Imposter Syndrome in Analytics

Imposter Syndrome in Analytics

Imposter Syndrome in analytics is real.

It can catch you off guard when you’ve been in the job for years and sometimes it catches you before you can even get started.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

If you haven’t heard of it before, imposter syndrome - or fraud syndrome - is when you doubt your skills, talents or accomplishments.

There’s usually a fatalistic outlook that comes with it -

a fear that you’re going to be exposed as a “fraud”, you won’t be able to find another job in the future, you’re not sure you can actually do the work. 

Your perception doesn’t line up with reality.

Imposter Syndrome When You Have Experience

It’s a lot simpler to talk about imposter syndrome in analytics for people that have clearly demonstrated their skills - they’ve been hired, promoted, received good performance reviews, etc.  

You can more easily look at the facts. There are specific experiences that point to you being qualified.

Imposter Syndrome For New Analysts

What about when you haven’t found that first job though?

You’ve been building your skills, thinking about a change, but you’re not sure if your skills are up to par.

Will anyone actually want to hire you? 

One reason I think there’s a prevalence of imposter syndrome in analytics is that the field is vast.

As much as I talk about data analytics, business analytics, data science...none of these are just 1 single job with the exact same tools and knowledge required. That makes it really easy to focus on all of the things you DON’T know instead of what you do know.

There are hundreds of tools and skills you could learn and no one person is likely to ever master them all.

How Do I Deal with Imposter Syndrome?

Even I sometimes have these doubts creep in and I have 15 years doing the work with regular promotions, my own consulting company, knowing 3 languages and multiple additional tools, and a degree in math.

Objectively, I’m well qualified and excel at what I do.

But if I focus on the gaps - the languages I DON”T know, the tools I DON’T know, etc., then it’s easy to get hung up on what I’m not good at.

Some amount of this is healthy. It keeps me focused on continually learning new skills, expanding my knowledge. But too much of it isn’t helpful.

There’s a good chance you don’t have the same background I do though. Maybe you’re in your first role and doubting yourself or maybe you haven’t landed your first analytics job yet.

Is It Imposter Syndrome?

How do you know if you’re dealing with Imposter Syndrome or you really are lacking skills you need? 

Here are 2 great questions to ask yourself to sort this out. These come from an article by Daniel Chae about getting your first job in tech.

  1. Have you solved problems outside of your learning context?
  2. Can you communicate what you’re learning in the simplest of terms?
Results don’t lie. 

You’re on the right path if you’re producing results outside of a tutorial and you feel comfortable talking through your subject matter.

These are great questions because they ground your skills in reality outside of a training context. 

Question Your Skills

If you’ve never used analytics outside of a class or training, then you SHOULD question whether you’re ready for that first role.

I’ve more often seen/interviewed people who have training and no practical application that are overconfident in their skills.

You’re probably not in that category if you’re reading this though because you would already be overly confident you’re qualified / overqualified for any role out there.

Confidence is great to have, but it needs substance to back it up.