From our guest contributor Chase McCants
I knew I had made a mistake.
As I drove home on a gray Thursday afternoon, the feeling of dread that accompanies a bad decision crept over me. Hours before, I had pulled myself out of the running for the Head of Talent role at a start-up in Columbus, OH. I had convinced myself that, despite my enthusiasm and the encouragement of people I respect, I wasn’t the right guy for the job. I believed I needed more training or more certifications before I could lead this newly created department. And what I thought would bring a blanket of relief really delivered a boulder of regret that no amount of justification could lift.
I knew I had made a mistake. But, seeing it for what it really was allowed me to change course and push forward.
What I saw was this: When I was at work, I felt at home and safe. Leaving would mean being thrust into a new world of uncertainty. I had spent almost seven years with the same company, and knew it like the back of my hand. And because I had trained well over 800 employees there, I could remember details about every employee who walked through the halls. The thought of walking away was painful.
When the new company approached me to be their Head of Talent, I was at first excited for the amazing opportunity to take what I had learned during my time as a trainer and apply it to a new venture. My mind swirled with ideas about how I could enhance their employee experience. I saw possibilities to experiment, collaborate, and execute in ways I had only dreamt of before. The new job would mean getting my hands dirty again and being stretched as a professional. And I’d have to be okay with fully owning my decisions and not always knowing the right answer in this new industry and role.
My enthusiasm soared with the possibilities for change and opportunity, and I was energized to pursue the new job. Plus, I was surrounded by friends and professionals who recognized my abilities and pushed me to be uncomfortable…to leave my “home” and venture out into uncertainty with the belief that I would do something great. I was supported and had positive thoughts and optimism for the future.
But then the Impostor Syndrome showed up and my thoughts changed. Instead of concentrating on what I did know, I started to think about how much I didn’t know. Suddenly, I suffered from a lack of confidence and a stifling fear of uncertainty. As the doubts gained momentum and weight on my mind, I gave in to the Impostor Syndrome and withdrew my name from consideration for the new job.
Fortunately, that gray afternoon on the drive home, I remembered the slogan “Go get the world.” It helped reboot my thinking pattern and I realized that many of the folks I admire didn’t always know what they were doing when they started out, but they went after their dreams anyway. They learned as they went along, leaned on their friends and colleagues, and educated themselves using books and courses. I, myself, didn’t even have any formal certification in adult education, but I had become successful by learning from others and soliciting feedback from my trainees and coworkers. I realized that I already had the tools for success in my professional tool kit. All I had to do was use them! I went back to the new company and said I was still interested in the job.
I’m grateful to report that despite my vacillations about the job after my tangle with the Impostor Syndrome, I was hired. And after a few months being in my new job, I can confidently say that it’s been one of the best experiences of my professional career. Have I made mistakes? Absolutely. But I’ve quickly learned from those mistakes and refrained from making them again. Has it been challenging? Yes. But every night, I go home feeling like I accomplished something new. And that feeling? It is irreplaceable.
I’ve adopted “Go get the world” as a mantra that I repeat to myself over and over again. It’s helped me to see that so often, opportunities are all around. It could be something as small as signing up for a 5K or something as large as changing careers. But opportunity is always there, and all we have to do is walk towards it. It can be difficult, even painful, to take that first step. But once you start moving forward, it’s hard to go back.
Now, go get the world! And feel free to kick the Impostor Syndrome’s butt any chance you can.