I didn’t think imposter syndrome would affect me… until I became a director

I remember the first time I heard the phrase ‘imposter syndrome’ I thought it was yet another thing we millennials were unnecessarily moaning about. Suddenly, there seemed to be an abundance of articles about feeling insecure at work and I thought, ‘God no wonder people think we’re too sensitive, surely just get on with the job and be grateful you even have one!’ 

Then I got promoted. To ‘Director’ level. And I was told I would be managing an entire office of staff. Whilst I’d been in managerial positions before, I knew this would be a different kettle of fish. Working in public relations and reputation management meant that my role was already demanding and high-pressured, even more so in fact then when I had worked as a financial journalist – oh how I miss the excitement of budget day (read: sarcastically). Finance was not for me. Journalism and media however were exactly what I wanted to be doing, more specifically online journalism and the impact of social media and digital content. So I joined Right Angles as Head of Social Media in June 2018. 

Fast forward nine challenging months and my boss, the chairman and founder of the company tells me he’s getting rid of the current MD and wants to promote me and two other members of our remote working staff to become the new management team. We would be working directly underneath him and would be managing the day to day running of the business. I was thrilled, and nervous. 

Over the following week my boss decided to restructure the entire company, throw in an office move and three weeks later it felt like I had started a completely new job. And I had, to a degree. We were in a new office and following some restructuring, severely understaffed – meaning long nights and more than a few tense conversations with my other half about the fact that I was working until 10pm most evenings. 

As such, my introduction to the role involved less managerial work and more trying to complete the work that had, up until then, been the responsibility of a team double our size. I didn’t have time to think about whether I was performing well in the role, it was simply about surviving. This involved juggling multiple projects or client accounts as we call them, coordinating the particularly junior team who needed a fair bit of support, and ensuring deadlines were met. The team had halved but the clients had not so we were all incredibly overworked. Luckily I was instructed to begin the recruitment process, a task I had undertaken before and one in which I felt I was rather capable. 

Three months later and we had four new members of staff on the team. I started to relax and my role evolved into what it was intended to be – managing the team. When I was first promoted I remember telling my partner that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be in a position in which I purely oversaw the work rather than doing it, especially as the aspect of my previous role that I enjoyed the most was the creativity in being able to create content. However, I soon came to realise that being a director is almost akin to conducting an orchestra. Though you are not as involved in the creation of the work, you act as a safety net. You proofread. You check. You edit. You advise. I wasn’t just the office management, I was the office therapist, confidante, ally. I was a bit of everything, and I was involved in everything, and I sort of loved it. I still do. Though I wasn’t the only one in the thick of it, the team became far more collaborative than it had ever been, and because of that, we were able to accomplish amazing pieces of work. And isn’t it ironic (cue: Alanis Morisette song) that just when everything seems to be going smoothly that the doubt creeps in. 

I was afforded more time to leave the office and accompany my boss to meetings with prospective clients, and we’re talking big names here. Suddenly I found myself in front of chief executives and editors of global news publications speaking about how I had been in the industry for years, which although factually correct, didn’t mean I felt any less petrified at the prospect of telling them why they didn’t quite ‘get’ social media. 

Branded the perpetual job-hopping, avocado toast-eating, lazy worker generation, there is a substantial amount of pressure on millennials to prove ourselves in our professional careers. Supposedly, we don’t ‘graft’ like our predecessors. And yet, we’re also accused of being the ‘always on’ generation that don’t know how to ‘switch off’. But can you blame us? We are constantly trying to prove ourselves in a workforce  that doesn’t take us seriously – until you get promoted to director, that is. Several months in this role and I have advised CEOs of global brands how they should be running their digital operations, and surprisingly, I haven’t been laughed out of the room…yet. Perhaps I’m not an imposter after all but rather someone who is deserving of my role, even if at times I feel slightly out of my depth. The thing is, it’s only from being in this role and working with top level executives, that I have realised that no one has it all figured it out. Success comes from listening to new ideas. Maybe we’re the right generation to bring them forth.

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