I’ve never been an overly confident person. Since I was a kid, I’ve had high expectations set out for me and my perception of my competence seemed to always fall short.
I joined SFU’s Co-op program during my first year and quickly realized one thing as I began the job search process: projecting confidence and composure are key to showing your best points and skills.
Imposter syndrome is real. Despite successfully progressing in my academic program and having many of the qualities that make for an excellent team member, I found it extremely difficult to highlight these strengths as a prospective communications professional. Each sentence I wrote felt like I was spinning lies to trick potential employers.
Some days, I would sit down to work on my resume, only to freeze up when it came time to write down my “skills” and “achievements”. Some say job-hunting is a game of numbers: the more applications you submit, the more likely you are to receive an offer. While I knew this to be true, I was still afraid to submit applications.
I pushed forward and eventually landed some interviews. I tried to present myself as composed and capable, but underneath, I felt like I was about to crack under pressure. Preparing mentally for interviews was exhausting. When I didn’t receive an offer of employment, the disappointment was equally excruciating, which was another blow to my self-confidence, reinforcing my imposter syndrome.
I needed time to recover from the stress and to find the energy to keep trying. Before I knew it, the next semester started, and I was about to give up. “I’d never land a Co-op term,” I thought. Then, I received an interview offer for a Communication Assistant role with the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS).
Truth be told, my pessimism had overtaken me at that point, and I went into the interview with zero expectation of securing the position.
But hope crept in as I left the interview. The interview went... well? I had felt hopeful in previous interviews too but where did that land me? Was I about to experience another emotional roller coaster?
A few hours later, my worries vanished as I was offered the position of FASS’ Communications and Marketing Assistant for Spring 2021 with a possibility of extension.
Receiving that email was the most success I had felt during my whole undergraduate experience, possibly even my entire life. But how did I do it? Was it because my mindset was different? Perhaps my letting go of expectations freed me from worry and allowed my capable skills and personality show.
But it didn’t matter; I was overcome with joy. After beginning my new job, I scrolled through our team’s group chat to find insight as to why I was hired.
To my surprise, my coworkers were impressed with my volunteer experience, which was a main contributor to their decision to hire me. Before then, I hadn’t considered those volunteer hours to be meaningful to potential employers.
My responsibilities in the position include managing and scheduling social media channels, writing news stories, and helping with some of SFU’s web design. Despite my initial fears, I feel perfectly at home and comfortable in doing my tasks.
Overall, this has been an important lesson in how to overcome imposter syndrome and build positive self-perception and confidence. You might look at a job description and feel unqualified based on its title or description. I certainly did with most of the jobs I applied to. Having completed a semester’s worth of work for FASS, though, I see how I am more than capable of handling the duties given to me.
Co-op has given me something that I desperately needed: unbiased recognition. It’s great to hear my mom tell me how smart or handsome I am, but right now, nothing beats doing a great job and accepting genuine praise from my colleagues for my ideas and contributions. Co-op helped me discover that I could work through the worry and feelings of pressure and allow my ability and confidence to shine.