Dr. Valerie Young is an internationally-known expert on the impostor syndrome and author of award-winning book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It with Crown Business, a division of Random House, now available in five languages.
Her career-related tips have been cited in these and dozens of other business and popular publications around the world and she’s been interviewed on countless programs including the BBC, Minnesota Public Radio, and Yahoo Finance.
Corporate and Professional Firms
A former manager of strategic marketing at a Fortune 200 company herself, Valerie has shared her practical advice to tens of thousands of executives, managers, and professionals at these and many other companies in the United States, Canada, and Europe.
Valerie has spoken to tens of thousands of students, faculty, and staff at over 75 colleges and universities in the US and Canada. (* Indicates faculty development programs)
Boston University (2x)
Brown University (2x)
Carnegie Mellon University* (3x)
Cal Tech (2x)
Case Western University
Claremont McKenna College
Colorado School of Mines* (2x)
Cornell University* (4x)
Harvard University (3x)
Indiana University School of Medicine
Johns Hopkins University
MIT Lincoln Labs
Meharry Medical College
Michigan State University
Michigan Technical University
Mount Holyoke College
NYU Medical School
Northern Arizona University
North Dakota State University
Oakland University William Beaumont Medical School
Oregon State University
Pennsylvania State University
Princeton University (2x)
Rensselaer Polytechnic University
Scripps Research Institute
Southern New Hampshire University
Stanford University* (5x)
State University of New York
Stowers Institute for Medical Research
Texas A&M University
University of British Columbia
University of California Irvine,* Davis,* Santa Cruz, Berkeley, San Francisco
University of Colorado (2x)
University of Connecticut
University of Hartford
University of Houston
University of Illinois
University of Iowa
University of Kansas (2x)
University of Kentucky
University of Massachusetts (2x)*
University of Maryland
University of Michigan
University of Minnesota
University of Missouri
University of New Hampshire
University of North Carolina*
University of Ohio
University of Oklahoma
University of the Pacific*
University of Pennsylvania (5x)
University of Pittsburgh (2x)
University of Texas (3x)
University of Utah
University of Virginia
University of Washington
University of Wisconsin
Wake Forest University
Western University (Ontario)
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Wright State University
Associations, Conferences, and Centers
Valerie’s insight and humor have made her a popular keynote and guest speaker at numerous conferences, association meetings, and entrepreneurial and executive development centers in the US and Canada including:
Alberta Business Women
American Institute of Chemical Engineers
American Society for Mechanical Engineers
American Society for Microbiology
American Women in Radio and Television
Association of Women in Science
Bernardsville, NY Business Women
Connecticut Bar Association
Helena Montana Women’s Leadership Network
Hampshire Country (MA) District Attorney Office
International Association of Venue Managers
Iowa Women’s Conference
Massachusetts Library System
Men of Color in STEM Symposium (Cornell University)
Michigan Women Psychologists
Mineral, Metals, and Materials Society
Montana Association of Female Executives
National Association of Multicultural Engineering Program Advocates & Women Engineering Program Advocate Network (Joint Conference)
National Association of Social Workers
National Lung Cancer Partnership
Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs
Professional Secretaries International
Romance Writers of America
Smith College Executive Education for Women
Society of Women Engineers
Utah Women Attorneys
Women’s Enterprise Center, British Columbia
Women Entrepreneurs of Saskatchewan
Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts
Women in Commercial Real Estate
Women in Jewelry Association
Women of Vision (Optometrists)
YWCA of North Central Indiana
The Personal ‘About’ Page
That’s the resume version of the story.
Now here’s Valerie’s personal impostor story in her own words…
In 1982 I was four years into a graduate program in education at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and procrastinating terribly on writing my dissertation.
One day while I was sitting in class, another student began reading aloud from an article by a couple of psychologists from Georgia State University, Dr. Pauline Rose Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes, titled, “The Impostor Phenomenon in High Achieving Women.”
Subsequent studies determined that impostor feelings are hardly unique to women. Plenty of men also feel like impostors — some painfully so.
On that particular day though, I was responding to the 162 high- achieving women that Clance and Imes had sampled among whom they uncovered a pervasive pattern of dismissing accomplishments and believing that their success would disappear once others discovered the awful secret that they were, in fact, “impostors.”
My head was nodding like a bobble- head doll’s. “Oh my God,” I thought, “she’s talking about me!”
