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Episode #195 – The Imposter Syndrome and Your Animal Health or Veterinary Career

The Vet Recruiter®
The Vet Recruiter®
Episode #195 - The Imposter Syndrome and Your Animal Health or Veterinary Career

Julea: Welcome to “The Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, Animal Health Executive Recruiter and Veterinary Recruiter, Stacy Pursell, founder, and CEO of The VET Recruiter, provides insight and practical advice for both employers and job seekers in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. The VET Recruiter’s mission is to help Animal Health and Veterinary companies hire top talent, while helping animal health and veterinary professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that increase their quality of life.

In today’s podcast episode, we’ll be talking about the Imposter Syndrome and your Animal Health or Veterinary career. Hello, Stacy, and thank you for joining us today.

Stacy: Hello, Julea. It is great to be here with you.

Julea: Stacy, we haven’t talked about the Imposter Syndrome before on the show. What prompted you to choose this topic for us to discuss today?

Stacy: A number of things, actually, Julea, mainly the encounters that I have had with candidates during my career as an Animal Health executive recruiter. But first, I’d like to set the stage by discussing what the Imposter Syndrome is.

Julea: Okay, that sounds like a great place to start Stacy!

Stacy: Yes, the Imposter Syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments or talents and has an internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud.”

When a person suffers from this condition, they feel inadequate and they have feelings of self-doubt. The tragedy with the Imposter Syndrome is that the person feels this way even though there is no concrete reason for them to feel this way. This is a form of irrational fear, and there is a big difference between rational fear and irrational fear.

Julea: Tell us more about this Stacy.

Stacy: Okay…. So, a rational fear is one that is based on something that is likely to happen, at least statistically. For example, if there is a disease that runs in your family, you might have a rational fear that one day, you will contract that disease. On the other hand, an irrational fear would be if you have no family history of a certain disease, and you’re still afraid that you’re going to contract it, even though there is no evidence. So an irrational fear is based on nothing except, well, fear!

The real problem is that with an irrational fear, the person is not only envisioning the worst-case scenario, but they are anticipating that it is going to happen. In fact, they assume that the worst-case scenario is going to happen and they use that assumption as a reason not to take action or move forward. In many cases, you could say that it’s more of an excuse than a valid reason.

Julea: So the Imposter Syndrome is based on irrational fear. How does it work, exactly Stacy?

Stacy: This fear of being exposed as a fraud is not based in reality, unless you are actually a fraud, which most people are not. People who feel this way are not really frauds. In fact, most of them are talented and highly qualified individuals who allow irrational fear to hold them back.

And there is something very important about The Imposter Syndrome that I want to point out.

Julea: What is that Stacy?

Stacy: More women suffer from the Imposter Syndrome than men. According to a recent article in Worklife magazine, women are more at risk of experiencing the Imposter Syndrome.

Julea: Stacy, would you say that is accurate, based on what you have seen as an Animal Health executive recruiter during your career?

Stacy: Yes, I would say that it’s accurate. I almost never see men suffer from the Imposter Syndrome. Men do not typically share concerns with me about their feelings of inadequacy or how they are afraid of being exposed as a fraud. In fact, they sometimes act just the opposite.

Julea: How is that?

Stacy: I have seen more male candidates who have applied for positions for which they were barely qualified. In some cases, they weren’t qualified at all. However, they thought they were candidates for the job, they believed in their skills and abilities, and they had plenty of confidence as they were pursuing their professional and career goals.

I am often asked why women don’t move up as quickly in their careers as men, and this is a prime example of why this is the case. I am comfortable saying this because I am a woman and I have placed executives at the highest levels, including in board of director positions within the Animal Health Industry. I have worked with numerous men and women, and I have placed both in positions within the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession in a variety of different functions at many levels within the industry including at the highest executive levels.

To me, at least, it seems that men are more confident than women when it comes to exploring new employment opportunities and growing their career.

Julea: What do you think is behind all of this? Why is this happening, and why does it happen to women more than men?

Stacy: That is a multi-layered question with a multi-layered answer. For one thing Julea, as we all know, men hold more management positions than women. They’re promoted more than women, and for all intents and purposes, they’ve given more opportunities than women.

According to 2019 research by Lean In, an organization that focuses on women in the workplace:

  • For every 100 men brought onto teams and elevated to management, only 72 women experience the same thing.
  • Men hold 62% of manager-level positions, while women hold just 38%.
  • Although one-third of the companies Lean In surveyed set gender representation targets for first-level manager roles, 41% of them didn’t set those same targets for senior levels of management.


Julea: What affect do these kinds of statistics have on women and how they view themselves in the workforce and the marketplace?

Stacy: For one thing, women have fewer role models in the workforce, especially at the highest levels. As a result, it’s more difficult for them to envision themselves in a management role when they don’t see other women in similar roles. And because of that, they’re more likely to believe that they don’t deserve to be in that role, which is absolutely not the case.

Once again, we’re talking about irrational fear, and with irrational fear, the person is not only envisioning the worst-case scenario, but they’re assuming it. In this case, a woman would envision the worst-case scenario, which is that she is an imposter and does not deserve a management position or promotion.

Julea: Right. In fact, with an irrational fear, a woman would assume that worst-case scenario is actually the reality of the situation.

