No Degree, No Problem: A Guide to Overcoming Imposter Syndrome in Your Career

Life skills

September 20, 2023

The other week, I had a peek into my Newsletter Survey.

This is the survey you fill out when joining my Newsletter List to tell me all about the kind of things you’re interested in me covering and your wishes comes true!

In one of the forms someone said:

“Imposter syndrome is something I struggle with a lot – I don’t have a four year degree or “real” credentials. I have learned mostly on my own and by doing, and have hopped around a lot. But I want to understand – how do I avoid imposter syndrome stopping me from doing things and taking risks?”

What a great question.

Let’s explore.

And what better way to explore than looking at different scenarios of where you may be tempted to get additional training.

The Scenarios

A) You’ve been working in an industry, say marketing or advertising, for a while now. You fell into the job, so you don’t have the specific degree to match the job, but you’ve been learning as you go, but you’ve recently started wondering if you should get that degree. 

B) You’re a self-taught photographer who is getting paid for your work but you haven’t got a degree in photography.

C) You’re switching careers and going into a new role that doesn’t specify certain qualifications, but you think you should have them (eg. you’ve worked in events and now you’re going into a project management role). 

So which one of these do you think needs a degree, and why?






With the first two – it’s working! You’ve been hired and you’re getting paid which is evidence enough that you’re good at what you do.

Do you have returning clients? Even better! That speaks VOLUMES about the quality of work you’re delivering.

With the third one – don’t hold yourself back from applying for the job! If they haven’t stipulated a project management certificate, then wait. Get the job, then see if you need it.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a 2021 article from Harvard Business Review saying that the hiring landscape has changed. The number of students enrolling into higher education is decreasing, (because let’s face it, it’s getting ridiculously expensive nowadays) and yet the demand for workers is rising, so it just wouldn’t be beneficial for companies to only look for degrees when hiring. They want you even if you don’t have a degree!

So now that’s sorted, let’s move on to the real problem here….

What’s behind the need for credentials?

When the question of getting extra credentials comes up in my coaching calls, I always do some investigating. 

I ask what’s behind the need for credentials.

What do you think that qualification will give you that you don’t currently have?

If it’s essential knowledge you need for the job or if it’s a qualification you need that’s required for your career change, then go right ahead.

But if the reason you’re looking for a qualification is:

  • To create confidence within yourself
  • To get rid of Imposter Syndrome feelings
  • Prevent people from doubting you

Then it’s likely that you’re getting qualifications to act as some magical armour to give you inner strength and courage and protect you from people’s judgement.
But know this…

It’s not the credentials’ job to do that, it’s your job to do that. 

The Fear

Credentials won’t help you with the hidden fears that you’re not addressing. 

They won’t dissolve Imposter Syndrome.

Or squash the fear of being asked a question and not knowing the answer. 

Or dispell that fear of judgement, fear of rejection, and fear of being in a position where you may have to say ‘I don’t know’ and ask for help.

Yes, you can go get that qualification and have the answers, but what I’m seeing here is a golden opportunity to confront those fears. 

To practice being ok with not knowing.

To practice asking for help.

To learn to put yourself out there.

THESE are the real skills you want (that no degree teaches you btw).

When you do those things – when you do the inner work and confront the very things you’ve been fearing….oh my goodness! The confidence you will have within yourself….the calm inner strength and peace you get….no uni will ever give you that!

When do you need a degree or extra training?

Only spend the money on a degree or training when:

  1. You’re sure of the direction you want to go in
  2. You’re sure it needs a qualification
  3. You’ve tested the area you want to go in

With the first point – if you’re not sure of the direction, coaching can help you get the clarity you need.

With point 2 – be discerning. Your imposter syndrome (and perfectionism) will tell you that you need a qualification or training, but that’s not always the case. You don’t always need to go to a music college to be a musician, or fashion school to start your own brand.

But you do need coach training to be a coach, you can’t just lob that title onto your LinkedIn and wing it.

With point 3 – always test your theories. Volunteer, research or line up a few test projects to see if you like doing what you think you want to do. Here’s an example to illuminate.

Career change without a degree but with a test

I had a client who had wanted to have a career change for a while but hadn’t quite worked out what she would do next. She’d just redone her house, loved the process and had a mini epiphany one night where she thought “why don’t I become an interior designer?”.

This aligned with so much of the stuff we’d been working on – her vision, values, experience, and strengths.

But because she’d never done this before, her first thought was “I should do a course or get a qualification.”

There’s a very expensive course out there that teaches you all about interior design.

But I wouldn’t recommend jumping to a course.

In cases like this, I would recommend testing out the idea first. Set up a couple of test projects to see if you like doing it before you hand over a couple of thousand to a school.

I had a friend who did that course and then afterwards realised she didn’t want to be an interior designer because she didn’t want to have to go out and find clients. She hadn’t thought about that bit until she graduated.

When you pick a profession, you think of the core work of the job (eg. designing, coaching), but you don’t always think about the other tasks you need to do in order to get to the core (eg. selling, marketing).

So for cases like this, try out the profession first before investing.

Not only will you be able to see if you actually enjoy all the elements of the job, but it will help you avoid imposter syndrome in the future because you would have had a few projects under your belt when you do go out and market yourself.

Plus, you don’t need to lie to the first few clients – tell them upfront that you’re learning and because of that you’re giving them a discount. Everybody wins here!

In conclusion

What I’m saying is – don’t reach for external validations without first testing your idea or doing the inner work.

The inner work is actually what will actually give you the validation you’re looking for. 

Do that first, and then, if you still want or need a degree, go for it.

But don’t rob yourself of the true life lesson here.

Want some career change inspiration?

Not only do you not need a degree to change careers, but you also don’t need to be young.

You can pursue your dreams at any age. And I want you to truly believe that, so I’ve shot a video giving you examples of 3 women who changed careers after their 40s.

Some may have done a course here or there (eg. an acting course) but they didn’t need to do a big degree or wait to finish school to do what they wanted.

You can do it my friend. Make that change that your heart wants to make.



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