Starting a new role - overcoming imposter syndrome
In my previous article, ‘Overcoming imposter syndrome: applying for a new role’, I wrote about working with candidates who are struggling with imposter syndrome in the process of applying for a new role. However, this isn’t the only point when I see people face imposter syndrome — it can also come up when someone actually starts a new role.
It’s not unusual for a candidate to convince themselves that they aren’t going to get a particular job or board role, only for them to land it and then feel like there’s no possible way they can actually do it. Getting the position you apply for doesn’t magically make the imposter syndrome disappear!
Here are a few strategies you can employ if you’re in a new role and facing imposter syndrome, or if you know someone who is.
Tips for when you’ve got the dream role and still feel like an imposter
1. Give yourself permission to learn.
When we are in education, it can feel much easier to cut ourselves some slack when we’re learning something new. After all, if you’re a student, you’re allowed to learn, right? No-one expects you to know it all. Give us a particular title though, and suddenly we feel like we’re supposed to know it all instantly, and we can be very hard on ourselves if we don’t.
You are allowed to learn when you are in a new role, and it will take you some time. Sometimes (though not always), the bigger the role, the longer it will take.
2. Ask for help when you need it.
Linked to the above, don’t be shy about asking for help if and when you need it. Even those who are in senior leadership positions need to ask for help sometimes. If you are struggling with a particular aspect of your role, who in the organisation can you ask for help? If you need support more generally with adapting to a new position, can you reach out to a coach or find a peer group with other individuals in similar roles? There is often more help out there than you think there is — sometimes you just need to look for it or say that you need it.
3. Focus on your strengths.
Remember that you wouldn’t have been offered the role if the selection panel didn’t think you could do it. There are strengths that you bring to your role, even if you’re at a stage right now where they feel overshadowed by what you think are weaknesses or things you can’t do.
What are you already doing well? This does not have to be groundbreaking or revolutionary — it can be something as straightforward as giving yourself credit for being friendly when meeting colleagues for the first time, or maybe you’ve taken the time to listen to someone who asked to have a conversation with you. Even getting to grips with new IT systems can feel like a massive accomplishment when starting a new role! Get in the habit of celebrating what’s going well.
If you are in a new role of any kind — whether it’s paid or voluntary, full-time or part-time, freelance or otherwise – and facing imposter syndrome, let me assure you, you are not alone. Other people are going through this right alongside you — you just may not realise it.
Take it one day at a time, and one day you’ll look back and see how far you’ve come – even if at that point you still feel you have a long way to go. Ultimately, it’s ok to give yourself permission to learn. Ask for help when you need it; and focus on your strengths, regardless of where you are in your career journey.
If you’re interested in hearing more about this or other similar topics, please get in touch and let us know! We’d love to know what you’d like to learn more about as you consider taking your next step.
Dr Jenn Allen is a Managing Consultant in our Not for Profit Practice. In addition to being a well-read scholar with both an MSc and a PhD in Education from the University of Oxford, Jenn has a wealth of experience working with foundations and trusts to recruit to both executive and board roles. With a passion for making a difference, Jenn works with her clients to find excellent candidates who are committed to the positive changes they seek to make in the world. You can connect with Jenn on Linkedin or send her an email.