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Me, a mentor? Overcoming Imposter Syndrome as a Mentor

Do you ever actually 'lose' imposter syndrome? Here's a story of a Co.Lab Product Management alum who found a nifty way to stop feeling like one.

Alexander Lee
January 26, 2024

Back in October 2023, Co.Lab invited me back to serve as a mentor for the incoming cohort for the Diverse Tech Talent Program. My first reaction was that of excitement, as Co.lab was instrumental in my own career transition from dentistry to product management.

After settling down, however, that “Imposter” within me began to rear its ugly head. Self-doubt started to creep in:

“As a newly minted Associate Product Manager, what did I even have to offer?”
“Would I be able to do justice to my mentees?”
“Could I meet Co.lab’s expectations for their mentors?” 
“Am I even qualified?”
“Would I be satisfied with myself as a mentor?”
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While spiraling, one of my fellow mentors reached out and we began talking about our shared experiences. As we conversed, I was relieved to hear that I wasn’t the only one that had diagnosed myself as an Imposter. I emphasize the word self-diagnosed here because in hindsight, I’m the only one who has ever doubted my own self throughout this journey.

My partner had always been encouraging, my peers trusted me enough to refer me, my hiring manager believed in my potential, my mentors supported me, and Co.lab brought me back. So where was this self-doubt coming from? 

As part of the onboarding process at my current role at Ninety.io, I was asked to take the PRINT® Survey. You can read more about it here, but in short, this assessment assigns you a PRINT number that highlights your strengths and weaknesses. What’s unique about this assessment is that it also reveals how the same traits that are considered strengths when you’re operating as your “best self” can become debilitating weaknesses when you’re operating as your “shadow self”.

Now, as a loyal practitioner of the scientific method, I always approach these personality profiles with a healthy dose of skepticism. The scientific validity of any of these assessments is always up for debate. However, my key takeaway was this: too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, and it’s up to us to recognize which version of ourselves we want to operate as. Here’s how it looked for me:

Being overly practical might cause us to be pessimistic and look at every glass as ‘half empty’. If your superpower is being prepared and resourceful, the slightest sign of feeling unprepared can lead to excessive doubt and worry. Those traits on the right-hand side, those of my ‘shadow self’, started to sound and look very familiar - they were the same feelings of inadequacy I experienced when I first got asked to serve as a mentor (...and every other day on the job as a PM).

While we may never fully escape occasional feelings of self-doubt, I realized that if I’m able diagnose myself as an imposter, I should be able to “diagnose myself out of it” as well. So, before I formally accepted the invitation, I made a promise to myself, my peers, my mentors, my partner, my manager and my mentees to leave my shadow self behind.

Despite my relative inexperience in product, as a Co.lab alum and recent career pivoter I had valuable insights to offer. Instead of putting extra pressure on myself, I approached the mentorship as an opportunity to share my experiences so far and hoped my mentees would find it useful.

Looking back, I’m truly grateful for the experience and the opportunity to have been able to meet such inspiring individuals in my mentee group. I’m glad that I did it and look forward to continuing to grow as both a product manager and a mentor in my journey.    

Section 2: If you are reading this, I hope that you were able to learn as much from me as I was able to learn from you. You inspire me to continue giving back and remind me why I chose this path to begin with.  

Best of luck!
Alex

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