Opinion: Emma Jones | Women and Imposter Syndrome in the NHS
Building self-confidence and overcoming imposter syndrome to progress in the NHS
Throughout my career, from clerical posts to senior management, I’ve been surprised by the number of accomplished women who frequently struggle with feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt and low self-confidence.
Imposter syndrome is when an individual struggles to internalise success, feeling fraudulent and attributing success to factors such as luck.
Women often seem confused about how they have reached such a high level. Sometimes, they simply doubt their ability to progress and so don’t apply for senior roles or try to develop themselves further.
This is referred to as imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is when an individual struggles to internalise success, feeling fraudulent and attributing success to factors such as luck. Those with imposter syndrome experience a chronic sense of inadequacy. It is an experience shared by all individuals, yet it’s more present amongst women and minorities, and many are open about their feelings.
You are not alone. I’m one of those people and, believe me, it’s natural to feel out of your depth. But it’s a question of how you channel those feelings towards something positive. If you have reached a glass ceiling you need to ask yourself some probing questions, such as: ‘What am I aiming for?’ Then you need to “feel the fear and do it anyway.” Having a positive role-model or even a mentor will help guide you to achieve what you’re aiming for. I’d like to share my story and offer guidance and support to anyone who needs it.
The trust often has a budget for training purposes.
Throughout my NHS career I have been determined to reach senior management and have taken every opportunity available, despite many obstacles. I initially started as a clerical officer, filing notes for outpatient clinics and constantly taking on additional responsibilities to expand my knowledge, whether or not these were within my job description. This is an excellent way to learn new skills, raise awareness and display untapped potential to management.
I have held numerous positions including medical secretary, office manager, administration manager and executive assistant. Each role has enabled me to learn additional skills to further my knowledge of the NHS and to understand the valuable part each department, division and service plays within the overall organisation. Once I’d exhausted trust-provided training I spoke to my line manager about CPD Funding, as the trust often has a budget for training purposes.
My passion to improve our healthcare service was recognised and I was approved for funding for a project management qualification, doing an intensive one-week course, surrounded by already qualified project managers. I worked tirelessly that week, determined not to feel intimidated or out of my depth, focusing solely on where I wanted to go, and I PASSED!
Most of us come up against glass ceilings at some point in our career, but accessing training, seizing opportunities and being confident in ourselves help us to smash through them.
Gaining this qualification opened the door for me to join the ‘Getting It Right First Time’ programme as a national project manager leading on Dermatology. I visited every trust in the country to benchmark services, improve quality and reduce costs. I wouldn’t have had this opportunity without gaining the new qualification, that allowed me to break through the glass ceiling I had identified. Most of us come up against glass ceilings at some point in our career, but accessing training, seizing opportunities and being confident in ourselves help us to smash through them.
I am currently a transformation programme manager, with an array of knowledge and skills that I have accrued from both a junior and a senior perspective, across different divisions, departments and organisations.
As women, we need to overcome our fears and doubts and to have confidence in our own abilities. On feeling like we’ve reached a glass ceiling, we need to identify how to move beyond it. I cannot stress enough the importance of continual development. If there is an area you are unsure about, training is available within the NHS that will help you to apply for more senior roles and move beyond this barrier.
Take a moment to think about everything you have achieved until now. We are all remarkable!
Emma Jones, Transformation and Optimisation Programme Delivery Manager
The Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Genevieve Shaw, Founder & Editor-in-chief
firstname.lastname@example.org / @WomenNHS