Hi, I’m Katy, M.D. of Social Chain U.K. I work for one of the most exciting global businesses, in five locations, with hundreds of staff. I’d love to give you an insight into how we do this. But first, I’d like to tell you something that I’ve been hiding for a while.
I’m about to be found out.
I am an impostor.
I’d only been at Social Chain for about three months when Steve and Dom (The Founders of Social Chain) asked me to apply for a more senior role, on the day they told me they wanted me to be MD my first thought was ‘why me?’, my background isn’t in social media and at that point I still didn’t really know much about it. I started out as a magazine media buyer then moved into a new business and marketing role before taking the leap into the unknown world of social, all I was looking for was to be happy in my job and enjoy getting out of bed every morning to go to work – surely they’ve got the wrong person, they’d definitely find me out at some point, as would the rest of the team.
Even for months after being given the role that’s how I reacted to the title Managing Director, I felt shy, that people would look at me and think ‘why has she got that title, she’s not qualified?’, I’d hide in meetings with a knot in my stomach hoping that I wouldn’t get asked a question I couldn’t answer and I’d be exposed as a fraud.
I struggled with that for a while, knowing full well that I wasn’t doing myself, or Social Chain justice – who is going to believe in an MD who doesn’t believe in themselves?!
I grappled with how to get myself out of it, I’m a pretty determined character so there was no way I’d give up. I am incredibly lucky to work in an environment where mental health addressed very openly, so I had the opportunity of seeing a therapist in our office. She asked me to tell her what I did, and physically made myself smaller when I told her. She looked at me and said, “Sounds like you’ve got impostor syndrome.” Two American psychologists gave it the name in 1978. They described it as a feeling of:
“Phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.”
While these people “are highly motivated to achieve,” they also “live in fear of being ‘found out’ or exposed as frauds.” Sound familiar? Impostor syndrome affects up to 70 percent of successful people, including Meryl Streep and Albert Einstein, so I’m in good company! Now I knew what it was called, what we did was to explore where it came from. Starting with what comes to mind when you think of an M.D., does anyone have anything that immediately springs to mind? Yes, for me it was an old man in a grey suit, someone who wasn’t approachable, not people focussed but numbers focussed. Locked away in an office, away from everyone. Where does that come from? Well, society also has us believing that I shouldn’t be in this role too. If you type Managing Director into Google images the pictures are all white middle aged men, in grey suits. The first picture of a female MD was a Getty Image! This shocked me, if Google is telling me I shouldn’t be an MD, why should I?
So after spending a lot of time over analysing whether I was good enough I decided it was time to do something about it and in turn, help others who feel the same. Here are the three coping mechanisms that have helped me live with my impostor syndrome.
Understand what is the expectation vs. the reality (and how the reality is actually what makes you successful)
When you come to realise that your role is whatever you want to make of it, you will feel liberated. My passion resided in culture, and so did Social Chain’s. Our incredible focus on culture means I was right for this role.
Embrace being imperfect
I’ve realised I don’t have to to know everything and I now don’t claim to. I found it liberating to own not knowing something, and not worrying about being found out about not knowing. Our brains are all programmed in different ways, some are better with numbers, some words, some more creative – Myers Briggs testing tells us just that so why should we try and do everything and stress ourselves out in the process? If you’re buying a house you don’t do everything, you let the solicitors and the estate agents do their jobs, you let them get on with it.
So I’ve made sure I’m surrounded by the smartest talent in areas such as social strategy, data and measurement and speak to these specialist on a regular basis to help me to grow. What you may think is easy, to someone else could be a total unknown, knowledge sharing is so important to getting rid of that feeling of being inferior.
Enjoy doing things differently
We always do what isn’t expected at Social Chain, our values are to be “First, Fearless and Ever Changing.” We live that through our work. In doing so we grown exponentially, and we work with some of the biggest brands in the world on helping to redefine their social media strategy.
These tips have helped me massively, and I know I’m with the right group of people to help us all beat societies expectations.
Maybe, just maybe, the world will one day catch up, and the first image of a female M.D. on Google images won’t be a Getty image.
The response to admitting that I am an impostor through both writing articles like this, talking on stage and the amount of messages I got from people saying I’d helped them take the next step in their career has made me want to confess more so, I’ve started a podcast series entitled “I Shouldn’t Say This, But…” where once a week I’ll be able to tell you things that I often think but never say out loud. The podcast will be lighthearted but both candid and personal. Revealing secrets that will help you on your own personal journey, give you advice so you know you’re not on your own and that it’s OK to have similar thoughts. The first episode entitled ‘I Shouldn’t Say This, But Last Week I Cried In The Shower’ is out now, head over to iTunes I hope you can join me and give it a listen.