PAs and EAs, do you suffer from imposter syndrome in the workplace?

Business Support
Image of african young woman working new business assignment. Female executive sitting at her desk using laptop and writing notes at office.


If you’ve ever looked around your workplace and thought ‘I really don’t belong here’, it’s possible that you’ve experienced something called imposter syndrome. It first appeared in the 1970’s and is now a broad term to describe when both men and women don’t believe they’re worthy of their professional standing.

Carole Ann Rice, one of the UK’s leading confidence coaches, explains that, “feeling like an imposter stems from a lack of confidence in your abilities, which can make you feel like you don’t belong in the workplace next to your colleagues”. She goes on to explain that it might be more usual than most people think: “It’s a common feeling, and can manifest in a person becoming closed-off and unhappy at work, which may further isolate you from those you work with.”

For business support staff, regardless of whether you’re in a personal assistant job, or you’re a part-time receptionist, this feeling may come from a lack of confidence in your abilities when you compare yourself to those you support. If you’re the only assistant in the office, this can exacerbate the feeling, as there isn’t anyone else in a similar role for you to turn to for reassurance. As Carole Ann describes, “working on your confidence through practical steps can be the key to breaking this vicious cycle”, so if you think you might be suffering from imposter syndrome, we’ve put together a few strategies to combat these negative thoughts.

Recognise the feeling
The first step to overcoming imposter syndrome is recognising that you’re experiencing it in the first place. If you’ve just started in a workplace, it’s completely normal to feel overwhelmed with the role. However, if those feelings turn from nervous jitters to serious self-doubt about your capabilities, it’s possible that you’ve moved into imposter syndrome territory.

Reframe your thoughts
The only difference between someone who experiences imposter syndrome and someone who doesn’t is the way they think about themselves. It has nothing to do with intelligence or ability! A great place to start is to analyse negative thoughts and actively try to turn them into a positive. Repeating a personal mantra is a great tool to changing your thought patterns too. By reiterating to yourself that you’re good enough, capable enough and smart enough to carry out your role successfully, you will inspire that belief in yourself and others.

Woman with her head in her hands next to a laptop

Don’t take criticism to heart
Try to view constructive criticism as a positive thing, rather than a reinforcement of your incompetence. For example, if your principal asks you to pay more attention to detail when booking meetings, don’t interpret this as them doubting your ability as an assistant. These conversations are all part of the learning process, which allow you to grow in the long term.

Ask for help if you need it
If you feel like you don’t deserve your role, you may find it impossible to ask for help when you need it. Being unsure at work will mean that your colleagues will surely find out you’re a fraud, right? Wrong! It’s so important to recognise that even the most capable people in the office will ask questions. Your co-workers will be grateful that you’ve clarified the issue, otherwise the misunderstanding may have become a problem in the future. In fact, your colleagues won’t even give it a second thought.

Confidence is key
Carole Ann explains that, “imposter syndrome is really self-doubt as you compare yourself unfavourably to others and feel you’re lacking. When you understand that most people feel this way, you can then trust your own unique skills and grow your confidence.” So, take comfort in the fact that you’re not the only one who feels this way! Instead, take advantage of the fact that no one has your individual skills and experience. Whether it’s your bubbly personality when talking to clients of your principal, your intuition when completing a coffee order, or your creativity when putting together new office processes, your uniqueness is what makes you an asset to the team.

At Tiger, we know just how much time and consideration has gone into the recruitment of business support staff, so believe us when we say that it wasn’t just good luck that landed you the role! You were most likely hired because you’re fully capable of completing the job, and should feel confident in your ability to do so.

Tiger publishes regular workplace insights to help you with every aspect of your work life. If you need help finding a job in London, submit your details online today to start your job search!

Author Rebecca Siciliano Tiger Recruitment Team

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