• Nicole Papaioannou, PhD

Imposter Syndrome Hurts More than You

Confession: When I first transitioned into a formal Instructional Design career, I let other people steamroll my ideas. I thought I was inexperienced, and I believed them when they told me they knew better, even if they weren't IDs. I oscillated between feeling proud I got the job and complete Imposter Syndrome.



My first major project was something handed to me with a broad curriculum outline completed by the client under the guidance of our President and Director (no one from an ID or L&D background). I had to create objectives for the smaller modules then create the assessments and content that went with it. The curriculum was a direct copy of something outlined by a regulatory agency. I didn't think it was the best way to design the course, but the client kept saying "this is how we need to do it," so I went along with it.


The end product was ok. Certain things were confusing. Implementation was poor on the client side. The initial launch was kind of a mess. With some updates, it got better. They still use it effectively. But I don't think it was as great as it could have been.


And that's on me.


While I had room to grow, I definitely had the expertise I needed to do the job well. I should have spoken up. I should have asked better questions to challenge their preconceived notions. I should have done some sketching and presented my alternate idea. I should have insisted we not move forward until we heard more from the learners. The client would have seen the results.


Recently, I started working on a very similar project with a new client. We started with similar conversations, and I pushed back, this time feeling confident in my ability to ask certain questions and point out certain design flaws. The client agreed, and we're both excited to see how the prototype turns out.


So next time, you feel self-doubt, remember, Imposter Syndrome doesn't just mean missed opportunities for you. It means your clients lose out too.


Imposter Syndrome doesn't just mean missed opportunities for you. It means your clients lose out too.


You were hired for a reason. If you have questions, ask them. If you need to look something up, do it. If you need to collaborate with someone with different expertise, work with them. But if you know something just doesn't work, don't let it slide. Push back-- especially if the only reason is "we've always done it this way," or "trust me, I've been here longer than you."

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