Getting Over Imposter Syndrome When Building Your Public Profile

How not to get wrapped around the axle before you even start.

A lot of people have furthered their career by “putting themselves out there”—creating blogs, newsletters, participating on Twitter, doing podcasts, etc. It’s a way that many have created connections for themselves and shown off their insights.

A lot of these people aren’t the most experienced or knowledgeable people in their field. In fact, most of them aren’t.

Social media and online content contributions tend to come from younger professionals—leaving the people with the most to share missing from the conversation.

What’s fascinating is how much fear some of those folks have about putting themselves “out there”. What I hear most often is the following:

  1. What if I say something controversial and get “cancelled”?

  2. Who’s going to want to hear from me? I’m not successful/interesting/etc enough.

  3. What would I even say?

On getting cancelled…

It's unlikely that you're ever going to put out commentary that's far out of your lane. You'll probably be talking about debt restructuring, product management, packaging design or some other innocuous topic that isn't likely to spark serious controversy.

The small number of people who have actually stirred up public controversy usually did so by posting or doing something highly offensive—and they’re normally pretty visible to begin with.

They tend to fall into two categories and you're not either one of these:
—Celebrities that are willfully ignorant about cultural issues.
—People treating others inhumanely.

if you want to opine on something you feel strongly about, you should feel free to, but with help. Have others review your content if you're concerned about it— especially those who might have better insight into sensitive issues.

If you work with people who feel very differently than you do about things you really care about—and are intolerant of your beliefs—perhaps projecting your values in such a way that charts a path to working with people you're more aligned with isn't such a terrible idea.

Talking about difficult topics in a way that is respectful and creates conversation versus division is a necessary skill these days—one that everyone should practice.

Who am I to post anything?

Whatever you’ve done in your career, just imagine asking yourself this same question and being a student fresh out of college, or someone who didn’t go to college, or just someone who hasn’t even had your experience, no matter how little experience you have?

And even if you’re totally starting from scratch, what you do have is the willingness to ask questions of others.

Imagine the internet as a cocktail party. No one wants to talk to the person who just goes up to you and says, “Let me tell you all about how to be successful like me.”

That’s obnoxious. You would never post something that way.

Engaging people ask good questions and they do it in such a way to engage discussion.

It’s much more of, “You know, there was someone I always looked up to in my career, and I thought they had everything, but they told me the accomplishment they were most proud of was how they handled when their first company went out of business. That made me rethink what success means to me.”

You see how that went from something self-centered to something that probably says more about you as a person, but also opens the door for much better engagement with others?

What would I even say?

That’s a “figureoutable” thing—and it can happen over time. You don’t need to figure it all out on day one, or day two, or day three, but there are some easy ways to get out of your own way on this.

First, stop thinking about it as you having the sole responsibility for coming up with all the answers and all the content as a guess for what people would care about.

Literally, you can just ask them. You can go out and post on LinkedIn or ask 20 people you know directly, “Hey, I’ve done X, Y, and Z in my career and generally know about A, B and C… If I were to write/podcast/record a video about something, what would you find helpful for me to talk about, or what question would you want me to answer for you?”

There’s zero chance that your peers, friends, and professional acquaintences won’t come up with lots of suggestions—some of which you mind find more interesting than others.

More importantly, what and who do you find interesting?

Whose business or story in your network do you find to be the most compelling? Do you have mentors? What can you ask them about in public?

Don’t make it about you right off the bat—make it about who you find interesting as a proxy for what you’re all about.

This is one of those things you can get all up in your own head about, when in reality, the people you know will have lots of ideas for you on what topics they would take you seriously on or where they feel you have expertise.

Or, just make it about something you literally know nothing about, and make your profile all about your journey to learn.

It’s impossible to have imposter syndrome when the whole premise is that you’re not an expert at something, but you’re just learning.

Anyone can do that.