I want to take some time off from my usual ‘admin how-to’ blogs to talk about something a bit more personal: imposter syndrome.
I’ll share my own experiences with imposter syndrome, as well as a list of useful methods for combating this all-too-common feeling when working in the Salesforce ecosystem.
My Journey With Imposter Syndrome
I am one of those accidental admins you hear about – I started out as self taught, scrounging bits and pieces of training here and there. Like a lot of people, I saw what was involved and thought: “Am I crazy or does this look like fun?” I was right to ask – this job is challenging, interesting, and fun in equal measure!
At first, I worried I was sacrificing ‘joy’ when I switched my career from working with kids to working in tech, but I was wrong.
What I didn’t expect was that I would still be experiencing feelings of inadequacy after almost ten years in this job. Almost like I am in a perpetual state of “fake it ‘til you make it”, and that someday, someone will expose my secret that I don’t actually know anything about Salesforce!
I was telling a family member about this feeling, when he said: “You know that’s called ‘Imposter Syndrome’ and it’s super common for women in tech.” I had never heard of it, but after doing some research, I’ve learned that imposter syndrome pretty much explains those feelings of inadequacy. And my family member was right, it’s frighteningly common for women in the tech industry.
If you’re not familiar with imposter syndrome, it’s exactly what it sounds like; you feel like you are an imposter, and that you will be discovered as a fraud. You may also feel like you are not smart enough and don’t belong on the same level as your peers. You may even feel like you don’t deserve what you have earned, or that you’ve only got to where you are as the result of luck, not skill.
This had me thinking about life as a Salesforce Admin, and the many, many women who are like me – those changing careers or trying something completely new, working moms, etc. If I feel this way as a Salesforce Admin, even with an incredibly supportive community, there are certainly others out there struggling. In fact, I would wager that among self-taught Salesforce Admins, especially those from non-technical backgrounds, the levels of imposter syndrome are astronomical.
How to Combat Imposter Syndrome
I’ve been working on a list of ways to help me fight against imposter syndrome. I want to share this list with the ecosystem, in the hope that it will help Salesforce Admins (and others) out there struggling with the same feelings – after all, we are stronger together.
1. Remind yourself that you are an intelligent person
I like learning new things, and I love learning about the ways that other people use Salesforce. I find it fascinating, and it makes me a better admin because I find that there’s often more than one ‘right’ way to do something.
2. I love my job
When someone sends me a list to prepare for import, I rub my hands together like a kid in a candy store! When a client needs a whole new dashboard, that’s like a holiday for me. Don’t even get me started on creating new objects… I’m lucky because I like this job so much that I never dread going to work.
3. I’ve been a Salesforce Admin for almost 10 years
If I wasn’t good at this job, I wouldn’t have lasted this long. Sure, my family members working in tech might have taken pity and sent me some work, but I certainly wouldn’t be getting referrals if I wasn’t up to the task. And I wouldn’t be asked to take new clients when someone leaves one company and goes to another.
4. I am certified
For all the certification nay-sayers out there, you do have to earn them – Salesforce doesn’t just hand them out. nor is it a case of just memorizing a bunch of facts such as field limitations and the order of execution. The certifications cover real-life scenarios and situations where there could be more than one option to choose from. You have to have worked in a lot of these situations to know how to answer the question.
5. It’s OK to be honest when you don’t know how to do something
Even with my clients, if there’s something that I truly don’t know how to do, I’m up front. And when there’s something that I think I could learn, I’m honest about that too.
6. I remind myself that no Salesforce Admin knows everything
Every single Salesforce Admin I have ever met – online, at the office, or even at Dreamforce (whether they have 15 certifications or none) – googles how to do things sometimes. We all have things we can learn, and we don’t actually need to memorize everything – some things you learn with time and experience, other things you might use so rarely you never commit them to memory. Expecting yourself to know how to do everything is setting yourself up for failure. I’d rather set myself up for success.
7. Be as kind to yourself as you are to everyone else
This is also really helpful when it comes to public speaking. When I see someone else stumbling, I immediately think: “You can do it!” When I meet a new Salesforce Admin, or even an experienced admin who doesn’t have a particular skill, my thoughts are similar: “You are going to love this… just wait ‘til you learn this!” We would never apply to our peers the same harsh thoughts that sometimes cross our minds when we think about ourselves. So try taking that kindness and applying it to yourself.
8. For Salesforce Admins, the Salesforce Community is a huge bonus
I think I could write an entire blog post on this alone, but it really is true. I’ve had complete strangers (with absolutely nothing to gain) help me out with Salesforce problems. I’ve had consultants teach me things, even to their own detriment (the better I became, the less hours they got from me!). Everyone in this community is willing to share their knowledge, even if you think it’s a silly question you need help with. There’s no judgment, no matter where you are in your Salesforce journey.
9. Enjoy the positives and celebrate wins
Just as we have moments when we feel down, we also have moments when we feel good and confident. When someone praises your work or thanks you, take pride in that. Sometimes, I will receive an urgent email – someone is terrified that they’ve broken a report or lost data. Even if the fix is as simple as changing the date filters on a report, it’s OK to be proud of that! Most Salesforce users are grateful for your help.
10. Acknowledge that this feeling is common
When you experience this feeling, try not to panic or fight it. Instead, acknowledge it in the same way as a train passing by – yes, it is loud and disruptive, but we can wait calmly for it to pass, or move to a new location, put on our headphones, etc. Create your own personal list of affirmations – ones that have meaning to you – and keep them nearby to help you feel confident when you need a boost.
If you’re also struggling with imposter syndrome, I encourage you to reach out to your community. Local community meetup groups are a great resource. The online Salesforce Community is incredible, and there are even some Slack channels you can join to help with immediate questions.
Earlier in this post, I mentioned that I sometimes get this feeling that I’ll eventually be exposed for not knowing anything about Salesforce. Logically, I know this won’t happen – it can’t happen, because I do actually know a bunch of stuff, and I’m truthful about the things that I don’t know.
As far as the things ‘I don’t know’ go, I also don’t know what will happen tomorrow, I don’t know where my career will take me, and I don’t know what cool and interesting things I will learn in the future. But what I do know (and what I want every Salesforce Admin struggling with moments of doubt to know) is that we’re not alone.
I hope these tips can help you. just remember, and we’re all here to help each other.