Help, I feel like a fraud!

(25 Posts)
lightsoutbyten Tue 10-Dec-13 16:55:43

After various 'home' issues I've hugely lost confidence in myself professionally.

This is exacerbated by the fact that, to be honest, I talked my way in to this career, and five years later, still don't feel very sure about my ability in it. It's very fast-moving, there's a fair amount of tactical as well as strategic wizardry in it and I feel my already slender grip is slipping.

I think one way forward might be to shadow someone more experienced/confident. But as I'm already in it, this is surprisingly tricky. I've put out some feelers for voluntary work in this field, but they expect me to be the one with the experience. I can't really shadow someone in my own dept as then it will be plainly obvious that lightsout doesn't know what the hell she's doing. I've been on training for X and Y, but that doesn't replace real-life experience.

Has anyone
1. been in this situation?
2. found a way out?

Please don't tell me I'm probably great at my job and just lack confidence. I am sitting in front of my intray and feeling my stomach freeze. I really think I need a 'safe' place to learn some concrete skills.

TIA

Orlea Tue 10-Dec-13 17:15:10

I know how you feel because I feel similarly myself. I usually manage to get things done, but I don't always find them as easy as it seems I should compared to other people in similar roles, and sometimes I get so wound up and stressed by my perception of my own incompetence which really doesn't help. I'm a manager and get asked questions by subordinates to which I am expected to know the answer; sometimes I don't, so I panic because if the situation were reversed, I would be surprised and annoyed at someone in my level of job not knowing or being sure of certain things.

Not very helpful, but please know you aren't alone. In my career I have come across a lot of people who are in roles where you question how on earth they got there! The answer is often by being good at talking in interviews and in moving jobs in timely fashion, i.e. before you get caught out. I wouldn't have thought I was good enough at blagging, and certainly didn't intend to blag, but I sometimes feel like talked my way into this job and am waiting for my P45 to turn up on my desk.

To try and help, are there any professional forums or similar where you could anonymously request help/info? Could you tell MN your role so someone in that field could help?

Orlea Tue 10-Dec-13 17:18:55

Meant to say, I've started being a lot more honest with my line managers and asking for help - yes, sometimes I get the look of 'but I thought you knew that, that's why we hired you' but nothing bad has come of it, only more support and training.

If that's not an option, then could you find a similar organisation and buddy up with someone or ask them to mentor you? I haven't got around to this myself, but was advised to get a mentor, someone in the same field, even same level, but in a different organisation, to help re perspective, advise on technical stuff you're not sure of etc...

lightsoutbyten Tue 10-Dec-13 17:29:27

Thanks Orlea, for swift and thoughtful response. It's also good to know I'm not the only one who feels like this! I'm in marketing/relationship building.

I was thinking about finding a mentor. I've no idea how I'd go about finding one - are there networks/websites? I have thought about presenting myself to a capable colleague (we're a big organisation) and offering to 'do a bit of their job for them', but not sure how to present this without appearing mad.

sisterofmercy Tue 10-Dec-13 17:53:32

If you are in a big organisation you could ask what coaching/shadowing opportunities there are to 'broaden your skills base' as you are thinking that you would like to be promoted within a particular time frame such as three years. Perhaps they run some kind of leadership programme. You could then stealthily acquire the skills you think you might be lacking in by observing others whilst also picking up new ones that could help you long term and also make you look eager and keen.

It's hard to imagine that in 5 years, no-one has noticed that you don't know what you're doing so I suspect you have a basic competence - you could say you want up-skilling so that you achieve 'unconscious competence'

Read about the four stages of competence here as it might ring a few bells: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_stages_of_competence

Also as you are in marketing have a look at the trade magazines and build up a picture of the industry and any possible networks you could join...

EBearhug Tue 10-Dec-13 22:47:27

There have been a few articles about imposter syndrome recently.

Trucmuche Tue 10-Dec-13 23:03:09

I feel like this all the time. As others already said - if you have done 5 years you can't be doing THAT badly at it! I always take the approach in my annual review that I have done X and Y well, but still feel lacking in Z - what training or mentoring options are available?

Trucmuche Tue 10-Dec-13 23:05:25

And depending on your area, you can look for online reading, or groups on the like of LinkedIn.

woodlandwanderwoman Tue 10-Dec-13 23:41:25

Some good advice here, hope posting is a good start to feeling better op.

The one thing I would add is that getting into this situation and recognising it now should hopefully stop and potential disasters before they happen (they haven't happened yet... This is a positive) and stop you from falling into same traps in future.

Knowing you're in too deep at least shows you have a realistic understanding of what the job needs, you'd be amazed how many people talk themselves into things and are oblivious to their weaknesses because their ego is strong.

Don't hate me for saying this, but you would be wise to think carefully about who you ask for help. People often recognise when others have taken the approach that you have but don't say anything, knowing that most likely one day someone will slip up.. These people are unlikely to be the ones to support you now, especially if your success was at their expense.

