Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Imposter Syndrome


Hello Dear Readers,

I've missed you. I really have! And ironically, I've had a ton of things to talk to you about...I just haven't had the time. Time (and energy) is what I've been lacking since I started my new job. I still haven't figured out where to fit the blog into my new life, but I'm confident I will eventually. Hope everyone has been well these past two months.

As I alluded to in a previous post, where I mentioned I was "working on something" that I couldn't talk about, I left the museum in April and started a new position as a marketing and communications director at a foundation that raises money for cancer care, research and treatment. These jobs are as different as it's possible for two jobs to be, with the only constants being writing, media relations, and editing. As a result, those tasks are as comfortable as an old shoe, and so appreciated. When you're the new kid on the block, it's great to bump into an old friend.

This is my fifth week as a director, and already I've learned some startling things:

People Treat You Differently

It all started when I dragged my best friend along on a suit-buying trip for my new job. My friend did her best to be enthusiastic, but her normal work uniform is jeans and a T-shirt, and I can completely relate. My previous uniform used to be the same, with a blazer thrown over-top to make it seem more professional. Still, I'd been to this store on several occasions, and while I found the service passable, they basically left me alone until they noticed I had a pile of clothes in my arms.

This time, an unusually chatty woman asked if I needed something for a job interview. I told her no, that I needed something for a new job, so of course she asked what this new job was. And I told her. That was my first mistake. As my friend stifled her amusement, I learned that there is such a thing as too much customer service. The woman turned into a fawning sycophant, offering to be available to me as a personal shopper and asking me at least eight times if I needed anything. It was a little much, and it spooked me, especially when she pledged her loyalty to our foundation's greatest competition as she rang up my clothes (if you're going to suck up, make sure you're sucking up to the right organization).

It turned out that this was just the beginning. People who expressed concern, doubt, or wariness when they found out I'd left the museum fell over themselves with congratulations when they heard about my new position. And people who'd never given me the time of day were suddenly acting like my best buddies, especially if they were hoping for some work from the foundation. I was relieved to discover that a lot of the contract people the foundation uses actually are friends who I would hire anyway.

Maybe my readers experience this kind of thing on a regular basis, but it's all new to me. I'm the girl who was asked when I was going to get a "real" job when I made my living from freelance journalism. During my seven years at the museum, the question I was most frequently asked was, "are you still THERE?" like my position had a built-in expiry date that I wasn't aware of. Congratulations, adulation and solicitation are not something I'm used to. And what makes it all the more strange is....

I'm Exactly the Same

I'm still sarcastic with a slightly flippant sense of humour. I still trust people too easily. I'm great at the same things, and I'll probably be terrible at the same things (although hopefully I'll learn enough that I'll get better). My mind works the same--I still tend to deflect compliments but be chastened more than I should be by mild criticism. It's not like I became someone else when I got a fancier title, which makes being treated differently all the more surreal.

In the past month, I've met people that ordinarily would have never known my name. I've made big decisions that used to be the sole domain of my supervisor. Instead of eating a quick volunteer supper of cold pizza in the staff lounge, I've been welcomed to the ballroom for the same meal the VIPs are served. Anderson Cooper's people have called me directly. I was able to share a moment with a national hero. Is it amazing? Yes, definitely. Does it make me any different than I was before? Definitely not.

I may be the only director who comes home after an exhausting day, crawls into flannel pajamas (yes, even in the summer), and eats disgusting pasta that came in a can. But that's me, and I will probably never change.

And I'm okay with that.