How To Overcome Imposter Syndrome

·7 min read

How To Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Feeling like an imposter is a common feeling for many. And it’s especially common amongst minority students.

The feeling of imposter syndrome is based on that “you’ve only succeeded due to luck, and not because of your talent or qualifications,” according to Time.

Brandon Monteith, an Harvard Business School alum, says he felt imposter syndrome throughout business school, despite being admitted to one of the top MBA programs in the world. He wrote about his experience with imposter syndrome for Forbes and offered a few tips for overcoming it.

“I was anxious—doing my best to defy my introverted tendencies, impress admissions officers, and make lasting connections with my cohort,” Monteith writes. “As I looked around, I just knew that I didn’t measure up. I was an imposter. This was a feeling I couldn’t shake even after I was admitted to HBS. Even after I worked through hundreds of case studies, passed exams, and walked across the graduation stage last May.

STAYING TRUE TO YOURSELF

Many feel imposter syndrome because they look around and don’t see others who look like them or have come from the same experiences as they have. And while this may contribute to feeling as if you don’t belong, Montieth says, being yourself is actually one of the best ways to overcome imposter syndrome.

“Don’t try to fit the mold of who you think the archetypal ‘HBS student’ or ‘Kellogg student’ is,” Monteith writes. “Admissions officers have amassed a pretty large sample size at this point. They can tell the difference between genuine and feigned behavior.”

BE OPEN-MINDED

It’s important, Monteith says, to keep an open mind throughout B-school – from exploring potential careers to engaging with others.

“As you explore post-graduation career paths, don’t limit yourself to what you wrote in your essays,” Monteith writes. “Have in-depth conversations with classmates from different backgrounds. Take classes outside of your comfort zone. Life may take you down a completely unexpected career path.”

FIND YOUR PEOPLE

For those suffering with imposter syndrome, it may feel like there is nobody who looks like you or understands your experiences. Despite this difficulty, Monteith says, it’s worth taking the time to learn the culture of your B-school and, ultimately, find your people.

“Every school has its own culture. Even if your personal values don’t perfectly align with those of your classmates and/or the administration, learn how to navigate it effectively,” he writes. “Lean on your community for support and become friends with people from your respective affinity clubs on campus. This is where you’ll find your ‘ride-or-dies’ for when times get tough.”

Sources: Forbes, Time

Next Page: Why MBAs Like Hybrid Learning

Sample Hybrid Class. This is a class called Core Leadership Skills in a VUCA world, taught by General George Casey

Why MBAs Like Hybrid Learning

This week, Harvard Business School announced plans to resume in-person meetings given the declining COVID-19 positivity rate in Massachusetts.

The B-school had hybrid in-person classes last fall, but halted the model in November after rising positive cases. For many HBS students, the hybrid experience doesn’t replace traditional, in-person learning, but many report positive experiences with hybrid instruction – despite its differences, according to The Harvard Crimson.

POSITIVES OF HYBRID INSTRUCTION

A number of HBS students highlighted the value of hybrid learning.

“The combination of lectures and exercises remotely and safely in person taught important communication skills for conducting business over both mediums,” David Chataway, a second-year HBS MBA, tells the Crimson.

For many, the in-person element of the model includes active engagement with the class, even when students are remote.

“Even when I’m not in the classroom for the hybrid classes, just the fact that the professor’s standing in a room and writing on a board and moving around in the space, that even makes the class better,” Olubukunola “Bukie” Adebo, a second-year HBS MBA, tells the Crimson.

OVERCOMING CHALLENGES

When B-schools decided to go hybrid last year, there were a number of hurdles that faculty and administrative staff had to overcome – from redesigning curricula to ensuring technology could keep up.

But many students have noted the improvement in how B-schools have adapted to hybrid and remote models of learning.

“A lot of professors found out what really works for them — they realized they needed to be drawing on an iPad, or standing in front of a board, or whatever they needed to do to feel a little bit more natural,” Adebo tells the Crimson. “Most professors have figured that out, and they’re more comfortable navigating the Zoom environment.”

For B-schools, hybrid learning has shown to be a strong model of learning. And something that may last well past the pandemic.

“It’s about incorporating blended learning and other sorts of innovations that will outlive the pandemic,” Mohan Sawhney, Kellogg’s associate dean of digital innovation, tells P&Q. “So we are never going back to the way that we were. That’s our journey.”

Sources: HBS, Harvard Magazine, The Harvard Crimson, P&Q

Next Page: How to approach the Carnegie Mellon Tepper essay.

Tepper School of Business Exterior

How To Approach Tepper’s Essay

Community is important at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business. And impact within your community is something that Tepper’s admissions officers look for in applicants.

The B-school’s required essay prompts applicants to answer the following: “The Tepper community is dynamic and unique. Each community member’s individual journey has shaped them into classmates who are collaborative, supportive, and inclusive. Describe how you have overcome adversity during your journey. What did you learn about yourself and how has that shaped who you are?”

Catherine Tuttle, of Fortuna Admissions, recently broke down how applicants should approach Tepper’s essay.

WHAT TEPPER IS ASKING

Tepper has a small class size of 200, so it makes sense why the B-school places a strong emphasis on community.

In asking students to answer the following prompt, Tuttle says, Tepper is looking to see who you are and what has shaped your decisions, opportunities, and overall character. In other words, being personal is the way to go when approaching this essay.

“While some may have overcome challenges such as poverty or homelessness, others may have struggled with their mental health, academics, loss of a loved one, or family dynamics,” Tuttle writes. “This essay requires that you reflect on your life so far and dare to be vulnerable. The specificity of the essay question’s wording signals that you should connect the dots for the admissions committee between where you are coming from and where you are heading.”

HOW TO APPROACH THE ESSAY

Tuttle recommends applicants to consider asking themselves the following questions to self-reflect before writing:

  • Are there events that have shaped your values? Your definition of family? Your self-worth?

  • What were they and how did you overcome the challenges?

  • Taking it one step further, how will this experience overcoming adversity make you a better teammate, student, and/or Tepper alumnus?

Experts stress the importance in being honest with yourself in essays and providing an authentic story.

“For example, if you haven’t been a leader in the past, you could say that you’re excited to use your time in the MBA program to push yourself and get more involved,” Cynthia Mills, a Class of 2021 Tepper MBA, says in Tepper’s admissions blog. “Researching the specific clubs/roles you’re interested in demonstrates interest. Talking to student ambassadors who are involved in those clubs is also a plus.”

Sources: Fortuna Admissions, Tepper School of Business

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