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Overcoming Impostor Syndrome when starting a new job

August 22, 2014 | By | No Comments

“I’m so nervous. I’ve always been nervous, ever since I was a kid.”
- Elvis Presley

The first time I heard the phrase “impostor syndrome” I immediately knew what it meant. Back when I started my first “corporate job” I felt like a complete fraud. All of the people around me were successful professionals doing important work and I had no idea what I was doing. I felt like a fraud and I constantly worried that I would be found out and removed.

Up to 70% of people will suffer from “Imposter syndrome” at one point or another, and some will struggle with these feelings for their entire careers. However, for most of us, it happens on a temporary basis, usually when we start somewhere new.

Over the years I have enjoyed reminiscing with others who have suffered with this issue and who have shared what they have learned. I expect the experience is different for everyone. Here is some advice to help you overcome that impostor feeling when starting in a new role:

Prepare for brain for the impact

The psychology is against you. You are an outsider who is facing all new inputs while everyone around know is in their comfort zone. Moreover, you know nothing yet about how to be successful, so you have very little sense of control.

It helps to know this in advance. If it takes you by surprise it can cause a panic reflex. If you are prepared, you can let go of the need to feel more in control.

Baby steps

When you walk into a new place you are bombarded with a new professional reality.
It is natural to feel a little overwhelmed when you look at all at once. The whole picture is frightening, but you are not supposed to understand the whole picture right away.

When you try to take everything in at once you are setting yourself up for feeling overloaded and incapable. However, when you focus on learning one thing at a time it all gradually fits into place.

Start by focusing on people (not yourself)

As it happens I recently started a new job myself. For me, the trick to becoming comfortable has been to take the focus off my own ego and realize it isn’t all about me. When you start a new job you may feel on the spot, but you are just one of many people who have had to start fresh in the very same environment. Others all around you have walked the same path, and almost all want to help you. They all stand to benefit if you are successful. Get to know them, listen to them and let them help you. Once you feel you are not alone, you will likely feel less overwhelmed.

Consider the alternative

It is better to try something new and fail than to be stuck in a rut with no growth. The most common issue I hear from professionals I meet is that they feel professionally limited and want to do more. I have long spoke out against what I call “career inertia“. We all need new challenges in order to have a rewarding career. This means taking risks, trying new things and making changes. Starting a new job may be intimidating and may even make you panic in feeling like an imposter, but this is what happens when you try something new.

So next time you feel like a fraud when you are starting a new role, take a minute to congratulate yourself for doing what it takes to grow professionally.

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