Do you really know what you're doing?
No one actually knows what they are doing.
In my time working with startups, founders and their incredible teams, I've lost track of how many times I've heard people say they feel like frauds and they actually don’t know what they're doing. I’ve been told countless times “I think I've got imposter syndrome”.
The simple truth is that you’re right, you actually don’t know what you’re doing.
But don’t stress, nor does anyone else. We are all making it up and you are not an imposter. You are you, trying to figure it out. Every single person who works in a startup is making it up, even if you’re qualified in your role, no one has ever done this before in this company.
The key to not feeling like an imposter is to own how you feel, validate yourself and own your insecurities out loud, but also know you are not your thoughts.
The successful people in startups, the guns, are the people that come in and find themselves and thrive, they are both inspiring and intimidating. What they do is show up, be themselves, thrive in the freedom of solving problems and creating something that’s never been done before. They thrive off possibility and their unlimited potential for impact, they feel needed and know they offer great value.
Others sadly get lost, the “making it up part” can erode confidence. People feel stifled, too scared to share their ideas, fear failure, get consumed by self doubt and experience anxiety.
I recommend to clients to firstly, ‘fess up, stop trying to pretend you’re confident when you feel overwhelmed and scared of getting it wrong or being judged. You’re going to need to give yourself a break and remember you’re human.
You need to change your mindset and adapt to this fast-paced environment if you want to survive and thrive. Stop seeking praise and recognition from others, just do good work, then you’ll get all of the praise and recognition you dream of.
Don’t compare yourself to anyone, it will only strip you of your self-esteem. Just focus on the work, go inside yourself and work in a way that feels right for you and let the feedback guide and grow you. You’re going to need to build some resilience, get comfortable making mistakes and failing, be able to keep going until you deliver, it’s really that simple.
You’re going to need to learn how to resourcefully problem solve, to adapt, to pivot and let go. You’ll need to fight for what you believe in and let go when you’re out-voted. Experience is really the teacher in a startup, be open, learn and grow your mindset to keep up.
You’ll learn and grow quickly but to thrive in this environment you need to constantly evolve how you do everything which is why it’s such exciting and fulfilling work. The personal and career growth is incredible.
Make sure you really understand your why, your company vision and goals and keep it front of mind so you don’t get lost in the details. You’ll need to bring at least 20% more than you’re asked, to deliver what’s needed. Now that doesn’t mean lose yourself to the work, it just means show up and keep showing up until you get it done. That’s how you succeed in this environment, being fully engaged, immersed and excited about your work.
You’ll need courage to work in this type of environment, you’ll need to fearlessly back yourself, be able to work well autonomously and often without praise or structure.
Startups aren’t for everyone they seem to have a really polarising effect on people. Some people thrive in the unknown, uncertainty and forging, others just don’t. So just make sure it’s for you and be prepared to work on your mindset as much as the work.