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Overcome imposter syndrome in your new job

Updated: Apr 24

Congratulations - you’ve got a new job, promotion or joined a new and exciting company. You’ve put in hours of preparation with your application, attended numerous interviews and completed psychometric tests galore, and it has all paid off. You haven’t had chance to celebrate your success before you're already starting to doubt yourself. Thoughts such as ‘I’ll be found out’ and I’m a fraud’ seep into your head. You question how you got there, if you’ll make it through your probation and simply put it all down to luck. You may even think that the other applicants must have been really bad if YOU managed to get the job. Yes, imposter syndrome strikes.

‘Imposter phenomenon’, widely known and talked about, was originally identified by psychologists Clance and Imes (1978). They described the phenomenon as a pattern of thinking found, particularly, in high performing women who put their success or achievements down to ‘luck’, and continued to believe that they would soon be ‘found out’. The number of achievements or levels of success the women experienced did not manage to change their thought patterns. If anything, increased levels of success compounded their thoughts, thinking that they were even more likely to be found out, and as a result worked relentlessly to maintain the ‘pretence’.

You aren’t alone - it is documented that over 70% of people, both men and women, experience these thoughts at some point. Doing new things, like starting a new job or achieving a promotion, is when imposter phenomenon can become magnified. You find yourself questioning your abilities, and working harder and harder, for longer hours so that you don’t ‘give the game away’. You tie yourself in knots, second guessing what others think and trying to make up for the fact that this promotion is down to luck.

If you experience these thoughts and feelings early on in your new job, chances are you may experience them elsewhere in life. There is no quick fix to shifting them, but the good news is you can work to reframe these thoughts and reduce the impact they have on you.

According to the National Science Foundation, we all have between 12,000-60,000 thoughts every day. Of those, 80% are negative and 95% are repetitive thoughts that we play over and over. This does go someway to explaining as to why we default to imposter-like thoughts and feelings, particularly when trying new things or in times of stress, but also means we need to put in the effort to overcome what has become a very natural thought cycle. When challenging any habit, it takes discipline, hard work, honesty (with ourselves) and consistency. Try some of these when you notice imposter syndrome setting in.

1. Look at the facts

Remove yourself from the situation for a minute and look objectively at what is going on. Can you rationalise to see that it is not purely luck which led you to get the job? Look at the facts - did you take part in a fair process? Could the hiring team, who are skilled in finding the right applicants and who put time, effort and money into the process, have secured the best person? List out your experience, and skills that makes you right for the job. Review your personal attributes that got you to where you are.

2. Positive talk

As we know, much of our self-talk is repetitively negative. Make a conscious effort to overwrite that talk with positivity. Notice when you’re talking negatively to yourself and find the positive in the statement. Challenge yourself. Ask yourself, ‘how true is that?’. Repeating positive affirmations such as ‘I am worthy’, ‘I deserve this’, ‘I am where I should be right now’ are great ways to start the day and get you into a positive mindset.

"The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but the thoughts about it. Be aware of the thoughts you are thinking." Eckhart Tolle

3. Raise yourself up

All of your work experience has led you to this point but sometimes skills and strengths are hard to recall. Go back over your work history and look at all the amazing things you’ve done, the challenges you’ve overcome, the results you’ve achieved. Keep a list of these and continue to add to it. Review it when you feel those imposter thoughts creep back in. Plus, don’t be afraid to shout about your successes or be proud of them.

4. Accept praise

Accepting praise when you’ve started a new job can be hard. You feel awkward, you want to dampen it with a negative comment. When you notice this, stop and take a breath. Smile and say ‘thank you’. The more you do it the easier it becomes.

5. Share with others

It’s likely that others around you will experience similar feelings to you. Share how you’re feeling with someone you trust. When we have common experiences with others, we don’t feel so alone. It may or may not be someone at work, but either way, they may share how they are feeling with you. This could be a great way to develop relationships with new colleagues and build connections.

6. Develop self-awareness

When we go behind the scenes, rather than focus on the surface, we often find more information as to why we act / feel / think like we do. This isn’t an easy thing to do (especially by yourself) and takes a patient, honest approach. Journaling is a great way to start to collate thoughts and notice patterns that might be unhelpful.

It can be daunting starting a new role, and one which may lead you to feel out of place. Imposter phenomenon effects so many of us but know that you can take control before it controls you. With practice, you can challenge the impact it has on you when starting out on new paths, such as a new job. When you recognise those thoughts and feelings, you can begin to re-programme your thinking and reduce the imposter ‘noise’ in your head.

Two women working together at a desk
Imposter syndrome in your new job?

Gemma Brown is a professional certified coach (PCC) who works with individuals and SMEs, 1-2-1 and in groups, to identify their strengths and build confidence which enables them to have the self-belief to fearlessly bring their whole being into all areas of life. Gemma is based in Cambridgeshire and carries out face to face coaching in the area as well as 1-2-1 coaching via Zoom. For more about Gemma, visit her 'About' page or contact her directly.

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