Student Perspectives: Imposter Syndrome


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About Courtney: Courtney Cheng (’22) earned her bachelor’s degree in English at UC Berkeley. After graduating, she worked as a content writer and a marketing project manager in the higher ed/nonprofit space. She intends to complete the social impact specialization at Anderson to learn more about and pursue an impact-driven career post-MBA.

Tackling Imposter Syndrome

Before I became a student at UCLA Anderson, I knew my background would make me a nontraditional candidate in any business school classroom. As an undergrad at UC Berkeley, I studied English and music with the goal of moving to New York to work in journalism or publishing. In reality, I worked on the campus of my alma mater as a marketing project manager for the alumni association (Go Bears!).

I hadn’t realized that once I got to Anderson, my background would also make me an almost perfect vessel for imposter syndrome. When I entered spaces with classmates who could speak intelligently and thoughtfully about recruiting, case interviews and write-ups, or their experience working on multi-million dollar projects in the corporate space, I felt dwarfed. I opted to not share my thoughts because I felt they couldn’t compare. Tackling imposter syndrome remains an ongoing process, but the following tactics are ones that I’ve found to be most effective so far.

Trust the process

The career team at the Parker Career Management Center has a saying: “Trust the process.” They use it in reference to the recruiting process, but these words also helped me when I was struggling with imposter syndrome beyond recruiting. The admissions team at Anderson, from the application readers to the 2nd-year student interviewers, hand-select each admit for particular reasons. When I couldn’t convince myself that I was meant to be a member of the Anderson family, I kept reminding myself of this process. As an admit, I had been chosen by a team of trained, intelligent individuals to earn my MBA from UCLA Anderson. Even if I didn’t believe in my ability to succeed in particular moments, there were many others who believed me to be capable of succeeding at Anderson.

Surround yourself with community

As a Consortium fellow, I was fortunate to have, even within the first few months of virtual school, a community at Anderson I considered my ride or dies. These people weren’t just my starred conversations in Slack. They were also the classmates who had come to know me—my communication style, work habits, goals, and personality—well enough that they knew how to reassure me without making me feel like they were blowing hot air. I found a support network and knew who to turn to depending on the type of imposter syndrome I was experiencing. There were the friends I’d text about struggling to speak up among my learning team, the folks I’d ask to review job and club applications, my partner for pre-interview pep talks. I found reassurance through my community, and I was able to use their belief in me to carry myself through episodes of imposter syndrome.

Seek therapy and coaching

Everyone should go to therapy. Anderson makes it easy for students to get access to therapy through UCSHIP. I began seeking therapy in the middle of fall quarter, and I was surprised to hear how many of my classmates were already several steps ahead of me in finding therapists for themselves. Talking to a therapist specifically about my imposter syndrome has given me new mental frameworks through which I can understand and address my insecurities. Another helpful resource is Anderson’s executive coaching program, Leadership@Anderson. My executive coach has begun helping me develop tangible actions and goals I can directly practice to combat my imposter syndrome. Wading through the learnings and self-reflection from both therapy and executive coaching simultaneously hasn’t been the easiest—but even after just a couple sessions of each, I can already begin to feel the difference.

Student Blogger: Courtney Cheng ’22

Undergrad: University of California, Berkeley (’16) - B.A. English

Pre-MBA: Marketing project manager

Leadership@Anderson: Director of EDI, Admissions Ambassador Corps; Director of Communications, Out@Anderson; Director of Marketing and Engagement, Net Impact; Board Fellow; Riordan Scholars Mentor


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