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Imposter Syndrome: The Silent Epidemic of Embracing Change


By Kim Stoute-Purvis – 18th June 2024

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Our legendary CMO Kim Stoute-Purvis (Captain of our Brand Team ship) walks us through her 20 year career in the field. With battle scars and lucky breaks to boot, she gives us her top ten tips on how to shake off the dreaded imposter syndrome.

Turns out that around almost 80% of us experience imposter syndrome at some point in our lives. This widespread phenomenon affects us regardless of our age or career stage​. So, safe to say that it's pretty common and you’re definitely not alone in feeling this way.

I recently had an eye-opening chat about my career journey that made me reflect on all the ups and downs over the past 20 years: the battle scars I've picked up, the lucky breaks I’ve had, and the people I've met along the way. I hope sharing these reflections, stories, and lessons will be of some use whilst you figure out your own career paths. You know, it's okay to feel unsure sometimes. We’re all in this together!

Embracing Change and Conquering Imposter Syndrome: Top 10 Tips

Imposter syndrome often strikes hardest in the midst of change. But embracing change and overcoming imposter syndrome are intertwined; the journey to mastering one often involves tackling the other. Based on my own experiences and challenges, here are my top 10 tips (laced with my personal screw-ups) to help you navigate your own journey.

1. Embrace Your Individuality

I’m originally from Manchester. I can be pretty straight-talking (“blunt”, some have said), and sometimes the whole North/South divide thing has caused drama. Before I landed my dream job in marketing, I worked in recruitment in Bristol. Trust me, HR wasn’t my biggest fan—they’re a bit more, let’s say, delicate. But I didn’t let that bother me. I embraced it, stayed true to myself, and used my slightly dodgy Northern humour to win them over.

Your uniqueness is your superpower. In a world where everyone is trying to fit in, standing out can feel daunting. But it's your individuality that will set you apart and propel you forward. Embrace it, especially during times of change when it’s easy to doubt your own identity.

2. Foster Self-Belief and Confidence

I cut my marketing teeth at Motorola, working on the team that launched the original RAZR—a category-defining mobile. It was my first job, and honestly, I didn't know much. Did I nail it every time? Nope. Did everyone listen to me? Definitely not. But my power was that I knew the audience because they were like me. Over time, my confidence grew as I saw the impact I was making on internal discussions, the numbers, and the respect I earned from my colleagues.

Believing in yourself is half the battle. Self-doubt is a natural part of the journey, especially when faced with new challenges. Overcoming imposter syndrome requires cultivating a strong sense of self-belief and confidence. Trust in your abilities and the value you bring to the table.

3. Pursue Your Passions

Why did I want to work at Motorola? Because I am a bit of a techy geek who loves mobile devices. And how did I score a job at Motorola? Because I was in the right place at the right time.

Or was I?

Even 20 years later, I struggle to admit that even though I was only a marketing grad, I had something that Motorola wanted: Passion. Energy. Motivation. What's not to love?

Find what makes you tick and chase it with all your might. Passion is the fuel that will keep you going when the going gets tough. Pursue what you love, and success will follow - employers can tell when you love something and actually want to do it.

4. Recognise the Right Moment to Initiate Change

I spent 7 years working for Shell Retail, and I loved almost every minute of it. I was passionate about my work and enjoyed the people I worked with (most of the time). We had an incredible story to tell. So, why did I leave? Because it was time. I had dedicated 7 years to a brand I watched evolve under my own guidance (despite the press, trust me, change is happening). But I reached a point where I couldn't give or change anymore. My final day at Shell as a sad one, but it led to happier days. Many of them.

Timing is everything. Knowing when to make a move, whether you’re heading to uni or you’re just starting your career, can be the difference between success and failure. Trust your gut and grab the moment when it feels right. Understanding this can help extinguish the fear that imposter syndrome feeds on.

5. Align Yourself with a Company Culture that Resonates with Your Values and Aspirations

I worked for a brand who will remain anonymous. When I accepted the job, I was naive about how important culture was to me. Everywhere I’d worked before had been super cool. But this place was so different and often conflicting with what I was used to. I didn’t learn anything or make a real difference because my personal values just didn’t align. So, what did I do? I got another job in an environment that suited me better. It’s not a selfish act; it’s the most important act. Realise where you fit. If you don’t fit, change it.

Your workplace should be a reflection of your values and aspirations. Finding a company culture that aligns with who you are will not only make you happier but also more productive and successful. Morally aligning with a company is key to reducing the internal conflict that fuels imposter syndrome.

