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7 Ways To Overcome Impostor Syndrome as a New Social Work Graduate

by Harleny Vasquez, LMSW, SIFI

Congrats, grad! You finally made it!

You are probably thinking, HOLY COW, I actually made it to the finish line.

You may be thinking to yourself, I didn’t think it was even possible, and now I have to navigate the job market by myself—questioning your every move, reflecting on all your previous experience, and feeling like it is not “good” enough to help you land your ideal social work role.

Here is the honest truth. Those feelings of being “inadequate” when you are, in fact, quite competent are known as impostor syndrome. As we know, it is definitely not a diagnosis in the DSM-5. However, it can impact your own abilities when it comes to achieving your highest potential. One of the most important things that a new social work graduate can first do is to be able to validate all of the experiences that you have gained thus far, including your internship experience. Here are some facts—internship and volunteer experience are all valuable and can successfully be marketable to organizations.

Self-sabotage is a huge barrier. As we are all aware, the brain is very powerful, and we can subconsciously self-sabotage when we least expect it. Self-sabotage can be displayed in many forms, often shown in delaying the job search process, not seeking out social work licensure because of fear of failing, and even fear of success.

Being a Latinx first-generation, I know firsthand how much pressure one can feel when it comes to achieving certain milestones and needing to be a role model for others. I often dealt with self-doubt in multiple stages of my life, constantly questioning my every move and my own abilities. I felt that I was never “good enough” to attend a good school or even pass my social work licensure exam.

I first needed to recognize that besides being my own biggest barrier, I am also my biggest strength. Impostor syndrome can often stem from inner childhood, which can bring those feelings of never feeling worthy enough to accomplish your own goals. If you could speak to your younger self, what would you say? Visualize a time in your life when you wish you would’ve felt validated, and tell your younger self that you are worthy and loved and capable of achieving anything you set your mind to. It’s also important to recognize and own your voice when starting out in the social work profession.

Here are seven ways to help you feel confident and overcome impostor syndrome as you navigate the job market as a new social work graduate.

  1. Validate your current successes. Celebrate all of your wins—no win is too small.

  2. Acknowledge that there is nothing wrong with you. Almost all of us feel this way. You are not alone.

  3. Always remember your why and your reason for becoming a social worker.

  4. Continue to validate all of your experience thus far. You have so much to offer.

  5. Give your subconscious mind the evidence needed to recognize the reasons why you are worthy.

  6. Learn to love yourself right in this very moment. There are no flaws—only areas for improvement.

  7. Learn how to find comfort within your own journey. You got this!

Harleny Vasquez, LMSW, SIFI, is a Latinx social worker with more than eight years of experience working in the field of social services, primarily with children dealing with complex trauma and trauma-informed organizations. She is a social work career coach, speaker, and the founder of her business yourEVOLVEDmind, as a social work career coach helping social workers in all stages secure their next opportunity. She is an active board member on the Latino Social Work Coalition and Scholarship Fund and co-chair for NASW-NYC Committee on Nominations and Leadership Identification.

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