How to overcome imposter syndrome during a promotion

How to overcome imposter syndrome during a promotion


You have worked hard throughout your career to climb the corporate ladder and take on more responsibility. You have successfully delivered major projects, managed teams, and made transformative changes. Now an opportunity has come up to move into a higher-level management position. Suddenly, you are filled with doubt: “Am I really up to the task?”

Rest assured that this fear is quite common. It is known as imposter syndrome, which the BDC defines as “the internalized and irrational feeling that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be.” It is usually a question of self-perception rather than a lack of talent.

Imposter syndrome affects women more than men, especially high achievers, who also tend to be perfectionists. It can nevertheless be debilitating for anyone suffering from it. In this article, PIXCELL offers some tips for keeping that little voice inside your head from lying to you about your talents.


1. Take a step back


If you have been approached for this promotion, it clearly means you have performed well, right? You were completely in control, and suddenly you are outside of your comfort zone. It is completely normal for this to be a stressful time.

Think of your strengths, your achievements, and the major milestones in your career. Think about specific moments when you felt unsure and see how far you have come since then. Draw strength from the past to prepare for the opportunities ahead.

Be honest: are you more critical of yourself than of others? Most overachievers are, setting the bar extremely high for themselves. Try to see yourself from the outside, for example, by re-reading positive feedback or testimonials about you.


2. Find support


Surround yourself with colleagues, mentors, and friends who see your strengths and boost your confidence. Speak to them about how you feel about this new step. They will no doubt be able to help rebuild your confidence.

Executive support groups can also be an excellent place where you can talk about your fears and the challenges that you are facing with other executives from outside your normal circles.

Depending on the extent of your imposter syndrome, it could also be beneficial to pick apart certain moments in your life when people undermined your self-confidence with the help of a professional.


3. Give yourself time


Remember that making mistakes is only human and helps us learn. It is completely healthy to have moments of doubt, but the fear of making mistakes should not prevent you from moving forward.

No one expects you to be perfect from Day 1. Of course, no one likes looking vulnerable, particularly in the eyes of upper management or the board of directors. But ego is enemy number 1 in business.

If asked, talk about your vision and your management style up until now. Say that you are excited to take this next step with an open mind, open ears and a team spirit. Let yourself settle into the role before committing to anything. This will give you time to talk to your new colleagues and employees, and ultimately gain confidence.

If you feel anxious in this new position, trust in your ability to succeed. After all, you have succeeded so far.


The Dunning–Kruger effect


David Dunning and Justin Kruger are American psychologists who conducted experiments that measured participants’ level of competence, and, more importantly, their perception of said level of competence. While this study was controversial, it highlighted an interesting cognitive bias: less competent individuals seemed to have higher self-confidence and a tendency to overestimate their own abilities. Inversely, more experienced individuals seemed to think that their abilities were ordinary and easy for everyone to acquire, thus underestimating their own competence. Where do you fall on the scale?


The headhunter, a strong ally


Talk about your imposter syndrome with the headhunter in charge of the executive recruitment process. We have an outside perspective of you, and we see hundreds of candidates every year. We may not be occupational psychologists, but we can help you see your leadership qualities and your greatest achievements. We can also help you take on your new role with confidence. After all, we are the ones who recommended you to your future boss in the first place.


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