That Certain Tasks are Done in Teams for Good Reasons

Whether it is the amount of work that needs to be completed or the fact that many ideas must be analyzed and shared, a lot of projects are done in teams for at least one good reason. The best advice I can give you here is to embrace teamwork, make the best out of it by learning from your peers, and ensure that you still give yourself some downtime.

To add to my list of co-op struggles, I was also dealing with impostor syndrome. Impostor syndrome is the mental state of feeling like you are not good enough to be doing something when you actually are (you feel like a fraud when you are not.) If you have ever felt this way, know that you are not alone and that many people often feel this way. Even influencers such as Emma WatsonSheryl Sandberg and Neil Gaiman have admitted to feeling like frauds during their careers. And so did I during my first co-op term.

Sarah and her coworkers

I began my very first co-op at BCLC with over a year and half of previous direct experience, which I thought would help me transition into my new role quite easily. Little did I know that it would still take over a month for me to be fully trained. I thought that I knew nearly everything about social media management before I had started my position as a Social Media Coordinator, and boy, was I wrong! It was not necessarily Hootsuite, Google Analytics or other social media tools that I found difficult to use and learn; instead, it was the larger industry. I knew close to nothing about the gambling industry. The most experience I had ever had with gambling was at my high school job selling Scratch & Win and lottery tickets at Shoppers Drug Mart. 

I started to feel upset because of my lack of knowledge about the gambling industry was slowing down my ability to complete tasks that I could have normally finished in a shorter time span. I began to dread tasks that I used to love, such as copy-writing, and my confidence in my social media skills started to diminish. Fortunately, this did not last long because my first co-op term at BCLC was also a time dedicated to learning. Here are some things that I realized during my first Co-Op term, which helped me overcome impostor syndrome:

1. Even Though my Work Was Not Perfect, I was still Doing a Good Job

My previous experience with managing social media helped immensely during my training. Further, my organizational skills and ability to pay attention to detail were the exact skills the social media team was looking for. I was able to use my skills to help create a more efficient content calendar, which in turn provided me with more time to write copy and edit graphics.

2. I was Learning Useful Skills That I Could Take Advantage of Later on in my Career as Well

Some new skills that I learned include PhotoShop and Google Analytics, which are very applicable in business and marketing.

3. Lastly (and this one is very cheesy) Nobody is Perfect, and Sometimes You Need to Make Mistakes to Learn

And it’s okay to make mistakes… as long as you don’t make the same mistake twice. 

Something else that had helped me overcome my impostor syndrome, and the feeling that I was not good enough for my co-op position, was this article about building confidence that I found on LinkedIn, and this article by the StartupBros about overcoming impostor syndrome. By following the steps noted in the articles, I felt much more confident about both my role at BCLC and myself. And, to my surprise, I actually managed to find a silver lining during my struggle with impostor syndrome, which is that it can push you to work smarter and make you a better leader.

During my co-op term at BCLC, I was also SFU Human Resources Student Association’s STREAM Program Manager, where I was able to use the syndrome to my advantage by telling my organizing committee at our very first meeting that I am not perfect, and that I often make mistakes, and I asked them to always let me know whenever they see one. I also told them that I would kindly do the same for them and in turn, help them grow. They were really happy when they identified a good mistake and some were almost excited to tell me. Subsequently, this made the quality of our work improve during the launch of our program.

Perhaps you have never had impostor syndrome, and maybe you never will. But if you ever do, I would like to leave you with this quote by Albert Einstein:

“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Thus, if you ever start a co-op term and begin to feel like your work is under-par, you can actively seek to learn the skills needed to improve the quality of your work. And now I would really like to finish off this article with yet another quote by the Founder and Executive Director of TEDxGastownWomen, Brittany Whitmore:

“You’re just as smart as anyone else, including the person interviewing you. It’s just that they have a little more experience than you do.”

This means that you are good enough for pretty much anything that life throws at you, so take chances, learn and grow! 

SFU Student
Connect with Sarah through her LinkedIn or Instagram. Sarah Saghah is a fifth-year business student studying marketing, human resources and international business. During her spare time, she enjoys volunteering and browsing through social media. You can find her at her local BCSPCA, petting all of the kittens.  
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Nov 8, 2017

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