You know your stuff. Get recognized for it! But, wait. What’s that thud? Oh, your internal dialogue shutting the door on your dreams.
I’ll let you in a little secret. Our internal voices can be jerks.
Those voices may tell you that someone else knows more than you do and could speak about (insert your subject matter here) at a broader or deeper level than you. And, they might be right. But, why let that stop you from sharing what you know? Just because someone else is an authority on something, it doesn’t mean you are not knowledgeable.
But that inner voice whispers repeatedly that you don’t belong at a podium; that, if you find yourself in front of an audience or promoted to a higher level of responsibilty, ‘they’ will soon discover that you don’t know as much as they think you do.
If this sounds familiar, you might be suffering from what psychologists refer to as ‘imposter syndrome.’ Don’t worry, this isn’t a psychiatric disorder that requires medication to level out, although it can create self-doubt, a bit of unhappiness, and even anxiety for some. Imposter syndrome is particularly common among women who receive recognition or career advancement or find themselves in the spotlight. Imposter syndrome may cause us to believe that we shouldn’t reach higher. Because of that, we may internalize our expertise and remain mute about our accomplishments, letting other people rock the mic instead.
You may think that every person with a podium or an audience is an expert – think about that for a moment. People with a platform are often viewed as subject matter experts – sometimes for no other reason than that - they have a platform.
So how do you really get recognized as a subject matter expert?
Build your street cred. What does that look like in your industry? Do you already have the education and the proven track record required to be viewed as an expert? Have you amassed a portfolio of work product that illustrates your capabilities? Do others talk about you as a reliable source of information for your subject matter? Have you obtained and maintained a certain designation? Knowing where your opportunities and blind spots are is crucial in establishing and building your credibility.
Find your audience. Start small (and inexpensively). Organize a 'lunch and learn' or use your smart phone to create a video. Share your subject matter to help people solve a problem. Are you a payroll professional? Hold an information session for your colleagues on how to read your paycheque and offer to stick around after the Q&A for private 1:1s. Are you a professional organizer? Record a video of you in action and share it on Twitter. Are you a graphic designer? Write a LinkedIn article or blog post for the do-it-yourselfers on how to choose brand colours.
Quiet the imposter. People like Sheryl Sandberg, Maya Angelou, Kate Winslet, and many other accomplished people have all been struck with imposter syndrome. You know what is amazing about that? It didn’t stop them from being high achievers and it doesn’t mean people expect them to never make a mistake. Just because you are proficient doesn’t mean people presume you to be perfect and know everything. When you know something, celebrate it, share it. When you don’t, give yourself permission to be okay with that. The people around you often don’t know if you are suffering from imposter syndrome. It’s your internal dialogue. And it can hold you back. If I'd listened to mine, I never would have started this blog.
You've worked hard to get where you are in your career, and you will work hard to get to your next level. Advancing in your field does not happen by chance – it happens as a result of effort. And effort means doing the work.
Focusing on your goals and where you want to go, surrounding yourself with people who are supportive, and being an inspiration to others will keep you moving forward in getting recognized as a subject matter expert by more people.
Find ways to share your knowledge, strengthen the credentials that back up your expertise, and prohibit that harmful imposter voice.
Your future self will thank you.
- Tisha Parker Kemp
Original photo of subject matter expert from FotografieLink on Pixabay: modified by Yours Truly.
O’Brien, J. (2017). “Imposter Syndrome” can have harmful impacts on C-suite execs. CIO (13284045).