CEO Journal

6 Ways to Avoid Feeling Like an Imposter When You’re Starting a New Career

business solutions and strategy

Imposter syndrome is a very real psychological phenomenon. It typically manifests in people who find it difficult to acknowledge that they have a learning curve or that, from time to time, they may need to ask for assistance.

Chances are you don’t have imposter syndrome. When you’re starting a new career track, however, you may experience paralyzing self-doubt or fear that you’ve oversold yourself and can’t possibly measure up to your new employer’s expectations. Here are six strategies that can help keep you from feeling like a phony at the new gig:

  1. Ask intelligent questions
    If the information you need isn’t in a handout or on the business website, don’t be afraid to go to a manager or a coworker for that information. Better yet: Go to a manager or a coworker with a request about how to find that information.
  2. Clarify expectations
    Most job descriptions are necessarily incomplete because if they included everything you’re responsible for at your new job, they might be the size of a small novel. If you’re confused about your duties, request a meeting with the manager to whom you report. Prepare your questions beforehand. Be respectful but direct throughout your discussion. At the end of your meeting, ask for a list of tips and suggestions on what can help you better meet workplace expectations.
  3. Count to five before you give your opinion
    You won’t know all the reasons why things are done the way they are at your new job until you’ve been there for a few months. What you may be tempted to write off as inefficiencies may actually be budgetary, technical or even political necessities. That’s why you should always count to five before you offer any unsolicited opinions. Hopefully, while you’re counting, you’ll see the error of your impulse and maintain a sagacious silence.
  4. Admit your errors
    Everybody makes mistakes. The distinction between someone who’s good at a job and someone who’s not is that the good people learn from their mistakes. If you make a goof at work, own it, and try to understand where you went wrong so you won’t repeat the error. Author and business coach Ieshia Leverette offers this advice, “Obstacles are a journey and everyone has a story. Be grateful for the situations you’ve been through because they create growth and opportunities to learn.” Leverette recently made her authorship debut with her book, Naked Truth.
  5. Find a work BFF
    Having a best friend at work gives you someone to share workplace highs and lows without having to explain a whole lot of context. A friend can give you a reality check when you’re faced with a confusing job-related situation. Your friend will probably be part of different networks than you’re a part of at work and will share information with you that you might otherwise never get access to.
  6. Decompress when you get home
    Resist the temptation to take work home with you those first few weeks and months on the job. Yes, yes: You’re trying to make a great impression. Overwork leads to burnout, though. Activities like listening to music, watching a movie, reading a book, cuddling with a pet—or significant other—are activities that will help you unwind. When you come into work the next morning, you’ll feel refreshed and ready to take on the challenges of the day.

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Anna Papadopoulos
Editor, writer, teacher, consultant. Advocate for plain language, journalism, free speech, and tolerance. Feminist. Based in Sydney, Australia.
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