Imposter Syndrome and my dream job

So What Is Your Dream Job?

How would I respond if someone asked me, right now, “What’s your dream job?”  Is Professional Sleeper a thing?  How about Certified Martini Tester?  What about Deputized Grammar Policewoman?

Ok, so none of those jobs really exist.  (If they do, hit me up!  I’m here!)  Let’s get closer to reality.  If someone asked me what my dream job is, I would probably have a couple answers.  There’s the dream-dream jobs.  The ones I would probably never get.  The so far out there jobs that only the incredibly lucky and amazingly photogenic people get.  Like travel TV host and snarky writer.  (I’m looking at you, Anthony Bourdain.)  Or celebrated poet and ensconced member of the literati.  Maybe drummer for the Rock Bottom Remainders.  (Josh Kelly can have Katherine Heigl.  Let me have the kit.)

I’m much more realistic than those jobs, though.  As I go through my job search, I’ve found jobs that fit into 3 categories: (1) Jobs I Could Tolerate Doing, (2) Jobs I Would Like To Do, and (3) Dream Jobs.  Until today, I had only applied for the first two categories.  A lot of the jobs were category 1.  I wouldn’t hate doing them.  I could tolerate going to work every day and doing those jobs.  I wasn’t in love with them, but they’d pay the bills and wouldn’t slowly kill me with each passing day.  (I’ve worked those jobs before.  Never again.)

I’ve applied for a few category 2 jobs.  These are jobs I would be excited about going to work for.  Jobs I would that would fulfill me, make my brain work, and set me on a career path I want to be on.  They’re not perfect jobs; rarely does anyone find the perfect job.  But they would be jobs that would, for the most part, be pretty darn good.

Today, I applied for my first category 3 job.  My first dream job.  This is the first job I desperately wanted.  The first job I really fantasized about.  The first job I excitedly told my husband about when he came home.  The first job I really, really wanted to do.  The first job I literally had a dream about after I read about it.  This job would be right up my alley, a perfect fit for my weird mash up of skills.

But what did I do when I found out about this position?  I closed the tab with the job description.  There’s no way I could do this job.  I don’t meet every single skill on their requirements.  I can’t do it.  I walked away from it.  I was scared.  I want it so badly, and I’m afraid of how badly I want it.

So I thought about it.  What is it about this job that I think I can’t do?  What skills don’t I have?  Is this something that can be overcome?  I don’t have experience with a specific program, but I have experience with similar programs.  This can be overcome.  I’ve spent the last few years learning new programs.  And every computer-related job will require learning new programs; it’s kind of expected.

Part of me is also discouraged by my job search so far.  I mean, if I was good, wouldn’t I have landed one of those jobs I already applied for?  Perhaps.  But there are other factors.  Every position I interviewed for ended up going to an internal transfer over an external hire, like me.  For some of the jobs, I know I was a little late to the party.  And there were a few I just didn’t follow up on.  I shouldn’t think I’m not good enough for those reasons.  And even if I wasn’t “good enough” for those jobs, that doesn’t mean I’m not good enough for this one.  I mean, this one is my dream job.

I was still hesitant.  Still afraid.  I’m dealing with some serious Imposter Syndrome.  (I’m a type 5 — The Expert — if you’re taking a look at that article.)  I’m afraid that I’ll get the job and I’ll blow it by not being smart enough to do it right.  I’m afraid that I’ll let them down and never get a chance with that company again.

As I laid in bed last night, desperately trying not to stress about this job, I decided I’m not going to let this Imposter Syndrome hold me back.  I’m going to apply.  Right now, I have nothing to lose.  It’s not like I’m going to have to give up some lucrative day job if they offer me this new job.  And then be out of a job if I screw it up.  (Which I won’t!  Stop thinking that!)  Best case: they offer me the job, I learn the software, and I’m awesome at it.  Worse cases: I don’t get the job or I get the job and I suck at it.  So I learn from it.  I learn from what I sucked at and I either study it more or move in another direction, for a job that doesn’t require me to do it.

This morning, I applied.  My husband didn’t have to be in until nearly noon, so I got up early and fired up the old compy.  I tweaked my resume to include some experience that’s more relevant to this position, carefully sculpted my cover letter and froze again.  I stared at the “Send” button forever.  I can do this.

I submitted it.  I’m still nervous about it.  As I write this, my stomach is in knots so complex, a Boy Scout still couldn’t tie them.  I’m still afraid.  I’m afraid they’ll reject me outright.  I’m afraid I’ll screw up any opportunity they present me.  I’m afraid something else will come up while I wait for them, and in my desperation for a paycheck, I’ll take that job and miss out on the dream job.

But I can’t let that fear stop me.  I will always be the person who worries about everything.  That’s who I am.  That doesn’t mean I can’t be the person who goes for it anyway.  Part of growing is overcoming fears, and this is an important step.  How many applications did I not send in because I didn’t think I was totally qualified?  How many of those jobs could I have done regardless?  Melody Godfred said, “Women are much more hesitant, and look for nearly perfect alignment before going for a job. This divide is echoed by research in Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In.”  I need to stop being so hesitant, stop being so afraid and go for it.

I mean, I can’t get the job if I don’t apply.

So wish me luck.  Say a prayer.  Send good ju-ju.  I appreciate the love.

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