The people who matter however are the ones who put you where you are, their credibility is also on the line and whatever happens... You're in the role because they saw potential in you that they knew would work. That hasn't changed and their is nothing wrong with asking for a bit of help as long as it's not too late. Good luck!

woodlandwanderwoman Tue 10-Dec-13 23:43:04

*there not their. Ugh my pet hate

duchesse Tue 10-Dec-13 23:58:54

Are you not just displaying a clear case of "imposter syndrome"? Very common among high-achieving women, less so in men. Apparently any mentoring has to be done right and mentors have to show their own weaknesses or it just exacerbates the imposter sydrome.

AFAIR there was a whole load in the press about it recently. Shall try ot dig something out.

Birdy28 Wed 11-Dec-13 00:57:33

I've been there. It's really hard when it happens. I changed roles into a job I should have been able to do it in my sleep especially as I stayed in an organisation where I had already established relationships and a reputation.

For me, I seemed to loose my resilience. Issues at home had an impact and I started doubting my decision making at work, felt I shouldn't have been given the job etc etc. I was panicking and couldn't do what needed to be done. People would ask me for my opinions or I would have to make a decision and I just couldn't do it when I had been able to do so before.

Is there anyway you can access some Coaching from an individual outside of your organisation? Some of our teams (from mangers to top executives) used professional coaches who focused on them as an individual and their skill sets within the work place/situations rather than the technical training?

A lot of companies nowadays are seeing the value in employee coaching. My company paid for employees to have professionally coaching as they realised that professional coaching has a real value when used in the right situation (e.g. Employees already have the technical skills but need personal development).

MrsMargoLeadbetter Wed 11-Dec-13 22:01:35

OP - sorry to hear you feel like this.

I wondered if a triple approach would be helpful:

- If you want help internally I think you do as sister says and spin it very positively. So to your manager/HR: "I am looking to increase our impact, I would really appreciate the opportunity to shadow other marketing managers within the org, could that be arranged?" Or if you want to "hide" your need, what about suggesting a job shadow scheme for marketing managers (if there are a few of you) within your org and sell it as a group initiative.

- I wouldn't underestimate the impact of home issues on your confidence/approach to work. Having a mentor/coach would give you a safe space to discuss work and the challenges and find solutions.

Previously I have found mentors by just asking somebody I have met (generally by email so not to put them on the spot) and thought we'd click. I haven't always gone for somebody in the same role as me. The CIM if you are a member have recently launched a mentor scheme - www.cim.co.uk/cpd/MentoringNetwork.aspx
Or there is this website with various ways to find mentors. www.mentorsme.co.uk/

I have also used coaches when my employer has paid and have found it very useful.

I would say IME that mentors & coaches are best from outside your org, so you can talk very freely.

- You mention fast moving, do you mean 'digital'? If so, can you build your experience & knowledge by attending networking/learning events outside of work? I always keen an eye on uk.meetup.com/ and Twitter for new events. If you are able to do this you might find yourself more knowledgeable than your colleagues in some areas which might help your confidence.

I am in marketing (a freelancer now but previously employed to Director level) if I can help do PM me.

Good luck.

lightsoutbyten Thu 12-Dec-13 13:24:08

Thanks everyone. Really helpful points. Especially helpful to know that I'm not the only one who feels like this.

Mrs Margo, yes, I did mean 'digital' - this is a good idea.

I'm thinking that the problem is bigger than I had originally described. Because I'm now looking at all your helpful suggestions and doing the same as I do to my intray, i.e. just starting at it and unable to take any action. I cannot emphasize enough how this isn't the person I used to be when I started out in my 'career'. So I need to unstick, somehow.

MrsMargoLeadbetter Thu 12-Dec-13 17:27:42

Can you focus on one thing and try that? You cannot change everything at once. What do you think will make the most impact? What feels most urgent?

Sorry if you already know/do this but Hubspot do lots of social media guides which are comprehensive and current if you want to swot up on an area. And Mashable and Social Media Examiner do daily updates which are good. Sorry for lack of links on phone.

I empathise part of my freelancing is offer social media support and it is difficult trying to keep up-to-date. Unless you sit online all day (not doing your job( I am not sure you can know everything. I do find being on Twitter myself helps me to keep abreast.

On a different note I found reading 'Feel the fear and do it anyway' when I went through a period of decision paralasis useful. Not sure if that is exactly what you are experiencing but thought I'd mention it.

Feel for you. thanks

It can get better.

EBearhug Thu 12-Dec-13 22:04:55

We have talks by various leaders at work, and nearly all of them talk of the value of a good mentor - and most of them were never part of a formal mentoring scheme, but just asked someone suitable if they'd either do the mentoring, or advise them how to find a mentor. More than one was told that, "I don't normally mentor people, but if someone has the confidence to ask me, then I will invest in them." Most people don't ask, so they don't end up overloaded with lots of requests.

I think asking to shadow others is a good thing - put it over as wanting to gain other ideas of ways to do things, and to improve interdepartmental relationships (or team or whatever organisational level you'd be crossing.)

As for staring at things and unable to take action - are there any courses available to you on prioritisation and time management and that sort of thing? It might help you learn how to choose which tasks to focus on. We have a collection of online courses available, as well as some classroom ones (but classroom training usually has a cost associated with it, and there may not be a training budget.)