When I looked around the room, everyone else—including the professor—was nodding too.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. I knew these people. I’d been in class with them, I’d taught alongside them, I’d read their work. To me, they were intelligent, articulate, and supremely competent individuals.
To learn that even they felt like they were fooling others rocked my world.
A group of us began to meet as a kind of informal impostor-support group.
We talked about how intimidated we felt when we discussed our research with our faculty advisers… how more often than not we left these sessions feeling confused and inept…
How we’d clearly put one over on the admissions office… and how anyone who looked too closely would realize we weren’t scholar material after all.
We all agreed that these feelings of intellectual fraudulence were keeping us from finishing our dissertations in a timely fashion—or, in my case, from even starting.
Just being in the company of like- minded women was tremendously reassuring.
Everything was going pretty well until about the third meeting.
That’s when I began to have this nagging sense that even though they were saying they felt like impostors … I knew I was the only “real” impostor!
Turning Pain into Gain
I realized that while talking is an important first step, you can’t share your way out of impostor syndrome.
I knew I had a choice…
I could let my own secret fears continue to stand between me and my goals, or I could channel my energy into trying to understand them.
I chose the latter.
The impostor phenomenon became the impetus for my doctoral research, in which I explored the broader question of why so many clearly intelligent, capable women feel anything but.
My search for answers entailed in-depth interviews with a highly racially diverse group of fifteen women: executives, clinicians, social service providers, and academic advisors. I wanted to hear from them about the kinds of internal barriers to success they’d observed in the women they managed, counseled, or advised.
What I learned became the basis for a day-long workshop called “Overcoming the Imposter Syndrome: Issues of Competence and Confidence for Women,” which I co-led with fellow grad student Lee Anne Bell.
Lee and I booked a small meeting room at a local hotel, put up some flyers, and hoped that at least a few people would come.
When forty women showed up, we knew we’d hit a nerve.
We facilitated several more packed workshops before Lee relocated to pursue a career in higher education.
In 2001 I launched a revised workshop called “How to Feel as Bright and Capable as Everyone Seems to Think You Are: Why Smart Women and Men Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and What to Do About It.”
Taking impostor feelings out of the realm of therapy and into an educational arena has proved tremendously successful. To date, more than 80,000 people have attended this program.
Simply giving people an alternative way of thinking about themselves and about competence has yielded some amazing results.
- Women reported asking for—and getting– raises.
- Corporate execs who had participated in a workshop as students told of being so transformed that years later they asked me to address their employees.
- Writers who had played small for years became prolific.
- People who had lacked the confidence to start or grow a business suddenly found the courage to go for it.
The core of my work stems from my original doctoral research.
I also draw from my own professional and management experience including seven years in a Fortune 200 company – two in training and development and five as a manager in strategic marketing.
I draw too from my two-plus decades as an entrepreneur.
However, most of what I’ve learned about the impostor syndrome comes from over a quarter of a century of collective experience and wisdom gleaned from the men and women who’ve attended my workshops.
They come from all walks of life… nurses, engineers, psychologists, programmers, optometrists, administrative assistants, jewelers, physicians, executives, professors, cancer researchers, social workers, teachers, attorneys… and on and on.
Despite their various situations and occupations, the women and men I’ve worked with have one important thing in common: They are no impostors.
And, as you will soon discover, neither are you.
A Different Kind of Career Change Expert
In addition to her work on impostor syndrome Valerie is widely recognized as a thought-leader on thinking “outside the job box.”
In 1995 she became the founder and Dreamer in Residence at Changing Course — an online resource for people who want to make a living doing what they love without a job. Today over 24,000 people subscribe to the Changing Course Newsletter.
She created the first and only training program that teaches people how to serve the career change needs of people who want to be self-employed.
Over 350 people from 19 countries have trained with Valerie to become a licensed Profiting from Your Passions® coach.
Other books by Valerie Young:
Being Realistic is Killing Your Dreams: 7 Lessons for Living Life on Purpose, Working at What You Love, and Following Your Own Road (Changing Course Publishing)
It’s Never Too Late to Find Your Calling: A Handbook to Help You Find Your Passion – and Get a Life (Changing Course Publishing)
There’s Got to Be More to Life Than This! 10 Steps to Escaping the Job World and Creating the Life You Really Want Personal Planner (Changing Course Publishing)