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Work to your strengths – try accepting the things you can’t change, and try changing the things you can. You’ll know the difference.

A photo of two guys looking at some graffiti telling them to look at it, kinda like how imposter syndrome tells you to spend all your time focusing on it.
A photo of two guys looking at some graffiti telling them to look at it, kinda like how imposter syndrome tells you to spend all your time focusing on it.
Wednesday 5 January 2022

Change your perspective, not your job

Ok that title is a little loaded, and clickbaity, sorry. But I think there’s some merit to the idea that things actually aren’t that bad, maybe how you’re looking at it is off.

Some caveats:

  • If you’re being bullied, report and escalate – do not accept it.
  • If you’re being marginalised for whatever reason, report and escalate – do not accept it.
  • If you’re really, really (yes really) unhappy, then leave.

I want to challenge the idea that you should leave a job you’re just unhappy in. I’m not advocating for accepting the status quo, laying down and just accepting bad conditions, colleagues, or managers. I’m perhaps talking to the people in the room that aren’t happy, but their jobs aren’t destroying them either. I’m also not saying, “Oh, just think yourself out of a pickle and you’ll be grand.” No.

So what am I saying?

I had a very challenging year at work in 2021. My first 3 years at Booking.com were in B2B marketing as a kind of “jack of all trades” designer, with an emphasis on digital design and development. When I pivoted to UX proper in my 4th year, it was challenging for sure, but I had my previous 3 years of B2B context under my hat, and I was still working B2B, just doing it in a UX capacity, creating products and solving business user needs. In my 5th year though, my team’s focus shifted to B2C, to a new topic, working on a new-to-me part of the site, working with new’ish colleagues, and new’ish processes, from home, during a pandemic. There was a hell of a lot of new’ness and not a lot of old’ness.

But like I always used to do, I rolled up my sleeves and took on the challenge – I had no choice really. A couple months in and the dreaded imposter syndrome started rearing its head. I’ll not go into detail about what imposter syndrome is or isn’t, but for me, it was like this continual voice in my head telling me, “You’re not good enough.”

And it never stopped:

  • “I can’t do this.”
  • “You’ll never be as good as her.”
  • “He’s better at this than you; did you see the way he lays out his Figma files?”
  • “Everyone else knows this topic better than me.”
  • “I’ll never understand how this feature works.”
  • “You’re an idiot.”
  • “I’m useless.”
  • “I don’t belong here.”

Perhaps a topic for another day, but I’m used to hearing that kind of storyline in my head most of my life. I know where those dark paths lead.

Should I stay or should I go now?

As more and more months passed and this feeling of giving up grew larger, I reached a tipping point: stay or go?

And so I did the thing I shouldn’t have done at a time like this and didn’t do the thing I should have done at a time like this. I started job hunting. And I didn’t talk to my manager.

Here's a tip!

Don't do this.

A few more months had passed and I was still feeling incredibly low about being able to do my job, fighting inferiority feelings and imposter syndrome daily, sometimes hourly. I had a few too many crying sessions with my boyfriend too over it all. And to top it all off, objectively I was doing good. I was getting good performance reviews. I wasn’t being told off for being late, or slacking, or anything. Yeah there was (always is) room for improvement, but I was doing just fine. So why did I want to run for the hills, any hill? And why couldn’t I just see what was objectively in front of me? Why was the struggle so hard?

I plucked up the courage to talk to my manager. I didn’t want to quit because I had just bought a house for the first time and I didn’t want to throw my life into utter chaos with a new house and a new job at the same time. I wanted to control the situation as best I could. My manager was 1000% empathetic. She listened to me as I blubbered away. She helped me break down my struggles into smaller more manageable pieces, something previous managers had also done, I just forgot about these tools. Most of all, my manager listened – which is what I think most people just want at the end of the day.

Here’s a real tip

Write out line by line what you’re struggling with. Try to remove any feelings and inner dialogue, just be objective about it; like “I don't know how to use this tool,” not “I feel really stupid because I can't use this tool.” Then either by yourself, or with a colleague or manager, see what you can do to address this. There is no shame in asking for help, if anything, most people like thinking someone came to them for help!

I went home for a month in the summer; worked for 2 weeks and took 2 weeks off and it reset everything.

Amsterdam and chill

I came back to Amsterdam and was a little more chill.

An opportunity came by to facilitate a design sprint and having never done one, I gave it a go. It was really well received, I tried to make it fun too, and we walked away from it with a few ideas to explore as a team.

Other things clicked around this time, I was beginning to see my efforts were having an impact. I started to do what I do best: organise things. I improved a few team documents, drives, and files, and when I saw something that needed being done, I just went and did it. I started to organise my own work better and learned new tools in Figma to make 2022 even easier on me and my copywriter.

By the end of the year I realised I could work to my strengths, and not my weaknesses. Sure I’ll devote time and energy to improving where I can in other areas, but I’m going to look at what I’m really good at, and focus on that too.

So are you looking at your job all wrong like I did? Are you looking at what you’re not good at instead of what you are good at? Is there another way you can look at the situation in a different light?

If everyone quit their jobs when the road got a little rocky, we wouldn't stick it out to see ourselves grow. I sound like I’ve seen the light, and I don’t want to come across as preachy, but try accepting the things you can’t change, and try changing the things you can. You’ll know the difference.


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