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Overcoming imposter syndrome

Allen Associates, News & Blog

After the excitement of landing your dream job and getting stuck into your new role, it is not uncommon to feel self-doubt creeping in and for your confidence to take a bit of a knock.

Starting a new job at any level can be daunting and has been known to trigger ‘imposter syndrome’ characterised by feelings of inadequacy and a nagging doubt that you may not be qualified for the position after all.

Even the most accomplished individuals have experienced imposter syndrome at some point in their careers. The good news is that there are practical steps you can take to overcome these feelings, rebuild your confidence and thrive in your new role.

Your guide to overcoming imposter syndrome

  1. Acknowledge what you’re feeling: The first step is to recognise and acknowledge that feeling self-doubt and questioning your abilities is common, especially in new situations. So common in fact, that it’s been given a name!

  2. Broaden your understanding: Educate yourself about imposter syndrome. Knowing that it's a psychological pattern that affects many high-achieving individuals can help you to feel better about your own experiences. Learning more about it is empowering and can bring a sense of relief, knowing that that you’re not alone.

  3. Challenge your negative thoughts: Pay attention to your inner dialogue. When you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts or making self-deprecating statements, stop! Counter-argue with yourself by reminding yourself of your achievements, skills, and qualifications. Turn negative self-talk into positive affirmations about all those things that make you who you are – and led to your employer choosing you for the role.

  4. Take pride in your achievements: Create a list of everything you’ve achieved. Use this list to challenge any feelings of inadequacy when they arise.

  5. Be fair to yourself: Acknowledge that you won't know everything from day one and be comfortable with that. Set realistic expectations for yourself, and remember that you were hired because of your potential and the skills you already possess – not for the ones you have yet to learn.

  6. Ask for feedback: Don't be afraid to ask for feedback from colleagues, supervisors, and mentors. Constructive feedback can validate your strengths and provide insights into areas where you can improve.

  7. Reframe your definition of success: High-achieving people often set unrealistic expectations for themselves and demand perfectionism in everything that they do. A key step is to recognise that perfectionism often fuels imposter syndrome. Shift your focus from trying to be perfect to aiming for excellence and continuous improvement instead. Understand that making mistakes is a natural part of growth.

  8. Embrace opportunities to develop: View your new role as a learning experience. Embrace the opportunity to acquire new skills and knowledge. By adopting a growth mindset, you'll be more open to challenges and less threatened by the fear of not knowing everything.

  9. Connect with others: Share your feelings with trusted colleagues and mentors – or if this doesn’t feel comfortable, confide in your friends out of work as well as family members. You may find that some of them have experienced imposter syndrome themselves and it can be hugely helpful to share coping strategies. Connecting with others can provide valuable perspective and support – and in many cases, provide the endorsement you need to re-evaluate your perceptions.

  10. Visualise success: Positive visualisation is a tried and tested way of rewiring your brain and associating your actions with success. Lots has been written about this subject but in essence, it’s about picturing yourself excelling at a particular task so that you feel more able to approach it with confidence and positivity.

  11. Keep a journal: Some people find it helpful to write things down. Consider recording your achievements, positive feedback, and moments when you've felt confident, and reading through your journal whenever self-doubt creeps in.

  12. Focus on your strengths: Identify your strengths and unique qualities. Recognising what you bring to the table can boost your confidence, help you to see yourself through your employer’s eyes and those of your team, and remind you of your value and the contributions you make.

  13. View failure as growth: Shift your perspective on failure. Instead of viewing mistakes as evidence of your inadequacy, see them as opportunities for growth and learning. Try to think of mistakes and failure as stepping stones to success.

  14. Set small goals: Big goals can feel overwhelming and unachievable. Break them down into smaller, more manageable ones that are time bound and more easily achievable. Reaching each milestone contributes to the end goal and provides a sense of accomplishment, reinforcing your belief in your own abilities.

  15. Don’t compare yourself to others: Try to avoid comparing yourself to others, especially online where your peers may use social media to highlight their successes. Work shouldn’t feel like a competition. We’re on our individual journeys with our own triumphs and challenges.

  16. Celebrate your achievements: Acknowledge your progress, no matter how small. Celebrate your own milestones and achievements along the way, and use them as evidence of your growth.

  17. Set boundaries: Don't over-extend yourself trying to prove your worth and risk burn out. Set healthy boundaries and prioritise your wellbeing. Most employers have policies and programmes in place to help their people look after themselves so take advantage of these. Keeping well and maintaining a positive outlook is important not just for yourself, but for your colleagues and everyone else around you.

  18. Reflect on your journey: During any low points, try to regain perspective by reflecting on any challenges you've overcome personally or professionally during your career. Reminding yourself of your resilience can help you feel more empowered and fuel your confidence.

  19. Go easy on yourself: Treat yourself with the same compassion and understanding you would offer a friend facing similar challenges. Remember that everyone has moments of self-doubt. Acknowledge, normalise, learn and move forward.
  1. Get professional help if you need to: If you’ve tried unsuccessfully on your own to overcome imposter syndrome and it continues to impact your wellbeing and performance, consider getting advice and support from a mental health professional.

By your side

Your recruitment consultant, in collaboration with the rest of the team at Allen Associates, is here to support you throughout the recruitment process – and that includes those first few heady months in your new role.

Hopefully, you will be able to access everything you need to ensure a smooth transition through your new employer, but please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any queries that you feel we are best placed to help you with.