As a product manager I have always had that feeling hanging over my head with questions such as
The feeling of inadequacy when you get such questions in your mind is called “Imposter Syndrome” (I learned about this “term” only after I got this feeling and searched about this topic online :D)
Product managers are more susceptible to imposter syndrome due to the nature of our jobs. Imagine joining a new organization where you have limited context of the domain and it would probably take months if not years to become a domain expert. Now suddenly after a month of onboarding, you are assigned a product area where you need to solve a problem with a “limited” context?
This is where you get all sorts of “doubts” about yourself and you constantly question your skillsets. Plus there is a lot of ambiguity and unknowns in our job and it’s not like solving a mathematics problem where we have a right and a wrong answer.
I am sure most product managers can relate to what I just said BUT it is not as bad as it sounds
If you are new to product management then don’t worry this is something that a product manager at any level can face so you are definitely NOT alone!
Now coming to the most important part.
How to overcome imposter syndrome?
I am sure you can find a lot of content about this topic online but let me share what worked for me and a few other product managers who faced it.
Let us take a situation. You have joined a new organization where you are surrounded by people with tons of experience and you suddenly start getting all the questions doubting your own capability.
First, just relax! Take some time to settle down and start TALKING to people! The biggest mistake that people do is that they sulking about NOT knowing everything and also not talking about it with anyone. Just go out there and connect with people! Start communicating with your counterparts and there is no shame in asking questions! Infact be smart about it and instead of struggling yourself getting answers just go and talk!
2. USE DATA TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
You might not have enough domain understanding in the beginning and you might have to make decisions with limited information but there is one important tool for you as a product manager and that is DATA. Use it to make decisions, this will not only get your work done but also impress your counterparts.
3. HUMILITY GOES A LONG WAY!
Believe it or not but accepting that you do not know something is not a sign of weakness. All your counterparts know that you may not have enough context, infact they wont like it if you pretend to be “Mr Know it all”. It is okay to show vulnerability and seek help.
4. BE PATIENT!
This is one of the most important thing to keep in mind.
Imposter syndrome is NOT a permanent feeling!
It is usually the first few days when you doubt yourself the most but it will pass on eventually! Be patient and believe in yourself. Slowing but eventually, you will reach that point where you start feeling confident about a lot of things. There will always be a “learning curve” for anything new that you try or get into.
Always remember that you are not alone. EVERYONE faces this problem. All you need to do is believe in yourself and never lose hope. Imposter syndrome can be really bad for your career but if you follow the above steps and start to force your mind to stay confident then I am sure you will be able to handle any challenges that come your way.