How to Beat Imposter Syndrome
and Find Your Career as a Graduate

See also: Managing Your Internal Dialogue

In a highly competitive job market, with some of the most diverse variations of recruitment processes ever seen, a one-size-fits-all formula to get your dream job simply will not work these days. New ways of hiring require more experimentation on your side as a new graduate, as well as more hiccups and failures in your journey of finding a suitable career. To make matters worse, without years of experience, it is inevitable you will feel you are not good enough for any job at times.

So how do you stay afloat and beat imposter syndrome during the job search process, and really show employers how much of an asset you are?

From the traditional method of submitting your CV and cover letter, to the trend of building a digital profile and recording a video about yourself, with the rise of technologies like AI, AR and VR, it is hard to predict the next creative idea companies will use to seek out talent. Some of the most common assessments seen in formalised internships, industrial placements and graduate schemes include online written applications, aptitude tests, pre-recorded video interviews and finally assessment centres.

However, platforms such as have gone above and beyond these methods to adapt to the behaviours and preferences of Generation Z, a new group in the workforce. They’ve incorporated more personalised digital profiles, AI technology to match candidates to appropriate job functions, and game technology to test skills and attributes, and their innovative nature means they usually partner with start-ups.

Being the first generation to play around with these partially tried-and-tested ‘experimentations’, besides the already very challenging ones from more established employers, here is a mini guide to help you, as a final year student or graduate, ‘fail’ efficiently, learn quickly and walk confidently through all these pre-employment hurdles into, finally, a fulfilling job.

Reflect - Original artwork by Nikki Pham

Reflect - Illustration by Nikki Pham

Step 1 - Give yourself time to reflect

As clichéd as this might sound, self-awareness is essential to progress, be it in your personal or professional development.

Take verified personality tests, record your achievements and passions in a journal or watch some TEDTalks, whichever way you find most effective in analysing your strengths and weaknesses, as well as your thinking patterns and behavioural preferences.

An interesting method to gain some quick perspectives of who you are career wise and to craft an elevator pitch of yourself, used by Career Cake, a career coaching content channel; is to find three words that describe how you want to be seen by others (not how you think you were/are seen by others). These should be the core values, the pillars to why you do everything you do; from choosing your degree, taking up a certain part-time job or participating in a co-curricular activity alongside your study. Employers will be very sure about you if you are solidly sure about yourself!

Step 2 - Do your homework

Now that you have gotten to know yourself a bit better, it is time to find the type of business and job function you aspire to work in.

Are you ambitious, decisive and have a way with people, or are you more of a behind-the-scene hero? Using this self-understanding to connect the dots with the different job descriptions is a good start to finding where you will thrive.

Once you have had about two to three job titles in mind, Google these and see which businesses are offering these roles. There will be, of course, thousands, if not millions, of results so, to filter them out, do your research into the various company cultures to see where you might find your second family. Some work better with a bit of a healthy competition among the team, whereas some enjoy a sense of belonging and collaborative power. The responsibilities of your role can be slightly different from initial expectations, but without the right environments and people, a long-term future will not be probable.

Step 3 - Practice assessment methods and polish your profile

By this point, you will have shortlisted a good number of job openings from companies you can see yourself potentially contributing to in the long run.

It should be an easy task to figure out how the recruitment process works and what the hiring team is looking for in a candidate via their official career page or on sites like LinkedIn and Glassdoor. Update your CV accordingly, customise your cover letter, if these are what your employers require, or start using platforms like Practice Aptitude Tests and Law Tests to familiarise yourself with the ‘unknown’.

Just like any other skills, the more time and effort spent on practising, the quicker and sharper you will get, be it in online assessments or in understanding job descriptions and writing cover letters that actually match. This exercise itself is already a confidence-boosting one.

Step 4 - Be brave and ask for help

Eventually, you submit your first official job application. You might get it right away at the first try, but most people will face multiple rejections in all shapes and sizes, embedded within automated emails saying ‘we cannot provide any feedback at this time’.

Sometimes, it is less painful if an employer clearly explains what might have gone wrong or could be done better, as this offers a sense of direction moving forwards, but the lack of closure often slows applicants down. This vagueness opens up, not room for improvement, but doors into the space of over-thinking, second-guessing and self-criticising, which tends to twist your view of the value of your degree and more importantly, of yourself, as a graduate in unrealistic and, at times, unhealthy ways.

Being in your own head will not get you a job in the real world, be brave and reach out to others for career coaching, from university career advisors and other professional contacts, to even just friends and family, for advice and, perhaps, fresh perspectives.

Step 5 - Remind yourself it is a two-way street

Finally, there is an extremely important internal dialogue that all young job seekers need to know by heart, as mentioned by many TED Talks influential speakers: recruitment is a two-way street.

Quite often, the nature of most recruitment processes gives off an impression that crowds of students and graduates have to almost ‘beg’ for acceptance.

However, job searching is no different to dating: it is not about you trying to be someone else to please others (we all know how that turns out in sitcom shows), it is about finding longevity by choosing the right fit, while remaining your best self. Businesses need you to grow and sustain, as much as you need them for that regular paycheck and one of the many reasons to live.

So do not get discouraged if the struggle seems to be endless, keep stepping out of your own bubble, learning new skills and maintaining your mindset in top-notch condition, and the right career path will find its way to you.

The Skills You Need Guide to Personal Development

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Personal Development

Learn how to set yourself effective personal goals and find the motivation you need to achieve them. This is the essence of personal development, a set of skills designed to help you reach your full potential, at work, in study and in your personal life.

The second edition of or bestselling eBook is ideal for anyone who wants to improve their skills and learning potential, and it is full of easy-to-follow, practical information.

About the Author

Nikki Pham is currently studying an MA in Creative Enterprise in Cardiff. She works as a copywriter, particularly in the space of higher education, early career and business. She is also developing her own creative startup using her skills in social media, communication, illustration and design.