When I'm feeling overloaded, I write out a list of everything I am meant to be doing, looking at the importance and urgency (i.e. is it due today, tomorrow, this week, next week, this month, this quarter...) and try to start with the most important and urgent things, then the urgent, but less important things, then the important but less urgent things - and if something is neither important nor urgent, then why bother spending time on it?

But I find that just the process of making the list makes me feel more in control, just because I can see the extent of what there is to do. Also I have learnt to say no. I won't just accept every interruption - if I'm in the middle of something, I will ask them to come back in half an hour or after 2pm or whatever. There aren't many things which have to be dealt with that very second.

lightsoutbyten Sat 14-Dec-13 09:01:44

Thanks very much, everyone. Many useful suggestions.

You've helped me to identify one key problem, which is I have this sense of 'everything's wrong, I've got to change everything and I've got to do it now' (blended with the usual sense of impending doom).

So instead I've identified one thing I don't feel confident with, and will tackle that.

The other thing I'll do, is approach other depts for some of that relationship nurturing. I would have a good basis for doing that, as it's a structural issue.

I'll also spend some time carving up my week, so that instead of spending my free time staring out of the window and panicking, I can take 15 minute shots of action.

I also think I need to take a more realistic view on what I can achieve each week. 15 minutes of new knowledge/networking is better than 4 hours of panicking and achieving nothing.

Sorry, being the clearly dynamic women you are, you've probably moved on from this thread. But the process of reading your replies and formulating my own hass been very helpful! So many thanks

EBearhug Sun 15-Dec-13 10:30:54

You know there are people out there who think you're clearly dynamic, too? Don't compare your insides with other people's outsides. Loads of people have doubts about themselves and often, people who know wouldn't know or understand why. You're trying to improve things - not everyone would bother.

Mary2010xx Sun 15-Dec-13 10:52:29

1. You are probably better than you think - most women are.
2. I was hired to train one employee (hired by her privately) in the area she was not clear about. We did one to one skype sessions and she sent questions in advance. She also got her company to send her on some public courses. You could do the same or just read a lot at home about your subject.
3. If you just keep working you tend to get experience and get better anyway and then suddenly what felt like your just pretending you know what you're doing (most of us in the early days of any job) to actually knowing it.
4. Most men think they are brilliant at what they do and deserve 20% more pay. Most women think they are useless and are lucky to have a job. Not surprisingly that is reflected in male and female pay as men demand more and too many women do not.

YuleNeverKnow Mon 16-Dec-13 23:09:22

I've just found and read the whole thread, and something in your last post chimed with me: trying to fix everything.

I have high standards - confirmed by others - but my current boss rates me as a 'perfectionist'. We have had several debates about this, as I reused to accept that label. I've had to accept that he is correct to some extent, and I am working on learning which jobs and tasks can be 'good enough' (ie 80%), and which ones need to be 'right' (my word) or 'perfect' (his word); (ie 100%). I get more done now that I can tell the difference.

Maybe you are trying to do everything 'perfectly' when 'good enough' will do?

Also, I agree with EBearHug about making a list and sorting items into Important / urgent. I once did this and had only 2 categories: stuff that won't get done unless I do it; and the rest. It helped me focus.

But you are right about building in some persona development time, however short that may be.

Can you ask for a 360-degree appraisal? It might surprise you.

YuleNeverKnow Mon 16-Dec-13 23:09:54

persona = personal

lightsoutbyten Tue 17-Dec-13 17:07:27

I quite like the idea of developing my (dark?) persona :-)

I am so glad to find others that feel like this.
Very early NY resolutions: pick one thing; aim for 'right' not 'perfect' (I like that, Yule) and also perhaps trust the effects of time - that the more I work, the better I'll get

I get the value of reading around things at home, but have worked myself into such a pitch that I can't even face anything to do with my subject when I'm at home. Hmm.

If any of you are still there - I think there's also something about the company one keeps. I tend to hang out with a lot of high achievers who are very critical of themselves (and, frankly, of lesser mortals). A little distance may be helpful.

Jeez, so I actually need a new address book as well as career...

Thanking all.

pandarific Tue 17-Dec-13 17:18:15

hugs for you, OP. If it helps, I'm trying to switch into the area you're in, and it's tough. I doubt myself a lot too.

lightsoutbyten Tue 17-Dec-13 17:44:14

Panda, you could try a CIM cert - the first level
Or seek out any aspect of your job which is currently related to marketing, and milk it for all its worth. Build relationships with that dept.
If you're in a small place that doesn't have a marketing dept, try volunteering - in my experience, it's not so much the volunteering that impresses employers - but rather the skills you'll assimilate. I would go for a big org, because they may already have mechanisms set up - a smaller org might expect you to come with the skills already (though others might disagree with this)
Also subscribe to some marketing blogs. That will help you to pick up the language
Others may have more ideas
Good luck to you
I've always liked pandas

pandarific Thu 06-Feb-14 23:32:12

hey lightsoutbyten, I was wondering how you got on in the end - did you ever get things resolved with your job?

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