Illegitimacy syndrome: what it is and how it affects us

For the love of life, one can start studying psychology and then study engineering. Others start with graphic design and end with a degree in classical philology. Many are those who accumulate disparate formations just by simple desire to learn, but by forgetting to foresee a clear and objective training course.

The illegitimacy syndrome is more and more present, especially in people with a restless mind and who want to know everything a little, but nothing in depth. This syndrome generally occurs when one has recourse to a diffuse and heterogeneous academic path.

This syndrome can be a hindrance to job search, both due to the fact that in the labor market people are often looking for specialized profiles and because of the self-perception of feeling less expert than others. . Let’s take a closer look at the features of illegitimacy syndrome.

    What is illegitimacy syndrome?

    More and more people with very diverse resumes, accumulating titles that don’t seem to have much to do with each other. People who, for example, first studied engineering, then decided to experiment with fine art. Or people who first did Hispanic philology and then psychology. Some first studied chemistry and then philosophy. The list of examples is endless with all the possible combinations.

    What all people with such different educational backgrounds have in common is that they know a lot but not at the level of experience as one would expect someone to have continued on the same path.

    Their passion to study and not wanting to fit into just one profession or branch has led them to venture into learning many different things, sometimes giving them the feeling that they do not even master the knowledge they have. They feel that their thirst for knowledge has made them worthless, and that is why they suffer from illegitimacy syndrome.

    The illegitimacy syndrome could be summed up in one sentence: I love everything, but nothing is going well for me. This particular syndrome defines more and more people, restless minds who want to know everything but in practice have the impression of not knowing anything in depth. It happens when we have studied everything with a dispersed and heterogeneous academic background. Without realizing it, we accumulate courses on very different subjects, driven by the simple desire to learn, but losing sight of the clear and organized professional direction we should have.

    For example, a person who studied psychology wants to change his mind and now decides to prepare to become a physical education teacher because he is very fond of sports. He finished his studies and decided to continue his training, this time with a language. He began to study German but quickly switched to another, simpler language. In the end, and despite the training, you have the impression of not being an expert in anything, and when you apply for a position of psychologist or gymnastics teacher, being that it has to compete with many other professionals whose programs are more specialized.

    This scattered and, why not say, chaotic trajectory ends up being problematic as a lot of money and time has been invested in being a person who is basically an expert in nothing. And in the world we live in, having extremely scattered CVs is a huge downside, although the more knowledge we have the better.

    The company is becoming more and more competitive, offering all kinds of extremely specialized jobs. You need very specific profiles, masterfully mastering a discipline or a particular branch. It requires people who, after completing their diploma, cycle of training or other training, have continued to study the same path and have become more and more specific as professional experts in a subject. In terms of work, the more expert you are at something, the better.

    Clinical psychologists, electrical engineers, pharmacy assistants, otolaryngologists, preschool teachers… all of these professions and many more are profiles of people who first studied a career, then went on to study something that relates to it. In this way, they became professional experts in subjects they had studied before, establishing good knowledge.

    Other, people with very different backgrounds do not necessarily have little professional success. However, the feeling that they may have studied everything will help form the idea that because they are not experts at something specific, they are not worth it and, as we are. mentioned, this works against it.

    Also, if your CV is extremely varied and there is no sign of expertise anywhere, your professional success will be less. It is unlikely that a psychologist with a degree in Catalan philology or a doctor with a degree in economics will be needed, for example.

      Generalist studies

      Arriving here we understand the importance of having done several training courses that are linked to each other but it also happens that there are careers which in themselves are very general. This is the case with psychology, whose university degree offers a wide range of subjects that touch on everything relating to the human mind and behavior: clinical psychology, education, statistics, biology, social, psycholinguistics …

      Psychology students, after completing their bachelor’s degree, feel a lot but with little depth, that is, they experience illegitimacy syndrome. And if it makes them feel like a psychology degree is great for them, something typical of another famous syndrome, that of the impostor, this can strongly discourage them from looking for work and gaining experience. He may even consider starting another career, finding that the four years he spent earning his psychology degree weren’t of much use to him.

      Fortunately, this can be easily resolved by deciding to enroll in a postgraduate course, master’s degree, or looking for a job that they have studied directly. The feeling of illegitimacy syndrome will eventually fade once they see that they are building themselves up as experts in a certain subject., be it a psychologist or any other career.

        What is illegitimacy syndrome?

        Illegitimacy syndrome can manifest itself in several ways. It is important not to confuse it with impostor syndrome, a condition in which a person is expert in a particular subject but feels that they do not have enough knowledge or experience of it.

