6 March, 2020

#IWD2020: Overcoming Imposter Syndrome: a journey towards self-confidence

“I’ve realised that I can do it – that I’m able to lead and drive success.”

Imposter Syndrome is a psychological pattern that’s common among women but also affects men. Sufferers doubt their achievements, downplay their talents and fear being exposed as a “fraud”. It’s a phenomenon that Jaimi Shanahan, Associate Partner at Green Park’s Charities & Social Enterprise Practice, knows only too well. As we celebrate International Women’s Day, Jaimi explains how tackling Imposter Syndrome has left her free to achieve her potential.

How do you respond when someone gives you a compliment? Do you smile and say thank you? Or do you talk it down or make a self-deprecating joke? If it’s the latter, you may well have Imposter Syndrome – and it could be holding you back. For Jaimi, it was a mental barrier to progress and success. Now an Associate Partner at one of Europe’s fastest growing executive recruitment consultancies, Jaimi reveals how she prevented Imposter Syndrome from undermining her ambitions.  

Joining Green Park in 2010 as a Researcher, Jaimi felt confident that her career was taking off. Green Park gave her the support to build her skills and it wasn’t long before the organisation’s senior leaders had recognised her potential. However, when asked if she’d like to become a Consultant, a more independent, client facing and fee-earning position, Jaimi was initially reluctant. “I held myself back – I wasn’t sure if I was ready or if I was good enough and that’s where Imposter Syndrome comes in,” she admits. “I didn’t want to take on too much, fail and disappoint anyone.”

The launch of Green Park’s Charities & Social Enterprise Practice was the spur for Jaimi’s development. Within this growing specialism, Green Park were able to offer Jaimi a hybrid role, of Research Consultant, that would provide the steppingstone she needed to gain confidence. The Practice has since seen an average growth in turnover of 30% year on year, over seven years, and Jaimi has played a significant role in establishing Green Park as a key player in the executive search charities market. In 2016, she was promoted to Senior Consultant where she continued to make an impact, helping to increase diversity & inclusion at board level within the charity sector.

Yet, despite her professional accomplishments, growing customer portfolio and successful track record, Jaimi was still reluctant to take the lead in meetings or projects even when it was an area of her subject matter expertise. “I’ve always tended to hang back in meetings and second-guess myself before sharing ideas. Even as my title and role has changed, I suppose I’ve always viewed myself as junior. That makes things particularly difficult in my line of work where my customers are mostly executive and board level.”

For Jaimi, her turning point came in 2018 when, after falling seriously ill, she was diagnosed with a manageable but life-changing health condition. “I had to take several months off work to recover and in the early stages of my diagnosis, it was impossible to know what my new ‘normal’ might look like. Green Park were incredibly supportive and helpful but at my worst it was impossible to know in what capacity I may be able to return to work. Suddenly, I realised that I’d worked really hard to get to where I was and I wasn’t going to let anybody or anything come between me and what I wanted to achieve, not even myself.”    

With the encouragement and support of her team, since returning to Green Park, Jaimi has made a conscious effort to approach new challenges and progression opportunities with an attitude of “let’s do it; let’s keep moving forward.” This year, Jaimi’s hard work and talent have been rewarded with promotion to Associate Partner and she appreciates the role that learning & development have played in her rise through the business. “I’ve had one-on-one support, talked to different people; been invited to client meetings; had training on practical skills; and honed my sector expertise. Green Park have encouraged me consistently and given me lots of development opportunities.”

Now, Jaimi is using her experience to coach and mentor more junior staff and to help candidates build their confidence. So, what tips does she have for overcoming Imposter Syndrome?

“I use a traffic light system. When someone gives me a compliment, instead of automatically playing it down, I stop, pause, think about how to respond and then say thank you. It’s also important to compliment other people.

Also, if you think that you can’t do something, just keep trying until you can! Confidence won’t come overnight, but you can set goals and take it step by step.”


To find out more about Green Park's Charities and Social Enterprise Practice, click here.

Jaimi Shanahan

Written By

Jaimi Shanahan


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