Confidence, Networking, Personal Development

Don’t Be an Imposter: Take Responsibility for Your Successes

I was asked this week by a member of a content management team to provide a project management story, an example, for a project management module the group was working on. He reached out to me saying they were looking for “project management experts” to share career experiences.

My first thought was,

I’m not an expert at anything, let alone project management.

This is often my first thought when someone says I am an expert or experienced in a topic. The shock of someone considering me an expert and my own resounding echo of self-doubt were classic imposter syndrome. The imposter syndrome is that feeling that people will find out you can’t cut it, that you’re a fraud, or that you’re incompetent.

What if I submit one of my projects and it’s not any good? Or it shows that I really can’t manage anything?

These were just a few of the thoughts going through my head.

But anyone who feels the effects of the imposter syndrome, like I did this week, can’t let it put up roadblocks in your path. If it’s drained all your confidence, you can either “fake it ‘til you make it,” or pull out a stash of confidence boosters and run through those road blocks. Take responsibility for your successes, write them down, and pull them out in these moments of self-doubt.

That’s what I did. I have a great resource of projects I’ve worked on written down in a Dropbox folder, built from my professional engineering licensure application. I pulled that out and thought,

Yes, I can do this! I have made it from through several ranks of project engineer. I have managed projects from manufacturing to consulting services; I should be able to provide something.

Do you ever have moments of self-doubt or are overcome by the imposter syndrome? How do you deal with that? Do you fake it ‘til you make it,” or do you have a stash of confidence boosters? What are some of the ways you take responsibility or record your successes?

Personal Development

Toastmasters and My Self-confidence

I am a quiet person. There I have admitted it to all the world. I have heard that I am too quiet for years from family, friends, managers, and potential employers. I agree with them that I am a quiet person; I consider myself an introvert who likes to retreat to quiet spaces to recharge and am a reflection of that quiet space.

I was never the one to be called out in the classroom for chatting with my friends while the teacher lectured. When I am in a meeting, I like to listen to all the view points and soak in the information. I feel that I do chime in if and only if I can contribute meaningfully to the conversation, not just to hear myself talk, pick arguments, or prolong the conversation. Yet I am still told that I am still too quiet and need to speak more. This is the one constant piece of advice I have to hear from recruiters, potential employers, and managers over the years.

Last fall I finally decided to take control of this situation. I joined my local Toastmasters group to improve my verbal communication skills. I have tried to join Toastmasters before, but I never got to the point of ever really giving any speeches. This time was different. I have now made it through my eighth speech project and only have two more before completing the competent communicator series. During this time I have also presented at two conferences.

One week the Toastmaster for our meeting said, “Toastmasters is a group that helps you speak without fear and lead with confidence.” I would not say that I have no fear or even less fear giving a speech in the speeches I’ve given, plus two presentations as well as the additional speaking roles during other meetings. I am still nervous. I was very nervous for my presentation at that last conference presentation wondering if anyone would even show up and I was very nervous about the speech I gave at the Toastmaster meeting this week wondering if I would drop my props or run over time or whether or not anyone would like my speech. Despite all the doubts and nervousness, I do have, I am able to push past them, practice and give my speech or my presentation. My participation in Toastmasters so far has improved my self-confidence to overcome some of those doubts and nervousness.

I don’t expect to be the center of attention at the party or to suddenly turn into an extrovert. I do hope to see continued improvement in my self-confidence and verbal communication skills. as I continue to participate in Toastmasters.

(Repurposed from my article in the FY17 Society of Women Engineers MAL Newsletter 4 May 2017)

Networking, Personal Development

An Abundant Mindset

During the weekly Toastmasters’ meeting this week, we were challenged to develop an Abundant mindset or mentality. A mentality of abundance is that line of thinking that there is a slice of the pie for everyone, you just have to reach out and grab it. The opposite, a scarcity mindset which thinks competitively such that if you take that slice of the pie than I do not get one.
While I do consider myself more of an optimist and having a mindset of abundance seems to be an optimistic way to look at things I cannot say that I have or always have a mindset of abundance. I am more the person that would frown a little over you taking my slice of the pie but not be too heartbroken because it keeps me from eating too many sweets.
I would like to cultivate more of an abundant mentality after hearing the speech this week. I found several articles on the internet with the six, eight, ten ways to develop an abundant mindset in general, in leadership, in business. There is much information, but one of the items most consistent items across many of the resources is gratitude, finding gratitude each day or creating a gratitude journal. In a gratitude journal, you can reflect daily or weekly even on all of the good things in your life and make a note of just one of them, some of them, or all of them.
I found a 21 Day Gratitude Challenge app to help me keep up the positive reflection as I travel and better cultivate a mindset of abundance. I will check back in a few weeks on this project with the progress made. What will you do create a mindset of abundance, join me in journaling gratitude, get organized, great win-win situations, or something else? Let me know.

