Many women work hard to get to the top of their career and when they get there, are unable to enjoy their new role because they feel like a fake and suffer from what is known as Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome is described by the Collins dictionary as chronic self-doubt and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.
A few years ago, I too suffered from imposter syndrome, although I did not know the name for it back then. I had been promoted from a junior management position to a senior management position in a short space of time. My salary doubled and with that came huge responsibilities.
Before I started the role, I only had a couple of hours sitting with the person whose role I was taking over and that was it. I was thrown out there to get on with it.
My role included budget ownership for the group as well as overall health and safety management responsibility for the group. Although I had experience of budgets and health and safety, I did not have it at this high a level so was not confident in what I was doing.
My colleagues across the region doing the same role had been doing it for many years and seemed so ‘expert’ at what they were doing. I thought that I would get caught out and that my bosses would soon realise that they had made a mistake giving me the role.
This feeling did not last for long because I quickly reminded myself that I had been through a fair and open competitive recruitment process. If they didn’t believe that I could do the job, they would not have given it to me. I had to believe in myself.
With this realisation, I was able to ask for support with the areas that I was not sure about. I set up a series of meetings with the Regional Finance Manager and the Regional Health and Safety Officer to gain a full understanding of the requirements and expectations. I also identified training courses that I could attend.
I was fortunate that I quickly identified what was going on and was able to do something about it. Many women are not so fortunate and will carry on, often working excessive hours and becoming stressed out in the process. Some women even turn down jobs or don’t go for jobs because of this.
Imposter Syndrome was identified and researched by two psychologists – Drs. Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes – in 1978. Over time the effects of imposter syndrome can cause stress and emotional issues, even depression
There are many ways to address imposter syndrome, the following steps worked in my situation and are also helping my clients. They may help you too.
Get a mentor
Find someone within the organisation who can act as a mentor whilst you enter this new role. Some organisations automatically provide a mentor for employees that are promoted to leadership roles. If your organisation does not provide this, seek out someone who is experienced in the role that you are doing.
If you are put off from applying for a more senior role because you do not believe in yourself, find a mentor and/or a sponsor.
Believe in yourself
If you have been promoted, those that selected you obviously believe in your ability to do the role. Believe in yourself and don’t let the negative thoughts that go on in your mind convince you that you cannot do it.
When those negative thoughts surface, write them down and then write down corresponding thoughts that are more helpful. For example, if you think that you are not good and that you cannot do it, a corresponding helpful thought would be something like ‘I know most aspects of the role and for those which I am unsure, I will seek help/training’.
Every time those negative thoughts surface, substitute them to the helpful thoughts you have listed.
Identify the particular skills that you need to develop and seek training in those areas. If your organisation does not provide training for this, find training externally.
One of my clients had been offered her dream job. However, she was considering not going for it because there were two things on the job description that she had no experience in. She was considering turning down the job because of this. However, I was able to help her see that she could do everything else and she could get support with these 2 things in order to bring her up to speed.
She had been focusing on and magnifying the 2 things she lacked experience in and minimising the wealth of experience she had in all the other areas.
Are you trying to do everything when there are things which would be better done by someone else? Sometimes when someone is newly promoted to a leadership role, they think that they have to know everything and do everything. It can be quite stressful trying to do all this.
Identify whether there is anything that you are trying to do which should be done by someone else and delegate appropriately.
One client became overwhelmed with the volume of work and trying to keep on top of it all. A close examination of what she was doing showed that she was a bit of a perfectionist and was trying to things which should be done by others, including her manager as well.
Watch your stress levels
If you find that things are pretty stressful, find techniques that will help you to manage and reduce your stress levels.
Taking on a new role in itself can be stressful, particularly if you are meant to be the decision maker and the expert but are still finding your feet. Whilst bringing yourself up to speed with the job, in order to reduce your stress levels, make sure you take a lunch break and leave the office to get some fresh air.
Work reasonable hours and find ways of relaxing and switching off at the end of the day and at weekends.
Are your thoughts and self limiting beliefs preventing you from being the best you can at what you do or preventing you from going for you dream career? If so, join the Facebook 30 Day Mind Cleanse. It starts on 1 November 2013 and you can join in at anytime during the month. Each day for 30 days a challenge will be posted that will help you to challenge your thinking and self limiting beliefs.
Join in at https://www.facebook.com/groups/the30daymindcleanse/ and end 2013 less fearful and more confident to pursue the career or business you desire.
Carol Stewart, The London Career Designer, is a Personal Development, Career & Business Coach and founder of Abounding Solutions. She works with women in their forties who are unhappy at work but are too scared to do anything about it. She helps them to develop the confidence to make a career move and find something that they love. This could be a complete career change or it could even be exiting the corporate environment and setting up their own business.
Carol herself made a significant career change in 2011 when at the age of 44 she left the organisation she had worked in for 28 years, went back to university and set up her own business.
She is also a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management and a Member of the Association for Coaching.
Carol’s free ebook ‘5 Steps to Pursuing Your Passion at Mid-Life – A Guide to Designing a Career You Love’ can be downloaded at http://aboundingsolutions.com/