In my last post, Are You Avoiding Things You Don’t Want To Do At Work?, we learned about the sneaky unconscious mind. And how it can lead us to make changes, including switching jobs. But what if it’s something obvious, like feeling incompetent at work?
Over my many years of answering comments on career sites, one of the most common themes was feeling inadequate in some way. Readers wrote to tell me they often felt they were in over their heads. Or simply not good enough, even with no bad feedback yet. They worried that one day it would finally catch up with them.
And, of course, there were also those people who had already gotten some bad feedback. Perhaps a poor review. Or a yelling boss. And they were left feeling even more helpless to turn things around. And feeling even more incompetent at work they wanted to do well.
So are YOU feeling incompetent at work?
Are you perhaps feeling inadequate in the job you have and thinking about leaving to find a job more suited to your skills? Of course, you may be right in your assessment. Sometimes we just don’t have the skills for a certain job.
But before leaving, it’s important to make sure that what you feel is really about the job. Are you giving it your all? Have you asked for help? Do you let fear get in the way? Is a low self-image the problem?
In my post about avoidance, I wrote about someone who decided to leave just in case they got put in a position where they might feel incompetent. She didn’t like that thought.
In fact, she didn’t like it so much that she talked herself into leaving a job that had a lot of good points. And she did it by giving far more weight in her mind to the bad points.
The thing about feeling incompetent
Feeling incompetent at work is something you may carry with you wherever you go. No matter what the job. And it leads to all kinds of related feelings. Because at its core, it reflects deep doubts you have about yourself. So why not deal with it here and now and find a way that works for you?
Now I need to say loud and clear that there are times when your feelings of being unable to do a job are totally valid. You might not have the right training. Or enough training. Or you may get thrown into something way beyond your level of experience.
And if that’s the case, it’s worth trying to work with your boss to get some guidance. And the help you really need. There’s no shame in that. Asking for specific help and clear goals can be useful. Not that you have to get it all in one day, but even slow improvement can help. They just need to know as soon as you realize what’s going on.
⇒ EXTRA: I Can’t Stop Feeling Like a Failure
At least give yourself a chance
In most cases, either the employer can help train you or they can live with your learning curve. This feeling is more common than you may think. Just don’t do it alone. Make sure you enlist the help of your boss and willing co-workers. As well as any self-learning through networking and available online information and courses.
If you show eagerness to succeed and willingness to work hard, you can often gain just enough additional competence to feel ok about trying for more. It takes time. And faith in yourself to eventually get there. And if you can’t, at least you know you’ve tried your best. That’s all anyone can do.
If it still doesn’t work out, you may have gained something you can take with you anyway. And at that point, you can leave feeling good that you tried your best. Not every job fits every person. I’ve had jobs where I just wasn’t cut out for it, and still excelled in many other ones. Still, it pays to at least give where you are your best shot — with some support from those around you.
A few final words about feeling incompetent at work
So all that said, before rushing into a new job and hoping that it’s better, have the courage to face your own insecurities right where you are. In the very job that’s bringing on all these self-doubts.
If you can overcome your insecurities where you are, then you will be better able to handle a new job, should you still want it. Whatever it is. Wherever it is. You have nothing to lose and much to gain.
But if you just move on without tackling your fears where you are (even if you fail), you’ll only come up against them again in the next job. And this time your feelings of inadequacy may even be stronger because you let them grow by giving in to them.
Feel free to add this discussion if you have a story to share or advice to offer!
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