From imposter syndrome to Chartered Marketer – Helping Marketing professionals be the best they can be
Working in modern marketing is an incredibly rewarding but tough career.
In this new post, we explore how imposter syndrome can afflict all people in marketing roles at different times, how to spot it and how to deal with it to become the best possible marketing professional possible.
Steph Greaves DipM MCIM
I passed my final assessment! 🥳🤩
The truth is I’ve struggled with imposter syndrome.
No matter how much experience I gain, praise I receive and qualifications I complete. I still have that little niggling voice that whispers “you’re not quite good enough, they’re all going to see through you”
This voice over the years has made me strive to constantly improve, to develop and to challenge myself.
I have this voice to thank for driving me to achieve more and for that I am actually grateful for it (as annoying as it is sometimes).
So it’s official…I’m now a Chartered Marketer.
I couldn’t be more pleased with myself and that voice has been shushed, at least for now 🤩
You’ve got to blow your own trumpet every now and again, haven’t you?! 🎉
Thanks so much to all those that have helped me gain experience, understanding and have inspired me along the way. I wouldn’t be where I am without you all. 🙌
What is imposter syndrome?
If you’ve recently been promoted, or started a project, been asked to give or talk or offer an expert opinion and felt extreme feelings of self doubt, you’ve probably experienced imposter syndrome (IS).
Harvard Business Review defines IS as “doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud”. It often affects more high-achieving personality types who find it difficult to accept career accomplishments. Many, in fact, routinely question whether they’re deserving of accolades, promotions or new opportunities. (1)
It creates a powerful internalised feeling that you are going to be “found out” at some point, that you are not deserving of the praise or limelight you’ve been afforded.
This can be a huge problem in a marketing role where you might be expected to lead from the top, designing strategies that will bring your organisation success whilst also being creative in how that success will materialise on a day-to-day basis.
How does imposter syndrome manifest itself?
Taking on a significant new remit or being entrusted with a successful brand is often a precursor.
As an example, Jonathan Mildenhall, Global CMO of Airbnb, has acknowledged that there have been times he has had to overcome fear of IS.
“Coke was my first client side job. Imagine the day I had to approve my first global ad campaign that would represent a $350m investment. Or my first month at Airbnb as a total newcomer to a hyper growth tech company in Silicone Valley. You can’t get through experiences like these without feeling like a total fraud”. (2)
The impact of these feelings may bring about anxiety, nervousness and sometimes, to counter these feelings, people might end up working harder, holding themselves to ever higher, unattainable standards.
Marketing professionals afflicted by IS might procrastinate when getting tasks completed and risk missing critical project deadlines, which heaps more pressure on their shoulders – this in itself precipitating even deeper feelings of inadequacy.
How can imposter syndrome affect a marketing professional?
It’s no surprise, pre covid, we saw marketing professionals working longer hours to ensure high quality work was done.
And the rise of remote working probably hasn’t helped this as marketing teams have been siloed, reliant on technology but missing that crucial face-to-face time to brainstorm ideas and sense check new approaches.
And online channels, though helpful, have arguably made creative processes and management – two critical aspects of the marketing manager’s role – much more difficult.
How can you spot imposter syndrome in marketing professionals?
If you’re thinking – or hearing a voice that is telling you “you’re not good enough” or “you can’t do this” – you’re right in the midst of IS.
Marketing roles, by their nature, require professionals to routinely be outside their comfort zone. Why? Because you’re in the business of making a product, service or company stand out. So you have to construct things that will support stand out positioning.
This means taking some, calculated, risks in messaging, creative and delivery.
Working in this kind of role means the common signs of IS found in marketing might include:
- Fear that you won’t live up to expectations
- An inability to realistically assess your competence and skills
- Attributing any success to external factors / others
- Constantly exhibiting self-doubt
- Negatively reviewing your performance
- Doing more than you need to
- Setting very challenging goals and then feeling disappointed when you fall short. (3)
How can you reduce and remove imposter syndrome in a marketing professional?
Clare Mason talks about “overcoming IS with a combination of psychological checks and balances and getting the practical help you need”. (4)
In practical terms this involves reframing things using a number of the following techniques:
- Knowing you won’t have all the answers – and recognising as you move from practitioner to manager to leader, you’ll become less of a specialist in many things that you’ll need to rely on team members for. Think of a CEO, Prime Minister or President and how they take on expert opinion before arriving at decisions.
- Understand your gaps in knowledge and competence and either improve them consciously or recruit for them.
- Consciously maintain a CV or a folder with results, successes and positive feedback from customers, colleagues and other stakeholders. Some people will literally screen grab emails and social media mentions as proof. Refer to this material the next time you feel you’re facing an insurmountable challenge.
- Recognise IS is about how you think – it’s often not the reality. Spend more time with your team, wider colleagues and customers – it is the perfect antidote to the self doubt that IS feeds on.
- Remember you’re in a role that requires you to constantly evolve and try new things. Some things won’t work. You’ll have some failures and take some knocks. Every creative genius in history from Mozart to Madonna, and Steve Jobs to JK Rowling has bounced back from spectacular failures and self doubt. But their superpower is in their resilience to bounce back.
- You might seek to gain additional professional qualifications like CIM or MSc or accreditations like Chartered Marketer status – still only held by less than 1% of practising marketing professionals. The rigour of studying and commitment to continued personal development are very highly regarded in many sectors.
The reality is very few practising marketing professionals today are totally immune to self-doubt. Taking some of the steps above will help when feelings of imposter syndrome are triggered.