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How to overcome the fear of failure while making a career change

Is Imposter Syndrome really bad? Do we need to absolutely overcome it or does it have any benefits at all?

A career change leaves us sitting on the fence. It leaves us wondering if this is a journey we want to embark on or if to settle on what we are used to. Change can be a scary thing because it is an unknown risk. We don't know how this change might affect our lives, bringing room for fear. Fear of failing harbours deep in our minds, and we question our abilities.

"When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel." Eloise Ristad

It is normal to have these fears when switching to any role, and the stakes are even higher for a product role given how competitive this field is. In this blog, we will be helping you overcome this fear, self-doubt and imposter syndrome by sharing experiences that a few people have had and how you can move past that feeling.

So, whether you're a developer looking to get more involved in the decision-making process, or you're in marketing and have a dream of building the products you're selling, you are in the right place. Pivoting into a product role such as Product Management, Product Design, UX Research, etc., is hard but not rocket science. The trick is to keep an open mind and be willing to learn.

We often hear that “we need to overcome Imposter Syndrome”. The word syndrome has a negative connotation which explains the stigma. This mindset can have a damaging effect on our well-being and how we perceive ourselves and our own self-worth.

Aristotle once said, "The more you know, the more you know you don't know.” There is also a belief that we feel like an Imposter when we are having maximum learning and growth. However, there are also a few things that we forget to consider about Imposter Syndrome: ✨

💪 Imposter Syndrome is a completely natural emotional response when we are doing something that we have not done before.

💪 Irrespective of how high we go on the career ladder, Imposter Syndrome will likely make us question whether we deserve to be there or not.

💪 There’s no empirical quantitative evidence that impostor thoughts degrade performance. “Yerkes-Dodson stress performance curve” shows that having it up to a point can actually improve performance.

💪 Imposter syndrome keeps our egos in check and is that threshold that stops us from becoming overconfident jerks that no one would like to work with.

Success cannot be achieved without making mistakes. The missteps help you build a more substantial product because you learn from the mistakes, which is the first step to embracing failure. Rejections and failures are only natural along the journey, but we will advise that you don't dwell on them.

Some thoughts that might come up in our minds when we face failure:

"I don’t think I can do this. Why do I suck so much at this? What’s the point of trying?”.

Tiffany Lo, an Associate Product Manager at Rocket Lawyer and an alumna at PMDojo felt like she was about to make a career switch as a product manager, having been a software manager for over a decade. There was the fear of the unknown for her, as she explains here, especially pertaining to a career switch and not knowing if she would be great at it, but she was determined.

She stepped out of her fear and self-doubt and decided to join the Product Accelerator program at PMDojo to learn and gain real-world experience of the role and a realistic understanding of what the industry is like to step into a new position confidently.

In pivoting to any product role of your choice, here are a few tips on how to overcome the fear of failure while making that career change:

  • Expect Failure: Every person strives to succeed. No one sets out on their career journey to fail. However, if you want long-term, profound success, you must learn to appreciate failure and own it when it occurs.

  • Change your perspective: by focusing on mistakes rather than dwelling on them, you can turn them into an advantage that puts you in a stronger position for success.

  • Celebrate Failure: As you pursue your product journey, you may make a few mistakes - sometimes many but once you have completed a task, analyze what you did well and what you did wrong, and put those lessons away for the next.

  • Embrace Change: Although embracing change can be scary, moving in a new direction can be rewarding

  • Seek a Mentor: Look for someone you admire or someone who can give you advice you can trust. They don't necessarily have to be in your field.

  • Get Comfortable with Risk: Risk-taking isn't something most people enjoy, but it's a necessity of life, and getting comfortable with it, will allow you to explore.

  • Communicate: Talking about your mistakes can be challenging, but sharing what you have learned from failure can benefit others facing similar issues. It is possible to help others in your role replicate your success after turning a mistake into success.

Failures and setbacks are standard parts of life. They make us understand where we can improve and encourage us to persist. Failure is also a part of the human experience and not the end of the world. It creates an avenue for us to learn and continuously improve in our careers.

Need a little support to figure out your career in tech and product and navigate the frustrating world of self-doubt and imposter syndrome? Reach out for help! Check out PMDojo Product Accelerator

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