Chill on the Side Gigs and Get a Promotion – 4 Tips on Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Should you focus on getting a promotion or building your side hustles?

I think that depends. If your side hustles aren’t scalable than focus on getting a promotion. By scalable I mean that your effort you make builds on itself. For example, my blog is scalable. The more I write, the more like-minded people I’m able to attract. I don’t have to build up an audience from zero everytime I post an article. In contrast, delivering groceries for Amazon or Instacart isn’t scalable. You get the same amount of money whether it’s your first day or you’ve been doing it for 4 years.

When I was focusing so much on gig work instead of trying to get a promotion at my salary job, I realize it was because of fear and imposter syndrome. I was afraid to climb the corporate ladder at my salary job. I had spent many years working my way from an hourly employee to a salary employee. But once I got to the salary position, I lost focus on the job and instead spent lots of energy and time doing side gigs.

In reflection, I realized because I had a non-traditional path to the corporate world, I hadn’t quite shrugged off my imposter syndrome yet. It was non-traditional because most people hired for the salary jobs where I was at, come in as college graduates and the corporate salary world is their first job. Instead of focusing on promoting, which would have been scary because I could have failed and proved to myself that I’m an imposter and didn’t belong amongst my peers, I exhausted myself with side gigs before and after work.

The hard, but more profitable thing to do, would have been for me to face my imposter syndrome head on and figure out what I needed to do to promote.

Why is a promotion more profitable than side hustles?

It’s not always the case, but assuming there is opportunity for promotion at your job, a promotion is scalable. If you get a $10k raise, your next raise is based off your previous salary plus the $10k raise. You’re still working about 40 hours, but your income is increasing. If you rely on gig work for your $10k, you must work those hours it took to make the $10k, each year, and even more hours if you want more than $10k.

There is also a benefit in a promotion over additional gig work if your company offers a 401k matching. If I got a $10k raise at my job, I don’t just get $10k more, I get $10k plus 10% 401k company matching. My $10k raise is actually $11k.

But how do we get over our fears about promotions or asking for raises?

  1. Look at who is promoting quickly at your job and take note of the behaviors they have. If possible, find someone in your same demographic promoting quickly because due to biases what works for a white man, might not work for a woman of color.
  2. Be on the lookout for self-sabotaging behaviors. Anxiety can surface insidiously in everyday behaviors. Maybe you get nervous about a challenging assignment so when you should be working on it, you grab your phone and start scrolling social media. A way to uncover self-sabotaging behaviors is to consider what tasks would be most valuable for you in achieving a raise or promotion, then observe why you’re not doing those tasks or not doing them as well as you can.
  3. Don’t take anything personal. Consider all behaviors communication. If you do the work to get a promotion and they don’t promote you or give you a raise, it’s not that they don’t like you or even wish you mal intent, they just don’t have the vision to see what you offer. Consider getting a second opinion, ie. apply other places. I didn’t get a raise I thought I was worth, so I took a job someplace else. They valued me much more at the new place. You know what they say, you can be the juiciest peach, but it means nothing to someone who doesn’t like peaches. If no one else sees your skills, meaning you’re interviewing and no one else is hiring you, that might be communication that you need to work on your soft and/or hard skills. If that’s the case, refer to tips 1 and 2.
  4. Ask. I got a raise once by just emailing my manager whose office was 10 feet away that I wanted a raise. I was too nervous to ask in person. The email was probably better anyways because it allowed me to clearly bulletize why a raise would be appropriate for me based on the value I was providing the company. Full disclosure, I’ve asked for raises maybe a dozen times before the email, with different managers without success; asking doesn’t always lead to a raise, but if it does, it’s the easiest and quickest way.

Everyone’s situation is unique and side hustles might be the right move for you right now. Side hustles might be a great choice if your 9-5 isn’t scalable or if you’re in between jobs. Side hustles can also be great for networking and learning new skills, but for me they were a distraction from my imposter syndrome and getting to where the real money was at. If you reflect and realize you’re using side hustles as a distraction too, try my tips above and let me know how it goes. Get that money!


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