As someone who has always been utterly captivated by the power and influence of words, I had a funny feeling my career path would eventually lead me to a creative position.
However, I never quite knew how I would get there or even precisely where “there” would be.
My journey has taken me from studying politics at university to a graduate scheme and job in management consultancy, and then, now, venturing into the world of advertising.
It’s safe to say that my route into the creative industry has been anything but traditional.
Transitioning into a senior position within an industry far removed from my initial expertise at a young age was undeniably exhilarating, but it also came with its fair share of challenges.
From picking up the lingo, to battling imposter syndrome to contending with anxiety, the journey has been a constant learning experience. Difficult, very difficult at times, but also very rewarding.
While I can’t claim to have conquered these internal struggles entirely, I have discovered some helpful tricks and techniques that have allowed me to manage them.
I share them here in the hope that they may assist other ambitious young professionals in their own quests for success.
From management consultancy to Live & Breathe
As a child, I was utterly enthralled by the world of words. I was the kind of kid who would become completely entranced by a book, losing touch with reality as I spent hours glued to the sofa with my nose an inch from the page and a bag of peanuts, and consequent crumbs, resting on my chest.
However, like most teenagers, my love for words temporarily faded into the background as I embarked on my university journey, ultimately choosing to study politics.
Although I pursued a graduate scheme right after completing my degree, I found it challenging when I couldn’t clearly see how my work directly translated into tangible results.
Being results-driven was of paramount importance to me and I didn’t feel I was making an impact when I couldn’t see, touch or feel anything that I had created.
So, when the COVID-19 lockdowns disrupted our lives, I saw it as an opportunity to change direction and embark on a new journey into uncharted territory; the weird and wonderful world of advertising.
Hitting the ground running
Despite being qualified for my new role, starting almost from scratch in this new world began to take its toll, and before I knew it, self-doubt crept in. I questioned my own abilities, whether I could truly add value, and if I even deserved a seat at the table.
My first encounter with the wider team was, in reality, a smooth sailing experience, but internally, it was an entirely different story.
I found myself swept up in a whirlwind of emotions, evident only by my constant foot-tapping.
I questioned how others, particularly those that I would be working with on a daily basis, would perceive me. Would they see me as incompetent? Was I truly deserving of this position? Despite consistently being told I was performing well, self-doubt remained a constant companion.
What I’ve learned is that imposter syndrome and anxiety are not battles that can be entirely conquered, but they can only be managed.
Simple tactics like placing reassuring sticky notes on my screen before important meetings; or telling myself to ‘zoom out’ to see the bigger picture when overwhelmed by my to-do list, or curating a “pump up” playlist full of everything from Geto Boys to Gershwin to Guns N’ Roses have worked wonders for me.
But one of the most significant helps has been sharing my experiences with others.
A problem shared is a problem halved.
As someone who naturally resists discussing my feelings, I’ve discovered that the more I challenged myself and opened up to my peers, the more I felt the nagging self-doubt lift off my shoulders.
At Live & Breathe, I also had the privilege of working with a career coach, which provided a valuable outlet, even when it sometimes is just to vent!
So, to my younger self and aspiring professionals:
· Make a conscious effort to silence the voices in your head—or at the very least, turn down their volume. When your colleagues express admiration for your work, believe them. Learn to accept compliments graciously, as they may become less frequent as you advance in your career.
· When plagued by doubt, zoom out. Uncertainty, stress, and feeling overwhelmed are inevitable at times. But in equal measure, there will be moments of success and relief. By zooming out of the present moment, you gain a broader perspective, realising that tough times are transient and ‘this too shall pass’. You realise it’s not a downward curve, it’s a little wiggle in your line of growth.
· Effective communication can solve many problems. While discussing emotions may not come naturally in the workplace, you can be the person who makes a difference. To be vulnerable is to be courageous. You’ll quickly discover that many of your colleagues and peers share similar sentiments. Creating a safe space for sharing problems will likely diminish their weight.
To sum up, embracing a nonlinear path to success is not only possible but often leads to incredible, unexpected opportunities and huge personal growth – it has done for me.
Trust in your abilities, manage self-doubt, and, most importantly, find solace in sharing your experiences with others, you’re never alone.