Starting a new job is a scary challenge. You’ve never treaded this road before, you don’t know where to step. You don’t know the social and cultural norms, where everyone has drink on Fridays or who used to date who. Where you used to know everything and be the go-to person, now you’re the newbie. You have to prove yourself all over again. You’re internal voice starts whispering, you’re not good enough, smart enough, to get through this. Soon they’re all discover you have no idea what you’re doing.
They’re about to find out you’re faking it, and you’re no where near making it yet.
This feeling is often known as “Imposter Syndrome”. This describes an illogical self-doubt which leads people to feel that they don’t deserve a role or opportunity. It affects women more than men. It's leads to women undervaluing their contributions. And it's one of the reasons women find it harder to ask for pay rises.
When you’re suffering from Imposter Syndrome, it’s easy to feel like you’re the only one that feel like this. That there must be something wrong with you. That no one else would find this as hard as you do. That's when peer mentoring can be a great help.
Peer mentoring has a unique strength over traditional mentoring. Peer mentoring naturally comes with a high level of empathy for the other person’s situation. Not only have you been there, you’re there now. You can honestly say:
I know how you feel.
I recently had a conversation with an amazing friend, who has shifted into a digitally focused role. She’s an accomplished business woman who has excelled in other roles. Yet in this foreign environment her Imposter Syndrome came back with vengeance. She explained the trouble she was having with all the technical jargon thrown around her work, she assumed that the problem was her, not the jargon.
We never rationally think this through and remind ourselves that our colleagues have years more experience than us. We’re our own worst critics.
I’ve experienced the same learning curve when I moved into a tech role. The jargon, acronyms and buzzwords that are used make it sound like a foreign language is spoken in some meetings. I could honestly tell her, I know how you feel. And it does get better.
I watched as her posture visibly changed, like a wight had been lifted from her solders. She was physically relieved to hear that this wasn’t a problem with her, rather a natural learning curve to conquer.
Peer mentoring isn’t about knowing all the answers. It’s about encouraging each other. It’s about listening with empathy and understanding. It’s about giving each other the strength to tell that inner voice to shut up.
Traditional mentoring sets up a relationship where one person has the answers, the other the questions. Peer mentoring creates a support network where you can discover the answers together. They're equally important but different forms of mentoring support.