        In the case of illegitimacy syndrome, really there is no expertise or, if there is one, it is hidden under other titles and formations that have nothing to do. You have the feeling that you know a lot but with little depth, as we have already mentioned.

        People who suffer from illegitimacy syndrome have profiles perceived as too generalist, accumulating a lot of skills, studies and aptitudes. How it ends up making them feel like those who are very ambitious, narrow-minded, are starting to be seen as impostors. This too heterogeneous and shallow training, combined with their precariousness, may put them at a disadvantage compared to professionals who have a specialized profile.

        Today, the demand for specialized professionals is increasing, something that has its origins in WWII. Many cities were devastated after the conflict, so much so that while any work was welcome, people needed to know how to rebuild them smartly and efficiently. A skilled, competent and efficient workforce was needed in specific areas. This prospect gave birth to a new framework in the field of work and training, which is still in force today.

          The illegitimacy and talent syndrome

          As we said, people with illegitimacy syndrome are seen as individuals who know a bit of everything but nothing thoroughly, because they wanted to study a wide variety of things. The problem with that, aside from the job implications, is that they think they don’t have any talent because they aren’t good at something specific. They are not geniuses of mathematics or letters, but they are curious minds who have jumped from one subject to another.

          This perception is the result of a misconception of what talent is. It is common in schools to say that a child is good when he excels in a subject. However, research on this They highlights something important in terms of talent, such as research at Mendel University in Brno, Czech Republic.

          From his study, talent is understood as a skill that must be educated by motivation. Without effort and willpower, a skill cannot come to anything. People with varied and heterogeneous knowledge are moved by curiosity, by the desire to have knowledge, what happens is that if there is something that motivates them at the beginning after a while they are awakened by something else and that’s why your CV can be so varied.

          When a person has knowledge in various fields, but doesn’t feel like they’re really good at anything this may be perceived as fraud. This can have the negative effect of opting for jobs that require less training than you, inferior jobs that he deems suitable because he is perceived as a “non-expert” and will therefore be able to perform them.

            Impacts on job search

            The illegitimacy syndrome is experienced by many students who have just finished their license or other training, especially if they are psychology-type careers for which the training courses are already very varied.

            This makes them see themselves as invalids. When they look at the vacancies, they feel they are falling short. Lack of experience and a perception that they have not yet acquired the skills to stop them when they apply for any job offer related to what they have studied.

            This happens to young graduates as well as to those with very heterogeneous backgrounds. When you have experience and knowledge but dispersed, you assume that it will be difficult to hire one. These are people who doubt their legitimacy because they don’t believe they are experts in anything. This is where social comparison comes in by Leon Festinger, a social psychologist who has explained very well how people are sometimes obsessed with the idea that other people are better than us. We’re downplaying our capabilities simply because we don’t have a background that we think would be specialized.

              Heterogeneity as an advantage

              While having a specialized CV is ideal, that doesn’t mean being a curious person, hungry for knowledge, and interested in all kinds of things should be a problem. We live in an era where specialization is valued, flexible professionals eager to learn new things are also required, either to broaden their field of intervention or to update their knowledge.

              In a dynamic society, generalist and heterogeneous profiles are precious. It is true that a profile that is too heterogeneous may indicate that the person is undecided as to what they want to study, but it could also be that they are interested in so many things that they have simply done a little bit of everything at its own pace. He can have multiple transversal skills and abilities, be a real expert on some, and what happened is that he just has a curious mind who wanted to go beyond a field of study. particular.

              People who are interested in a lot of things and stand out are what have been called T or renaissance personalities, who are skilled in various fields. Behind them may be high skills and talents, or also great effort and great motivation to learn. they are more and more they can be a working gold mine, a rough diamond that should not be ignored. Specialization is not everything in this life.

              Bibliographical references

              • Bravata, DM, Watts, SA, Keefer, AL, Madhusudhan, DK, Taylor, KT, Clark, DM, Nelson, RS, Cokley, KO and Hagg, HK (2020). Prevalence, predictors and treatment of impostor syndrome: a systematic review. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 35 (4), 1252-1275.
              • Rosicka, Zdena & Hošková-Mayerová, Šárka. (2014). Motivation to study and work with talented students. Procedure – Social and behavioral sciences. 114. 10.1016 / j.sbspro.2013.12.691.
              • Coleman, M.; Harradine, C .; King, EW (2005). Meet the needs of students twice as exceptional. Teaching exceptional children. 38 (1): p. 5 – 6.
              • Heller, KA; Monks, FJ; Sternberg, RJ; et al. (2000). International handbook of giftedness and talent. Amsterdam: Pergamon.

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