Welcome to your first Co-op job! You showed your stuff at your interview and wowed your future employers with your knowledge and experience. You come into your first day and that’s when you realize: you don’t know anyone at all, and everyone looks more knowledgeable and more mature than you. Your outfit, which was trendy and professional at home, looks somehow juvenile and grandmotherly at the same time. You wonder if you can somehow go back home and go under your covers again.
That was me when I started my first Co-op. Imposter syndrome was telling me that I didn’t know anything and that I had conned my way into the organization. That wasn’t true of course; I had the skills and experience necessary to do my job well. In order to beat that perception, I had to learn several skills that made me go from shy and worried about messing up to being confident and sure of my skills.
In your first weeks at your role, you may be trained by someone who knows the role and what the company expects from you. Depend on them for the first few days and do not be shy about taking notes — I must have gone through several pads of sticky notes and a notebook or two trying to get everything down. Being comfortable in your role will come easier if you know what you’re doing and what you’re responsible for!
More likely than not, you’ll have to talk to your boss about assignments and other aspects of your job. This might be scary during the first few days, but you will soon learn their conversation style and how they give feedback. Don’t forget to be open to suggestions, be positive, and remind yourself that they hired you for a reason. A positive attitude and a willingness to learn will go a long way in their perception of you.
It might feel like you’re all alone in your role, but there are many working parts at a company! As terrifying as it might feel at first, reaching out and talking to your coworkers will make you realise that having friends and acquaintances can make working your first job less scary. At my job, we had weekly check-in meetings with our entire team and played a couple of games after our briefings. It helped create a light-hearted mood amongst the team, especially during stressful or busy times.
As much as you might feel like you have to get everything immediately, remind yourself that this is (most likely) your first professional job. You will not know everything immediately, and that’s okay! As much as receiving constructive feedback might feel like you’re a failure, you need it in order to get more adept at what you do. You won’t know how to write the perfect tweet the first time — let yourself make mistakes and don’t feel bad for asking for help. If you let things fester, it’ll only get worse. Address a gap or an area of confusion as quickly as possible. Everyone wants you to succeed. If these feelings persist, SFU Health and Counselling has great resources on their website, as well as counsellors available to talk.
Those are my tips that allowed me to beat my imposter syndrome around my job and helped me succeed during my first Co-op. Beating your anxiety is more easily said than done, but time will allow you relax a little bit. Take criticism as what it is — necessary, even if it feels uncomfortable at the time. I believe in you!