Personal Development

Technical Writing: Improve Your Writing Skills by Making a Human Connection

Last fall I gave a talk, kind of like a Ted Talk about Technical Writing for the ASME FutureME program at ASME’s International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition (IMECE). ASME’s FutureME program is a series of talks by early career engineers for early career engineers on a variety of topics such as project management, globalization, working in government, what it takes to run a startup, etc.

Here I try to break that stereotype that engineers aren’t writers and let other engineers know that they can improve their writing skills. I share some the experiences I have had as I’ve grown as I writer learning that technical communication is more than just adding words to the page or accumulating more technical knowledge. Knowing yourself, your audience, and letting your readers know you, is what it really takes to improve writing skills.

I practiced beforehand during one of my Toastmaster’s meetings before taking the stage at the conference in Phoenix but I was still a bit nervous. I have continued to work on my public speaking but check out my video below and all of the other videos at the ASME Future ME Career Development YouTube Channel. You’ll learn a lot!


Networking, Personal Development

Make New Friends but Keep the Old: Connecting at Conferences

Professional society and industry conferences are a great time to connect with old friends or colleagues that you may have moved away from or just may not get to see that often. They are also an excellent time to meet new friends.

There are lots of different opportunities at conferences and workshops to meet up with people and make new friends.

1)     Sign up for a Social Event, or Tour-Many conferences have social events in the evening or event tours during the day depending on the type of event you are attending. Tours and social events are an excellent way to meet new people and strike up a conversation. You can usually find a mutual interest from the social event or tour.

“Did you like the performance?”

“Can you believe that is how that is made?”

2)     Volunteer!-Sometimes conferences need volunteers for various activities like checking in attendees or session monitors. Volunteering at the event you are attending is an excellent way to meet other conference attendees and to help out the event that you enjoy participating.

3)     Eat and Be Brave- Have a meal at a table with someone you do not know. There are some great lunches, dinners, networking events at conferences and workshops. We tend to gravitate towards those we know, but go ahead and sit at that table with those you do not and introduce yourself. You never know what interesting people you will meet.

4)     Go Bold and Get a Roommate (or 2)- Sometimes for a conference, you can find an email or message board of people looking for roommates to save on on the costs of attending the conference. If you are brave, go bold and ask online or through one of these emails to be paired with a roommate that you may not know. You will meet some interesting people and learn a lot about yourself in the process.

Now that you have some ideas on how to meet new people and make new friends at conferences do not forget about scheduling a time to connect with old friends or colleagues as well.

1)     Find out ahead of time whom you know that plans to attend the conference and how long they are staying

2)     Schedule time for lunch, dinner, coffee, or some other shenanigans

3)     Attend a friend’s presentation

4)     Rideshare to or from the airport (or make it a road trip to the conference location)

5)     After the conference, try an extended stay or a vacation for some extra quality time

Try out these tips next time you attend a conference or workshop and see how your circle of friends and colleagues shine. Don’t forget to follow up with new and old friends after conference letting them know it was pleased to meet them or see them again and that you would like to keep in touch and hopefully meet again at another event.

Personal Development

One Hour More: Twice as Strong

I often hear, “Jennifer, you’re too quiet,” or, ”Jennifer, you need to speak up more.” Last week I gave my ninth speech at my local Toastmasters club. I joined Toastmasters to improve my communications skills. It is a weakness that I choose to work on by joining Toastmasters in order to gain confidence and develop verbal communication skills.

I focus more on my weaknesses, like my communication skills. I have put in the time and effort, and while I have made some improvements, I know that no matter how much time spent giving speeches I am probably never going to be an expert orator. Still, I can rattle off the areas I feel I need to improve and what I can do or am doing to improve, but doing the same for my strengths has been a struggle until recently.

I took the quiz from Strengths Finder 2.0 and was able to get a listing of my top five strengths (1. Deliberative 2. Intellection 3. Strategic 4. Analytical 5. Individualization). The thing that I like about this book and this quiz is the to-do list of items one can do in each area to work on enhancing your strengths.

During my ninth speech last week, I challenged everyone at the meeting to not only work only work on their weaknesses but to also work on further enhancing their strengths so they could be twice as strong by the end of the week. I specifically challenged the group to spend the equivalent one hour they spent at our Toastmasters meeting working on developing one of their strengths or finding out what their strengths are by either doing a self-assessment or taking a quiz like I did.

I also participated in my challenge. Lucky for me I was attending a day and a half ASME segment leadership meeting that week where we discussed and worked on some of the overarching programs and processes for the Energy and Conversion Segment. This meeting fed directly into my Strategic strength looking at some of the bigger picture aspects of conference planning, segment programming, and communications.

Make a goal to work on your strengths just as much as you work on your weakness. Become twice as strong and if you do not know what your strengths are you can always take a quiz or do a self-assessment. What strength are you working on this week?