Stacy: Yes, and you can see why this is so problematic. And there are a couple of factors that are contributing to the situation and even making it worse.

Julea: Which factors are those?

Stacy: First of all, I think we would all agree that women have not achieved equality in the workplace, especially in terms of promotions and rising to the level of management positions. I think that the statistics I just shared from Lean In show that rather plainly. Don’t get me wrong. I believe women have made tremendous progress during the past two decades, but there is still plenty of work that needs to be done.

So because there is not equality, women do not see as many role models in positions of power as men do, which we just discussed. It’s almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. Women do not see equality in the workplace, so for some of them, they subconsciously believe that they do not deserve equality in the workplace, even when that is clearly not the case. And since they subconsciously believe that they do not deserve equality, they start to suffer from the Imposter Syndrome.

Julea: That makes sense. What’s the other factor that contributes to this?

Stacy: The other factor is that there are more women working in the Veterinary profession today than there are men. In fact, according to Veterinarian’s Money Digest, it’s been more than 30 years since there was an equal number of male and female students attending Veterinary schools in the United States.

Not only that, but in 2017, more than 80% of the students in the graduating class at Veterinary schools around the country were women. And according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, there are at least 10% more women working in the Veterinary profession than there are men.

Julea: So . . . since there are more women working in the Veterinary profession than men and since women are more likely to suffer from the Imposter Syndrome, that means more Veterinary professionals overall suffer from it.

Stacy: That’s exactly right. These are the things that lead to the Imposter Syndrome. However, as I pointed out, the Imposter Syndrome is rooted in fear, specifically irrational fear. And many times, that irrational fear is the fear of rejection. I have some steps that our listeners can take to overcome the fear of rejection and put themselves in a much better positon to enjoy career success.

Julea: What steps are those Stacy?

Stacy: I have four of them. The first one is to not focus on the fear. That’s because when you give something attention, what you’re really doing is validating it. If you think about the fear and the fact that you might be rejected, then you’re giving that fear power, and that’s not something you want to do.

Second, tell yourself the right story as opposed to the wrong story. This means focusing on what you know to be true, as opposed to what you fear to be true. In order to experience a more positive future, you have to think about that future first. To reach your goals, you have to visualize those goals. If you visualize fear and failure, then you are more likely to experience that outcome.

Julea: We have talked about that before on the podcast, haven’t we Stacy?

Stacy: Yes, we have. The third step to overcoming the fear of rejection is to not minimize your value, especially in your own mind.

Part of telling yourself the right story is recognizing the value that you provide to your current employer and what you could offer to another potential employer. You have to believe and feel like what you have is so valuable that everyone will want to benefit from that value.

And fourth, view yourself as worthy. The more that you view yourself as worthy, the more you will believe that other also people view you as worthy. Even if you have tremendous worth as a person and a professional, if you don’t believe that you do, then you’re not reaching your full potential.

Julea: Stacy, what effect has the pandemic had on all of this? The Imposter Syndrome and the fear of rejection are bad enough on their own. Is the pandemic making things worse?

Stacy: To a certain extent, yes. The pandemic, as well as the economic fallout that the virus has created, has given people more things to be afraid of. Because once again, there are people who are envisioning the worst-case scenario and assuming that it’s going to happen. It’s not that they don’t fear what they feared before, it’s that they still fear those things, plus they fear other things, as well.

So if they suffered from the Imposter Syndrome and the fear of rejection, they might still fear those things and the pandemic, too. And unfortunately, they could allow these fears to dictate their decisions, which essentially paralyzes them and prevents them from moving forward. You can see why this topic is so important, especially in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession.

Julea: Yes, I certainly can see that Stacy. Stacy, we’re just about out of time. Is there anything else that you’d like to add before we end today’s podcast episode?

Stacy: Yes, I just want to once again reiterate what fear actually is, which is represented in an acronym that I often use.

Fear = False Evidence Appearing Real

Fear can appear very real, but in many cases, that fear is false. That’s the case when it comes to finding a new job or making a career change. There are a couple of examples that I use to illustrate this. One is getting a shot when you were a child. The other one that I like to use is the first day of school.

It’s the same with overcoming fear and taking a risk. Instead of looking at a new situation with fear, look at it as an opportunity. Be willing to go after opportunities when they present themselves. You can NOT let fear rule your decisions or you will continually miss out on great opportunities!

Julea: Stacy, thank you so much for all of this great information. And for those in our listening audience today who are considering a job change be sure to check out the Hot Jobs on The VET Recruiter website. For those employers who need to hire talent to fill critical jobs open in your organization, Stacy is an Animal Health workplace workforce expert. Reach out to Stacy to discuss your recruiting and hiring needs.

Stacy: Yes, for those listeners who want to change their current situation and are interested in exploring Animal Health jobs or Veterinary jobs, I invite you to visit our website at www.thevetrecruiter.com. We post new employment opportunities on a regular basis. You can also sign up for our newsletter on The VET Recruiter site as well.

Julea: Once again, the website address for The VET Recruiter is www.thevetrecruiter.com. Stacy, as always, thank you for joining us today.

Stacy: It has been my pleasure, Julea and I look forward to our next episode of the Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider!

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