Impostor syndrome is a condition where people feel like they are not qualified to do their job, despite having the skill set and experience. For product managers, imposter syndrome is a widespread problem. It comes and goes at different points during a person's career, but when it comes, it can be debilitating, causing competent people to doubt their abilities and question decisions.
Our product recruitment teams frequently chat with product managers about new job opportunities and hiring and have noticed that impostor syndrome appears to hold significant weight when it comes to career choices and decisions, especially compared to our other tech areas.
Why, though, does it seem more prevalent in product management than in the other tech roles we recruit for? We think the most likely reason is there is no clear-cut entry into product management and no exact science of what makes a great product manager. What works for one company and product might not work for another, making it much harder to quantify what makes a product manager great vs another. Building inner confidence, significantly when changing jobs, can be tricky, increasing the likelihood of impostor syndrome.
The problem is that despite how common impostor syndrome is across product managers, it remains just as damaging for careers. As the person responsible for managing a product, you constantly make decisions that will impact the product's success. If imposter syndrome creeps in and you doubt your abilities, it will lead to second-guessing yourself, avoiding risks leading to poor decisions and slowing innovation.
This article will share tips from our product management community that we gathered over the last 6 months on managing impostor syndrome! From Product Managers to Product Managers.
Tips for building confidence and dealing with insecurity in your role as a product manager
1. Understand this isn't exclusive to you.
If you have a hunt on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit, you will find there are hundreds of comments and threads on product management impostor syndrome. Understanding you are not the only person to feel like this will help you accept the feelings and prevent them from consuming you.
2. Remember why you are where you are now.
The company you work for chose you for this role over others. Whether it's because you have solid soft skills, knowledge of a particular product, or specific experience, whatever the reason, you shone through. Someone believes in your ability to do the job, so believe in yourself!
3 Ask for help when you need it.
No one expects you to know everything, and hiding insecurities or the things we don't know is an unhealthy practice in the workplace. Constantly pretending you know everything will make you feel like a genuine impostor, so reach out to your team or mentors when you need guidance.
4. Focus on your success stories.
Every product manager has had successes and failures, but it's more helpful to focus on when you've made a positive impact. Concentrating on your accomplishments will build the confidence you need to thrive in your role.
5. Learn to deal with failure constructively.
Failure is inevitable in any endeavour, but it is prevalent in the fast-paced world of product management. It is essential to learn from your mistakes and use them as an opportunity to grow and improve as a product manager and not let negative impostor thoughts proliferate.
6. Find external support.
Support and guidance can get most people through all sorts of adverse situations. As a product manager having people to talk to who understand what you're going through can make a big difference. A great way to do this is to find a Product Community or mentor. They can offer advice and encouragement during the more challenging moments. You may be surprised at how much of a difference it makes.
7. Set small achievable goals
Confidence comes from within. It is not something that can be given to you by others. It will help if you believe in yourself and your ability to project confidence successfully. Setting small SMART goals and achieving them will build self-confidence from the ground up and show that you can successfully manage a product.
As a product manager, you are responsible for shepherding products through the development process and ensuring that they meet your customers' needs. It is a demanding job that requires confident decision-making and a willingness to take risks. However, many product managers struggle with insecurity and self-doubt and often don't open up about these negative feelings. Working like this can be highly damaging to people's careers and mental health without addressing the issues at hand.
The next time impostor syndrome creeps in and you question your decisions or doubt your abilities, open up about them and use the tips we've provided to get yourself back on the right track.
Consortia are a specialist tech recruitment company with product management as an integral specialist area. Our product management recruitment teams strive to provide a smooth, high-quality service to our international clients and all product manager candidates.
Contact us if you need help with your product management job options or career advice.
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