If using LinkedIn makes you feel like an imposter at work, here’s how to cope

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When it comes to professional social media, LinkedIn, with its billion-plus members, stands unrivalled. The platform for career updates, networking and job searches has effectively become a requirement in the professional world. It can be a great tool to help you progress in your career. But, just like other social media, using LinkedIn can lead to feelings of envy, comparison and self-doubt.

As you scroll through your feed, you may see posts boasting about promotions, awards, successes with customers and other career wins. Between these might be articles about professional development – a reminder that you could be earning qualifications, improving your skills or otherwise doing more. It shouldn’t be a surprise if this all makes you start worrying about your own career success.

This is what my colleagues and I explored in our research on people’s feelings about using LinkedIn. We found that both browsing your feed and sharing professional achievements can lead to people experiencing imposter syndrome. A common anxiety, imposter syndrome stems from a fear of being exposed as a fraud in the workplace.

Our study involved two online experiments with 504 people who regularly use LinkedIn. We asked participants to complete tasks about their experience and tell us about their emotional states. The findings revealed that when people experienced imposter syndrome from using LinkedIn, they often also reported emotions associated with depression and anxiety, such as increased levels of nervousness, dejection and mental distress.

If you find yourself struggling with similar thoughts, there are some steps you can take to make LinkedIn work for you and your career.

1. Remember you are not alone

Feelings of imposter syndrome are quite common. Studies show that in some contexts, up to 82% of people will experience these feelings in their lives.

Sites like LinkedIn and other social media can feel like a constant stream of other people’s successes, with an emphasis on over-achievement and hustle culture – the idea that you should always be working hard to get to the next career milestone. You may feel like you’re falling short of others’ accomplishments, when in reality, other users are feeling the same way you are.

It is important to acknowledge that LinkedIn posts showcase idealised versions of their professional lives (which might not necessarily reflect their complete reality). Remembering that many LinkedIn users experience similar work doubts and uncertainties can help to alleviate the pressure of comparing yourself to seemingly flawless profiles or a bombardment of others’ achievements.

2. Develop your skills

Our research found a trend: those feeling imposter syndrome often sought to alleviate these feelings by seeking professional development. In psychology, this is known as direct resolution – a strategy to overcome negative feelings by improving yourself.

You can learn new professional skills on LinkedIn and through other online courses, or within your organisation. Consider asking your manager if they can offer company-sponsored training, or support you in taking a training course or pursuing another qualification.

Colourful vector illustration of six adults in professional clothing, each holding a mask
Many people feel like they are wearing a mask at work.
Lemono/Shutterstock

3. Be mindful of your network

On LinkedIn or other social networks, the people you follow and the communities you engage with can affect your mindset. While following industry leaders and other successful people can be insightful and motivating in its own way, the perspectives and encouragement of those closer to you can offer a balanced view of your accomplishments.

It is important to maintain connections with closer friends or others who will be supportive and understanding of your professional journey, both online and in real life, in your personal life or at work.

Additionally, nurturing connections with mentors, industry peers, or colleagues whose work and ethos resonate with you can be beneficial. Engage in meaningful conversations, seek advice and contribute thoughtfully within these circles. Such interactions provide a sense of camaraderie and also offer opportunities for learning and growth, while potentially minimising the feeling that you are an imposter.

4. Stay authentic to yourself

Do your best to present your accomplishments on LinkedIn authentically. Avoid the temptation to embellish or exaggerate your successes. This can lead to feeling inauthentic and could even make you feel like you’re skewing the truth.

Celebrate your achievements while also acknowledging the challenges and struggles you’ve faced. Sharing both successes and setbacks can humanise your professional journey. Genuine representation can also help others relate to your experiences, creating a more meaningful and credible professional presence

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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