mushroom coffee

Back in the day when I was a newbie blogger with a good URL and an accidental audience, a friend offered a smart piece of advice. Quoting Kurt Vonnegut, he said, “Be careful who you pretend to be.”

Whenever I think I know something, and whenever I’m about to present myself as an expert on a topic such as human resources or marketing, I ask myself, “Is this true? Is this real? Or am I laying the infrastructure to support myself for when someone attacks me for being a fraud?”

Imposter syndrome. Right there. Plenty of psychologists will tell you that nothing good comes out of that line of thinking.

But imposters are everywhere. There are people who are ‘employment experts’ but haven’t worked in years. Men who openly swipe ideas from colleagues and pretend to be gurus and geniuses. Women who think of themselves as leaders but couldn’t lead a mischief of mice to cheese.

I don’t want to be one of those people.

But I live in America, which means that I know one truth: personal reinvention is possible and within reach for anybody who dares to dream. Do you want to be a career advisor? Go for it. Do you wish to be a marketing guru? With a compelling story and a semi-decent headshot, you can become a micro-celebrity in any niche community.

Everybody wears a mask. We are all imposters to some extent. And as long as you’re not a psychopath, I think it’s okay to pretend to be someone you’re not. In fact, I think it’s better to be someone you’re not. You are probably boring.

Just don’t be an imposter to yourself.


  1. Very well said Laurie.

    There’s too much credentialism going on these days, almost in equal measure to the genuinely fraudulent.

    You can absolutely ‘pivot’ your career, even though people don’t always forgive you for doing it.

    I suppose people tend to know you from how first know you – something that’s difficult shake.

    You’ll always be a cool writer though, so there’s always that

  2. The best time to reinvent yourself, a new job. It’s a like baggage dump, no one knows you and it’s a clean slate.

    Side note: your post reminded me of Amanda Palmer’s Fraud Police.

  3. Imposter syndrome is a real issue in the world of entrepreneurs, particularly those of us who are creating products or technology that have never existed in the world before. In fact, by definition, you have to be a little crazy to think that you are qualified to create something “that new.”

    In your case, it’s different, because your views stand on their own, face-valid merits and the soundness of your thinking. People read or hear what you have to say, and they evaluate based on the merits of what you are serving up. And certainly what we find in HR is that the most “qualified” pundits often can’t offer us anything that isn’t cognitively lazy.

    You don’t have to worry about being “one of those people.” Just be true to yourself and stay smart.

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