6. Acknowledge the Existence of Imposter Syndrome and Use It as an Opportunity for Personal Growth

When I started at HTC as EMEA Head of Retail Marketing, I was nervous as hell. I’d never managed a team, headed a department, or had so much commercial responsibility. How could I ever meet their expectations? But I knew I had to step out of my comfort zone to keep climbing the ladder. I didn’t want to be stagnant. I was ambitious and, deep down, I knew I was absolutely qualified. They had chosen me out of all the other candidates.

Every single role I've taken in my career has come with an overwhelming fear of imposter syndrome. It doesn’t disappear; you just learn to manage it. Believe in yourself. Back yourself. Push your limits.

Imposter syndrome is real, but it doesn’t have to paralyse you. Recognise it, understand it, and use it as an opportunity for personal growth. It’s a sign that you’re pushing your limits and stepping out of your comfort zone. Embracing change inherently involves acknowledging and battling with these feelings.

7. Trust Your Gut and Your Intuition to Guide You

Trust your gut. Probably one of my favourite phrases. After more than 20 years in marketing, I’ve learned it’s a blend of art, science, and instinct. An old boss of mine used to say, "If you’re not getting that feeling in your belly, you’re not pushing the envelope hard enough." Never has a truer word been spoken.

Your intuition is a powerful tool. I’ll say it again. Trust it. Often, your gut feelings are more accurate than you realise. Let them guide you in your decisions and actions. Trusting yourself is a direct counter to the doubts brought on by imposter syndrome.

8. Run Your Own Race

Do not compare yourself to others. Everyone has their own race to run. Sometimes, I reflect on my career decisions and occasionally think about the "what ifs”: If I had taken a different route, I might be doing this, if I had stayed longer at Company X, I could be doing that. But I don’t stay there for long. The answer is always the same: look at what you’re doing now and the difference you’re making. Don’t look at what other people are doing. Only do what is right for you.

Comparison robs you of happiness. Focus on your journey and run your own race. Especially in times of change, remember that your path is unique and you own it. This will help in overcoming those feelings of inadequacy.

9. Asking for Help Is Not a Sign of Weakness but Rather a Strength

When you first start out, putting your hand up and asking for help can feel like an admission that you don’t know what you’re doing.

But here’s another phrase straight out of the Kim Stoute-Purvis playbook: "I don’t have all the answers." Just because I'm the CMO doesn’t mean I know everything, and I wouldn’t want to pretend that I do. This phrase allows me to show my vulnerability to my team and those around me. I’m not a machine. I’ll always have an opinion if you want it, but there are many routes to the right answer. Admitting I don’t have all the answers doesn’t make me feel weak; it makes me feel empowered.

Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness. No one has all the answers, and seeking guidance from others is a crucial part of growth and development. This is particularly important when navigating change and fighting imposter syndrome.

10. Listen, You Will Learn Something New

At Shell, I was lucky enough to undertake coaching training. One of the modules, 'Focused Listening’, emphasised the importance of fully concentrating on what the person you are coaching is saying—and not saying—to truly understand the meaning behind their words. My two key takeaways were: if you’re talking, you’re not learning anything new, just repeating what you already know. And before you speak, wait another five seconds. The person opposite you is likely about to say something far more insightful than what you’re about to contribute.

Listening is one of the most underrated skills. By truly listening to others, you open yourself up to new perspectives and learnings that can be invaluable in your personal and professional life. During periods of change, being open to new ideas and insights can help you overcome feelings of inadequacy - as you’ll genuinely be learning!

The fact is, imposter syndrome affects nearly everyone at some point.

It’s a silent epidemic that can hinder progress and stifle potential. But by acknowledging its existence and using it as a catalyst for personal development, you can transform this challenge into a powerful tool for success. Besides, a lack of imposter syndrome may indicate excessive self confidence in some cases and you could trip up on your own hubris through lack of humility. Better to be on this side of the wall!

Remember, you’re not alone in feeling like an imposter. Everyone has moments of doubt and insecurity. The key is to recognise these feelings, understand that they’re normal, and use them to drive you forward. Trust in your abilities, embrace your individuality, and never stop learning and growing. You’ve got this!

Some EXCELLENT advice in there from our resident Brand big dog Kim - cheers for that! In the working world yourself, and picked up some battle scars, lucky breaks and brushes with imposter syndrome yourself? You can sign up to become a career mentor yourself here, and impart your own wise wisdom back to the next gen.

Reading this as a member of our student community and thinking you want Kim as your career mentor (and why wouldn't you?). You can sign up to receive career mentoring from legends including Kim here. We also have job opportunities, masterclasses, and more how to find a grad job after university guides than you can shake a stick at.

If you're just here for the wisdom and are keen to know more about Zero Gravity generally, you can find out more about our social impact mission and our values here.

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