Ex-Googler’s advice on Impostor Syndrome, Burnout and Big Career Decisions

Some time ago, I asked my YouTube followers to send me their questions and concerns about the professional world – fitting in, thriving, advancing in your career. I identified three main areas people are concerned about when it comes to this topic, so let me share my thoughts and advice for you based on my own experience.

1. Impostor Syndrome

(n.) The persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills. (Oxford English Dictionary)

Basically, it’s when you think you don’t fit in: you feel like a fraud in your chosen (but probably well-deserved) position. You may even feel like the people around you are smarter or more talented than you. Raise your hand if you have ever experienced that feeling 🙋

I have felt it all my life. My first memory of this feeling was when I was a child at school in Russia: I would get good grades without really studying for them, and had a persistent feeling that one day I will be found out – that there will be something that will expose me.

Photo by Bench Accounting on Unsplash

This feeling didn’t pass as I grew up, moved, and started working. It surfaced in a particularly intense way when I joined Google. And guess what? Everyone at Google is super smart, but there’s a statistic that around 95% of Googlers feel like impostors! Everybody experiences it. 

And my opinion is, that is a good thing!

If you feel like an impostor, stop trying to run away from that feeling. I think that you start experiencing imposter syndrome when you’re out of your comfort zone – it’s a signal that you are stretching yourself. That is a good thing, and it means that you’re growing.

If you feel like the biggest expert in the room, you’re in the wrong room. You should want to be in a room where you’re not the smartest or the most talented person, otherwise, you’re not really challenging yourself enough.

My advice for you is this: if you feel like an impostor, just change your perspective to seeing it as a good thing. See it as getting out of that comfort zone, as doing things that are developing your skills and knowledge. Don’t run away from it! Everybody has felt it and it’s perfectly normal.

2. Burnout

(n.) physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress. (Google)

Burnout is the feeling where your emotions are dull and numb; you feel overwhelmed, mentally drained. This is caused by overworking yourself, having “too many tabs open”, overloading yourself with the number of tasks. s a result, you can’t concentrate and you don’t feel like you’re achieving anything because you have so many different tasks to get through. It’s a very dangerous state to be in because you’re not enjoying life or your work, and it’s not sustainable.

If you are feeling burnt out, the best course of action is to try to do something about it – first of all, look at the number of tasks you have and decide which ones are not important; prioritize your task list! Here’s a useful technique:

Take your to-do list and mark where each task is on the graph below, taking into account the amount of effort it will require and the impact that it will create.

You want to avoid the tasks that have a low impact, but take a lot of effort – they’re just not worth it! Rank what’s important and get rid of things that aren’t – just make sure to have a clear idea of the impact the tasks will make (so no avoiding paying bills! that will really affect you 😅). 

Try to focus on things that have the most impactful and don’t take that much effort. I call them golden tasks. If you do as many of them as you can, you’ll feel like Mario running through the game and collecting coins!

This method takes care of your future – but let’s take care of your mind, too. Eat healthy food, sleep well, and take time to meditate. Self-care is a priority, too.

There’s a Russian expression that means sorting out the mind: putting things on the right shelves. This expression is what I feel best explains my experience with meditation. It clears your mind, puts things into perspective and makes your priorities very simple and clear. Meditation doesn’t have to be a big spiritual thing: just sitting down, not thinking, and just focusing on your breath, on your heartbeat, will have an amazing impact in your life. Give it a shot!

If you’re experiencing burnout, it’s best to solve the issue as soon as possible. Take care of yourself. It’s very important.

3. Big Career Decisions

You might know that I made a big career decision back in November 2017 when I had my last day at Google and I moved to the US to become the first female Global Entrepreneur In Residence at CU Boulder and run this blog. Leaving that amazing company and diving into a completely different environment was not an easy decision to make. However, for personal reasons and with the opportunities it was opening up for me, it was definitely the right one.

My reasons for moving here to Denver were twofold:

Personal: my boyfriend was there and we were in a long-distance relationship for a very long time.

Professional: I was reaching a plateau in my learning process at the role I had back then. Most importantly, I wanted to do something different. Entrepreneurship has always been very exciting and interesting to me, so I wanted to get into the entrepreneur mindset myself and work with other entrepreneurs.

When making big decisions it is very important to look at all of your options and plan out the scenarios about what will happen if you choose each of them. Think it through thoroughly, but make sure to be very honest with yourself about what makes you happy – personal and career aspects are both equally important for an ambitious person who wants to be happy.

For example, option A may be a great career opportunity, but it’s not going to make you personally happy. At the same time, option B might be something you’ve never done before and you’re not going to be as well compensated, but you know your personal life will thrive (for example, moving to a different city and loving the city itself, or loving its access to the outdoors, or finally having time for your hobby).

Part of success is trying to pursue opportunities that will give you different skills – you’re not a train on train tracks and you don’t have to always go straight. Humans can move through life and careers diagonally, they can acquire skills and experiences from everywhere – that’s what makes each of us unique. Always think about what interests you, what skills you would like to develop and focus on, what industry you’d like to get into. No skill is useless!

I would love to hear your opinions on these three crucial factors in developing your career, or if you’ve ever experienced any of them. Everyone has a different experience and the way they go through life. Share it! Feel free to comment below! ✨

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