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Imposter Syndrome & The Importance of Sponsors


Hello party people, this week you get to hear about my latest professional crush.

I’m binging on Adam Grant’s WorkLife podcast. I think he’s widely known, but just in case: Grant is Wharton’s top-rated (and youngest) professor, becoming tenured while he was still in his twenties, as well as the author of 5 best-selling books in organizational psychology. Organizational psychology in the most basic terms is “how to make work suck less,” as Grant describes on his podcast. 

All of Grant’s stuff is worth listening to, but here are a couple of my recent favorites. 

If you’re in the midst of reinventing yourself, upskilling, building new relationships or trying to figure out how you can have more impact – and let’s face it, who isn’t in this economy – then you’re in for a treat!

Reese Witherspoon on Imposter Syndrome

Does Reese do anything badly? Actress, Director, Children’s Book Author, midlife Social Influencer.

The fact is, Reese has made a career of stepping into fictional and real-life personas. Can you imagine Legally Blonde’s Ella Woods and Wild’s Sheryl Strayed being friends IRL? And yet Reese played them both. That’s like learning a vastly different job each year. She has no choice but to be an imposter as she’s learning a role.

In this 30-min podcast, she talks about losing her dream role to Drew Barrymore, and being so terrified in the first seven months of Walk The Line that she nearly quit. Instead she won an Academy Award.

Favorite quotes:

“Sometimes you’re on the front of the bus and sometimes you’re on the back of the bus. Just stay on the bus.” 

“When you’re struggling, it’s often because you’re stretching your skills. Feeling like an imposter might just be a clue that you’re on the verge of learning something new.”

Carla Harris on the Importance of a Sponsor

Fortify yourself with coffee before listening to this because Carla Harris is like your first day of boot camp. Named one of the leading Black executives in America, Harris is Vice Chair of Wealth at Morgan Stanley and bestselling author of 3 leadership books. She was appointed to chair the National Women’s Business Council by President Obama.

In this Adam Grant podcast she talks about the importance of building relationships with sponsors and exactly how to do it. And she’s not above showing up early or fetching coffee.

For example:

“Well, somebody has to be in the room carrying your paper because all of the important decisions about your career are made in a room where you’re not present. Your compensation is decided in a room where you’re not present, your promotions are decided in a room where you are not present, and new assignments are given out in a room where you are not present. So somebody has to carry your paper and use their currency on your behalf.”

And building a relationship is just frequency of touch. “In a professional environment, as people build relationships, they start to think they know you. So I’ll think about ways that I can interact with them. [If I know a certain leader gets in at 7:30 every morning], then I make sure that I’m there at 7:15, so when she comes in, she has no choice but to say good morning.” 

Another favorite quote, as Harris goes on about being a sponsor to others: “The way to grow your power is to give it away.” 

That’s all for today, friends. Let us know if something resonated with you here… or you want to talk about reinvention, upskilling, new relationships or impact. Comment below or get in touch here.

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