Forgiving Your Impostor Syndrome

There can be a culture shock for students who get out of reporting school and jump directly into the freelance world. One minute you’re in a t-shirt and jeans tapping away in a class of people with about the same skill level as you, and the next minute you find yourself at the head of the table, more or less alone, and in charge of making the legal record of deposition proceedings. Even worse, the people you’re working with don’t always cooperate. Even worse, you may not have ever seen a legal proceeding before.

There may be a feeling building that you are inadequate, or that you handled a particular situation poorly, or even that you made a mistake! Everyone makes mistakes. The reporter who tells you, “I never make mistakes,” makes mistakes. The reporter who tells you they’ve never had a complaint makes mistakes. The reporter who tells you mistakes were made, usually on your part, most definitely makes mistakes! That multimillion dollar corporation you work for? They make mistakes too.

The mistakes are not the problem. Being unwilling to learn is where many struggle. Be trainable. Be willing to question yourself and sometimes even your “superiors” to find the right answer. Be willing to reach out and ask a mentor how you could’ve handled something better. Be willing to talk to several mentors if a topic seems controversial. In a regular office or court environment, we have coworkers, union reps, and generally people to talk to about how to handle things that come up. As independent contractors we’re our own business, and navigating these things on the fly can be challenging.

Those feelings of inadequacy? Treat them like a bad dream. Forget them, go about your day, and forgive yourself. Learn what you can and move on. A lot of times I try to offer numbers and science to back up what I’m telling people. Today’s a lesson straight from the “been there, done that” camp of court reporting. Years of observation. You know what you’ll see very rarely? People wearing their mistakes. Nobody is sitting there saying, “yeah, I totally botched a job at the start of my career 10, 20, 30 years ago.” The truth isn’t that nobody has ever botched a job in the history of reporting, but that professionals learn from what happened and move forward into long and illustrious careers.

Your career can be long and illustrious. But if you suffer from feelings of inadequacy or frustration from difficult challenges, one of the first steps is going to be learning to let them go and do what you’ve trained to do. The next step? Training yourself to do better. Before long, you’ve got yourself a staircase, and hopefully that day you’ll turn around and help others build theirs.

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