Imposter syndrome. It’s the feeling or belief that you have to be 100% qualified in every area, before taking on a new assignment or role. And, when you do take on that challenging role or assignment, suffering from imposter syndrome leaves you believing that you didn’t deserve the role – or unable to take due credit for your successes.
Imposter syndrome may not be an actual, medical diagnosis – but Cynthia J. Pigg, Vice President of Managed Care and Business Development for Cardinal Health, says that it’s a pervasive issue that stunts career growth for professionals in many industries. She says that in her 25 years of experience working in healthcare, she’s seen imposter syndrome hold many women, in particular, back from pursuing stretch assignments, promotions and other professional growth opportunities that are rightly theirs for the taking.
If you suffer from imposter syndrome, Pigg prescribes the following anecdotes:
- Don’t wait for perfection: Raise your hand! (Now!)
Pigg says that the good news is that imposter syndrome does have a cure – and it starts with raising your hand, even when you don’t feel comfortable.
“When it comes to pursuing growth opportunities, special assignments or promotions, we often feel that our performance should stand on its own – and we wait for bosses or others to proactively offer those opportunities,” says Pigg. “We can also be hesitant when it comes to actively pursue those stretch assignments or roles because we feel we have to check every single box when it comes to experience and qualifications. But the reality is that no one needs to be perfectly qualified to take on a new role or assignment – and we need to raise our hands – wildly! – to make it clear there’s a professional development opportunity we want to pursue.”
- Understand that ‘raising your hand’ means speaking up to save your profession
An increasing number of fields in healthcare are becoming female-dominated – particularly when it comes to the percentage of women earning healthcare-related degrees. In pharmacy, for example, 61.9% of those earning professional pharmacy degrees are women. Pigg says that simple math indicates that if 60% of the talent in any field isn’t ‘raising their hands’ to actively pursue leadership roles – the profession (and patients) lose out.
“Some career tracks, like community pharmacy ownership, simply won’t survive if more women don’t raise their hands and take a leap of faith to pursue their passions,” said Pigg. “In our work with the Cardinal Health Women in Pharmacy initiative, we encounter many female pharmacists who crave the independence and opportunity to directly impact patient care that community pharmacy can offer. But they all too often allow perceived gaps in their experience – like lack of familiarity with the financial aspects of business ownership – hold them back.”
- Fill in the gaps
Whether it’s taking the leap to open a community pharmacy, or pursuing a promotion within a hospital pharmacy department or integrated health system, chances are that no one filling any professional role will ‘check every box’ when it comes to having all of the experience necessary to do the job.
Pigg says the anecdote is simply to fill those gaps in knowledge or experience by tapping the expertise of others. It might be hiring a person to join your team, who has the specialized experience you’re lacking. It might be actively seeking out a mentor to help you bolster knowledge or experience in a specific area. Or taking a college-level course to fill in the gaps. The moral, according to Pigg, is to never let gaps in experience hold you back from pursuing your personal or professional goals.
“Figure out what you’re great at – what fuels you – what kind of work you most enjoy. Then strategically raise your hand for roles, experiences, and assignments that help you fuel that passion,” said Pigg. “Know that absolutely everyone has gaps in experience – and no one can truly know it all. Figure out what your gaps are, and ‘get the right people on your bus,’ to complement your strengths.”
- Don’t be afraid of failure – or rejection
Finally, Pigg cautions not to be afraid of failure, or rejection. When it comes to pursuing stretch assignments or expanded roles – having a growth mindset is key.
“Having a defeatist mentality almost always hinders growth,” says Pigg. “Don’t expect perfection, and expect that you won’t succeed 100% percent of the time. Know that with every mistake or misstep, you’ll have learned something – and that, in and of itself, is a success.”