These last few months have been a whirlwind of new opportunities. Hasn't left much time for blogging. Stay tuned...
When I attended Brown University there were much more people of my skin color working as janitors and cafeteria staff than students. After moving to San Francisco it was even worse. Now the majority of black and brown people I saw were homeless. These situations forced me to ask myself the same question over and over again. Do I belong here? It took me longer than I’m proud to admit, but I finally came to the conclusion that not only do I absolutely belong, but me staying here has never been more important. There is actually a name for what I was feeling. Its called imposter syndrome and a significant amount of people of all backgrounds reportedly experience it as well.
You may be experiencing imposter syndrome if you are a high achieving individual who regularly second guesses their experience and accomplishments and constantly fear people will uncover you as a fraud. So... the exact opposite of whatever Donald Trump has.
When I was first started my professional career I noticed a pattern in the hiring practices at the company I worked for. Whatever race the hiring manager was made up the majority of his or her staff. The QA manager was from India and almost all his employees where Indian. The engineering lead was Chinese and the majority of his employees where East Asian. Another department had a white male lead and all his employees where young blond girls… I never found out how obvious this looked to everyone else, but it seemed to me that I was an exception to this rule. Instead of seeing it as an achievement I always felt like maybe someone had made a mistake. Was it my white sounding name? Did people just not realize I was black? Was it some kind of affirmative action thing? I don’t know. It wasn’t until much later in my career that I found out about imposter syndrome and it put a name to my fears and help me combat them.
I discovered a great way to combat my imposter anxiety is to review my resume or Linkedin profile. It is a great reminder of all I have achieved and it stands in the face of any doubts I had about what I am capable of. Also remember, no one is perfect! We tend to think the smartest people have all the answers, but in reality they don’t. No one does! The key is knowing your boundaries and being ok with saying “I don’t know.”
It is important for us to talk about imposter syndrome especially in black and brown communities because I believe it is why so many black and brown engineers study computer science and engineering but do not pursue careers in those fields. We are fighting a not only an outward battle with people around us for a right to be here, but also an internal battle with ourselves. This is caused by years of exposure to traditional stereotypes of gangsters, homeless people and welfare divas.
We deserve to be here! We deserved a spot at the table and don’t let your fears tell you any different.
By Michael V. Stanton, Ph.D. & Paul J. Stanton, M. Ed.
As a Millennial I grew up focusing on one career choice or two since high school. In college, that narrowed down to one field, Psychology – if I didn’t make it big in the music industry after being the lead singer of a college funk band. Now nearly fifteen years and three degrees later, I haven’t strayed far from the path I selected in college, but I now perceive the path to be much wider than I had thought. This fall, I will be working in corporate consulting and teaching mindfulness in a Health Sciences department.
It is critical for our generation to expand the perception of career options that match our skills and interests. In future job climates, we will not merely change careers at major crossroads in our lives, but we will be required to constantly develop new interests and skills in order to remain both viable and engaged in our careers. My father, a Boomer in his sixties, talks about the pressure he had to select one career to span his working life. He selected education and has spent nearly forty five years in various teaching and administrative positions in education.
But, our generation will need to be more flexible over the course of our professional lives. The skills I attained in my first few years after college are of little use to me (or anyone else, for that matter) any more. The life cycles of technology are becoming shorter and shorter. Think of the career span of TV vs. VCR vs. DVR repair. The more specific our skill set, the faster the trip back to the unemployment line.
But this article is not about despair; it is about hope. Career development needs to be a lifelong commitment that involves aspects of planning, education, and training. And, it all starts with a perspective of the need to work on our careers, even when we are well-trained, well-suited, and well-compensated for our current positions. So many of us started out in career-exploration mode, by performing internships that paid little or nothing but that helped refine our areas of interest. I worked one summer for a Fortune 500 company that went out of business less than ten years later. But the experience was positive in that it forced me to think about how I would choose to utilize my skills and in what environment I could I do that and still be engaged.
Our society needs to create more educational opportunities between degree programs on one end of the spectrum and vocational training programs on the other. And those opportunities need to be available to a broad spectrum of our society without screening people out on the basis of socioeconomic level or previous education. And, our generation needs to keep stretching our skill platform in order to contribute to the workforce for the remainder of our working days. If the social security forecasters are correct, those days will stretch for five or six decades.
Michael V. Stanton, Ph.D., is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Professor, and Co-Founder of CodeWalker Institute in San Francisco.
Paul J. Stanton, M. Ed., is a career educator and administrator with more than twenty years of experience each in both secondary and higher education. He currently serves Tufts University as Dean of Student Services.