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New job worries: will I fail?

Our agony aunt Mary Fenwick offers a new perspective on whatever is troubling you

by Psychologies

Q. I’m 27 and graduated from university in 2013. Since then, I’ve worked hard to climb the career ladder. Now I have been given an exciting, yet unexpected, promotion, replacing my head of department. I am flattered but feel highly under pressure and have been working extra hours to keep up with my additional responsibilities. I’ll soon be training and managing new staff for the first time and will be fully responsible for our flagship projects. I’m worried that I will fail to keep track of all the operational things; staff, delivering strategies and so on. I’m also concerned that I’m too inexperienced at my age and will fail at this fantastic opportunity, and consequently disappoint not only myself but also my family, new staff and employer. Name supplied

A. This is not just about what the job gets out of you, it’s also what you get out of the role. The business needs you to be a leader who defines boundaries and sets an example, because losing and replacing employees is expensive.

If you set a routine of excessive working hours, that pattern will take hold. Anyone can spend long hours at a desk, but what businesses need are people who want to put their brains to work on behalf of their employer. The human resources jargon is ‘sustainable employee engagement’ and ‘discretionary effort’.

You are young, hard-working and clever, and you care about your job. You are a millennial, the powerful next generation that all businesses want to attract and retain in ‘the new war for talent’. The feelings you refer to are common enough to have a name – imposter syndrome. I am only saying that by way of brief reassurance; I don’t suggest you spend too much time identifying with the label, apart from taking two steps: share your fears (although not in a self-deprecating way) and get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. Even Facebook boss, Sheryl Sandberg, says she wakes up some mornings feeling like a fraud.

Research shows that everyone wants these things at work: pride; feeling appreciated; a sense of fairness and respect; a sense of accomplishment; interesting, meaningful work; and positive workplace relationships. You are in a position to create that environment for others, so go for it!

Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow. Follow Mary on Twitter @MJFenwick. Got a question for Mary? Email mary@psychologies.co.uk, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line.

Photograph: iStock