Starting a new position can be challenging. Apart from becoming acquainted with the team you’ll be working with, you’re also trying to wrap your head around new responsibilities and tasks.
Since you’re still learning the ropes, it’s probable that you may not excel at every task given to you from the get-go. In such a situation, you could start feeling incompetent at work. If so, don’t fret. Even seasoned employees feel inadequate at work from time to time.
Fortunately, you can tackle your feelings of incompetence by following these steps.
1. Acknowledge Your Feelings
As is the case with most other emotional challenges you may face from time to time, the first step is to come to terms with your feelings.
If you’re a person like me, who is quite in touch with my feelings, you may find it relatively easy to acknowledge your feelings of incompetence, after which you can then move on and look for ways to deal with these.
For others, however, dealing with their feelings is more challenging. If you’re constantly criticizing yourself at work or have been experiencing imposter syndrome, which involves feelings of self-doubt and not belonging, you should take some time to evaluate your feelings and thought processes.
Once you can say to yourself “I feel incompetent at everything,” you can then accept these feelings and start working on a plan of action.
2. Be Kind To Yourself
We are often our own worst critics. If you’re constantly berating yourself, you should work on becoming aware of those negative thoughts as soon as they manifest so that you can start thinking in a different way.
Rather than criticizing yourself, acknowledge that the task at hand has not been executed as you’d have wanted it to but that you’re learning and will do better next time.
Be wary of setting your personal expectations too high at the beginning, because you’ll be setting yourself up for failure. Instead, aim to initially just get through your tasks in a reasonable timeframe.
Even if you fail to meet these goals the first or second time, be kind to yourself. Berating yourself will only foster a negative mindset and will chip away at your self-confidence. Keep reminding yourself that you’ll inevitably get better at what you’re doing as time goes on.
3. Ask for Help
While you don’t want to turn into that team member who is constantly asking for assistance, you should definitely reach out to others when you need help. From my personal experience, fellow workers are often more than willing to show newcomers how things are done in the office.
When necessary, carry a small pocketbook with you and make notes. Although it’s OK to ask about the same process or task once or twice, your colleagues are bound to become a bit irritated if you continue to bug them about the same things.
If you don’t feel confident enough yet to reach out to colleagues, you can consider joining forums or groups on social media platforms.
You may be surprised to learn that many other people are going through the same experience as you are, or that they did in the past. Learning how others have dealt with feeling inadequate at work can be very helpful.
4. Be Clear About Your Job Description
If you’re unsure about what’s expected from you in general, or your daily duties are different from your job description, you should ask for a meeting with your manager for clarification.
It’s important that both you and your manager are on the same page regarding what’s expected from you on a daily basis.
In the event that you’re being asked to do tasks that are not stated in your job description, there are two ways to deal with this. You can opt to go along with it since it’s a new job and you don’t want to stir the pot too much. Or you can tell your manager that you’re battling to execute your daily tasks since they fall outside of your scope of work.
If you go with the first option, be sure to ask your manager for the necessary guidelines and support so that you don’t continue to feel overwhelmed.
5. Ask for Regular Feedback
When you’re feeling incompetent, meaning that you feel you’re not supposed to be in the position you are, you should aim to hone a good relationship with your manager.
Since you probably can’t invite your manager on coffee dates, you can build up a solid relationship with them by asking for regular feedback. How often feedback sessions will take place and in what form, will be largely dependent on the time and management style of your manager.
While some managers like to meet in person on a regular basis, others may be so busy that they simply don’t have the time to meet with individual team members often. In such a scenario, you can initiate a monthly mail correspondence in which you list your concerns and achievements and ask for feedback.
6. Realize it May All Just Be in Your Head
You should consider the fact that feeling incompetent at work may not be based on reality. Often in my work life, I have felt insecure regarding my abilities, only to have those insecurities swept aside once I aired them to a manager and received positive feedback.
You may find that your feelings of incompetence are all just in your head once you’ve received feedback from people that matter.
You should also try to objectively judge your work to gauge whether you’re really incompetent. Examples of incompetence at work include failing to complete tasks, not pitching for appointments or meetings, bad customer service, and weak communication and people skills.
If you’re not guilty of such behavior, you’re probably being overcritical of your own performance.
7. Become Part of the Work Community
Apart from keeping communication channels open with your superiors, you can remain objective by chatting with colleagues about everyday work stuff as much as you can. By doing so, you’ll soon learn that they’re involved with their own tasks and concerns.
You should also attend work functions, workshops, and other events. It’s super important to keep working on your networking skills so that you can remain informed and build relationships.
Becoming part of a community is key in preventing overthinking and negative self-talk. Also, building relationships at work and in your industry will provide you with support and camaraderie, which will help curb any negative feelings you may have regarding your work performance.
8. Find a Mentor
Finding a mentor is an effective way to gain confidence and a feeling of belonging when you’re feeling incompetent at work. Especially if you’re in a junior position, asking a more senior member of staff to act as your mentor can be very beneficial.
Apart from sharing their technical know-how with you, a mentor can also provide you with guidance regarding things like professional development or how to conduct yourself during meetings.
Knowing that there’s someone at work that’s got your back will go a long way in preventing feelings of incompetence. In addition, having a mentor will improve your performance, which will also eliminate insecurities.
9. Be the First to Come In and the Last To Leave
Although I’m a firm believer that time spent at work is not directly linked to performance, you need to prove yourself when you start a new job. If you want to build a reputation for being a reliable member of the team, you can start by arriving early for work and showing a willingness to stay late if there’s still work to be done.
Demonstrating that you have a good work ethic will make a good impression on the team and your manager. Knowing that you’re putting your best foot forward will also help curb your anxiety and insecurities.
10. Get Organized
If your feelings of incompetence are due to the fact that you’re making mistakes at work or not performing optimally, the best cure is to take action.
Your first step should be to get organized. Plan your days and weeks in detail and be sure to stick to your schedule. At the end of each workday, you should go over your daily plan to see which tasks were not completed. These tasks should then be carried over to the next day.
You may need to work late or over weekends if you’re not able to complete all your work in the given timeframes. However, as you gain experience in your new job, you’ll probably notice that you’re able to execute tasks faster and better as time goes by.
11. Get Enough Rest
While working hard and putting in the necessary time will improve your performance and help curb feelings of insecurity, it is important that you get enough rest and live as healthily as possible.
If you’re overworked, stressed, and tired, you’re bound to make more mistakes, which in turn will fuel your feelings of incompetence.
Have a cut-off line when it comes to putting in overtime and try to go to bed by a certain time each night. If you’re battling to fall asleep due to stress and overthinking, you can consider practicing meditation before you go to bed, or learning a few yoga poses.
Doing meditation or yoga calms the mind, and the latter also relaxes tense and sore muscles.
12. Live a Balanced Life
While starting a new job is an important aspect of your life, you should remember that it’s not your entire life.
Aim to maintain balance by practicing your hobbies in your spare time and spending time doing the things you love, and with the people you love.
Doing so brings joy and happiness into your life, which makes for a positive overall mindset. When you gain inspiration and joy from the things you do in your spare time, you’ll perform better at work and will also draw people to you.
In addition, it’s less likely that you’ll have negative self-talk when you’re in a good mind space.
13. Professional Development
Feelings of incompetence at work can also be curbed by upskilling yourself. If you think that you’re lacking the necessary skills, or that your job performance can improve by gaining more knowledge and skills, speak to your manager about professional development opportunities.
Your options could include going to night school, enrolling for a postgraduate course, or attending workshops or webinars. If the company offers to pay for your professional development, it will probably form part of your performance review, which will serve as motivation to complete your training well.