Imposter syndrome and why you're not going to be sacked

Why Have They Employed You?

It’s not uncommon to develop some nagging doubts during your early weeks and months about whether you can cope,so here’s a couple of things to think about by way of a bit of reassurance.

This article is an extract from Your First Job -  your survival guide to entering the competitive and challenging world of work.

It’s here to ensure you get off on the right foot straight away, so you can hit the ground running confident and able to cope, without having to learn the hard way!

Give yourself an unfair advantage – read Your First Job today.

Remember, they hired you – that’s important

You have been hired. The organisation which has employed you spent time, effort, and cold hard cash, often quite a lot of all three, in looking to find, interview, select and engage someone; and out of all the people who went into the find part of the process (and believe me, there’s likely to have been a lot), they chose you.

So, always remember:

  • they’ve not hired you for the fun of it, they’ve done so because they have work that needs doing (probably lots of it as you are possibly finding out)
  • they have picked you to do it; and
  • they (particularly the individuals involved in the recruiting process) are invested in you and you making a go of it.

After all, having spent all that time, effort and money, don’t you think the people who were involved in hiring you are going to want the process to be seen to be successful? If it goes well they’ve got bragging rights about what a good choice they made in you haven’t they? But if you don’t do well, or even leave, then that’s a pain for them; not only might they look bad in front of their colleagues for having got it wrong, but the likelihood is they are going to have to go through the process all over again.

The bottom line? Once you have been hired, whatever it feels like, people will be wanting to make the job work for you so they will be motivated to help and be supportive. All you have to do is manage this the right way.

But what if I don’t know how to do the job?

If this is troubling you as a question then firstly you're not alone. So called "Imposter Syndrome" or a feeling of self doubt and resulting anticipation of being exposed is that is something that is very stressful and affects many many people as they move through their careers.

But secondly, as a new starter, it’s worth asking yourself what they hired you for (and spoiler alert), it’s not usually your skills or experience.

There are broadly three things that employers can be looking for in a potential employee and these are:

  • Skills – your technical ability at the task.
  • Aptitude – your natural ability for the task.
  • Attitude – your behaviour towards the task.

A well-used recruitment mantra is Hire for attitude, train for skills.

This reflects a view that your attitude towards the work will be driven by your personality, which is something that will be really hard to change; whereas particular skills can be taught (and for some entry level positions there may be no assumptions about you having any previously acquired technical skills at all).

In some rare cases employers who want to train people in their own particular approach can deliberately look for people with little or no technical skills or prior experience in an area so that they can start with a clean sheet.

Whilst Hire for attitude, train for skills seems a sensible approach, it is however a little simplistic as training someone with aptitude is easier than training someone without.

I personally have the hand-eye coordination of a sack of cement with the athletic physique to match. However much I might want to, be keen to learn and be prepared to put the effort in, my aptitude for developing the skills required to become a world class ping pong player is therefore abysmal. If an organisation wanted to hire someone to train for this role, whatever my attitude, I should quite rightly come last on the list of possible candidates.

In taking you on your employer will have taken a view on your skills, or even lack of them, and will have decided to hire you taking these into account, usually because they felt your attitude and your aptitude were actually what they were looking for.

And if they are happy about your attitude and aptitude, given that they know what they were looking for in respect of your job, then really, who are you to argue?

I hope that's been helpful as a guide to managing your way through your first month at work.

More hints and tips on making a success of the start of your career and coping with the change from an educational environment ae available in Your First Job.