Let’s talk about something that many people shy away from sharing due to the fear of judgement from coworkers or peers.
Behind the scenes, in-between the lines of code, there it is — imposter syndrome. It’s that pestering feeling that you don’t belong, that you’re a fraud, even when you have the skills and experience to back you up. And for people who’ve taken a career break in tech, experiencing imposter syndrome can be like an unwelcome pest, chipping away at your confidence at every corner.
Imagine this: after taking a career break, you decide to jump back into the world of software engineering. You were once the expert, the problem solver, the innovator. But now, after your time away, you find yourself questioning every line of code you write and doubting every decision you make, second-guessing if coding is the career for you. It’s natural to feel this way, especially when technology evolves at a breakneck speed, it’s easy to feel left behind.
As many as 82% of people have experienced imposter syndrome in the workplace, so it’s important to remember, you’re not alone. Many returning software engineers and even working software professionals face imposter syndrome and low confidence at work. The key is not to let these feelings define you. Your journey back into tech might be challenging, but it’s also an opportunity for growth and self-discovery.
Recognise your experience
The first step is to reflect on your experience and skills, not just as an employee but as a person. By acknowledging that you’re a well-rounded person, you’re recognising the value you bring to the different areas of your personal and professional life. Although your career break might have taken you away from the corporate world, that doesn’t diminish your skills or knowledge.
The life experiences you have gained during your career often allow you to bring fresh perspectives and problem-solving approaches to both your personal and professional life. During your time out of tech, you might have become a mother and learnt crucial time management, planning and communication skills. Or maybe you started a business, developing customer service skills and delegation. Whatever it is, if you take a step back, you’ll see that you’ve gained a wide range of transferable skills that you can carry into your next software role.
Tech is constantly evolving, and staying up-to-date is vital in ensuring that you keep yourself on top of the latest changes and setting yourself up for success in your professional development. For example, did you know that in 2023 the top three programming languages are Python, Java, and C++? You can learn about the latest news and trends in technology by enrolling in online courses, attending workshops, joining tech communities, and attending conferences or events. Lifelong learning isn’t just a buzzword; it’s essential in the fast-paced world of software engineering — so don’t be afraid to put yourself in environments where you don’t know everything. Growth comes from taking on new challenges.
Find your community
Finding a community where you meet and connect with other like-minded people can support you in finding your voice as well as potential opportunities.
We’re fortunate that the tech industry has a vibrant community with networking groups spread across the UK. With a simple Google search, you’ll discover an amazing wealth of subsections of tech groups. Women in Tech? Queer in Tech? Neurodivergent in Tech? The list is endless. If there isn’t a group that fits what you’re looking for, you can create your own, because you can bet that there are other people who’d be looking for your exact group.
The benefits of a united and vibrant community are that you can share your challenges, listen to others’ stories, celebrate victories together, and be a support system for each other. A sense of belonging can work wonders for your confidence.
Find a Mentor
Mentorship is not just about technical skills; it’s a great way to get an outside perspective on your situation and to get balanced guidance from someone whose career, achievements, or personal strengths you can draw inspiration from. It’s highly likely that there are other professionals who have faced similar challenges and can offer you invaluable related guidance about ways to build your experience, network, and confidence.
Celebrate the Small Wins
Rebuilding your confidence and navigating imposter syndrome takes time, and it starts with celebrating the small victories. Whether it’s debugging a complex code snippet, mastering a new programming language, or getting to the interview stage of a job, acknowledge your achievements.
Lastly, be kind to yourself. Setbacks are part of the journey. Don’t berate yourself for not knowing everything — no one does. Practice self-compassion and patience. Talk to yourself the same way you’d talk to a friend. You’re not expected to have all the answers immediately. Your return to software engineering is a journey, not a race.
How Tech Returners can help
Our Tech Returners programme — an award-winning and free course — is designed for people just like you, ready to re-enter the tech industry.
Whether you had to take a step out of work for family responsibilities, move to a different corner of the world, or even start your own business, this is the perfect opportunity to brush up your skills and dive back into tech.
In just a few weeks, our fantastic team will help you fine-tune your skills, refresh your technical know-how, and keep you up-to-date with all the latest technologies.
We offer courses all year-round, and they are absolutely free, thanks to fantastic funding from the Department for Education! We also run corporate-funded programs in partnership with top brands such as Booking.com, AutoTrader, The Guardian, and Checkout.com, among others, who sponsor our programs, providing a guaranteed job interview at the end!
So, if you’re ready to take the next step to revive your software career, check out the latest courses we have now.