CN: Impostor syndrome
I was asked at the beginning of the graduate scheme to fill out a portfolio of projects I’ve worked on, to mark the milestones I’m supposed to achieve by the end of the year.
I feel like I’m collecting more mistakes in my portfolio than achievements. Like the time when I was assigned my first major project, which involved corresponding with a very important client, and I submitted the slide deck with mistakes in the data. Four times.
Or the time when I tried to complete a task ahead of time before it would be asked for and ended up changing restricted files that weren’t meant to be touched. Fortunately I had saved it as another version, so half of my day could be deleted with an unambiguous tap of the keyboard. I was told not to do things unless it was explicitly asked of me by the client.
Like the time I had a stern talking-to about having to be more proactive and update logistics every single day without having to be asked to do it.
Like every single contact report I fucked up because I couldn’t register the phone speaker distorting the clients’ updates and instructions on conference calls. We have calls at least once a day and I still haven’t done one right.
Like today. I sent potential time slots for a client call set at the wrong time zone because I wasn’t aware that Canada had more than one time zone like the US. Then I did it again because there was confusion about clocks skipping forward in a few days. I said the contracts would be ready to send by the end of the day and that I only needed to change the addresses. When I got the chance to finally work on them, I realized that there was a whole appendix that needed to be filled out and I didn’t know how to do it. Needless to say, I couldn’t get them done. It was the first time I was unable to keep my promise. I had a contact report that needed to be sent for review today but sometimes you just have to not give a fuck and walk out the office even if your work isn’t done.
My boyfriend texted me telling me to hang in there and that things would get better. I texted back and said, with utter sincerity, that things would get worse. I felt like this day would be the beginning of a future aneurysm that would strike out of nowhere.
The past couple of weeks, I’ve constantly been thinking that it would be my fault if anything went wrong in the office, even if I wasn’t directly involved in that project. In other words, I feel responsible for any mistake that is made.
“I feel responsible for any mistake that is made”
That’s enough to put you on edge throughout the day, every day. I think that way because it seems like I am the only one who makes mistakes in this office. If the unexpected happens and someone somehow makes a mistake, it must have been because of something I did or didn’t do. Everyone is so detail-oriented, which is of course the most important requirement for this job, and everyone seems to know what to do, even the new ones. I have never seen anyone who was reprimanded via email like I have been.
And the thing is, is that I’m grateful that my coworkers are so prompt to let me know when I’ve made a mistake and give me tips on how to avoid it. They are very patient with handling the burden that is me.
But today I visualized the project lead standing next to my chair to have a look at the contracts I failed to fill out. “You are the most disorganized person I’ve ever worked with. In fact, I had a meeting with the rest of the team and we all agreed that if we could fire you this instant, we would. You make too many mistakes – the standard of your work is unacceptable. Now sort your shit out.” I could almost hear her voice echo as she walks back to her chair, even though she was in a meeting that time.
I can’t help but count down the days when the inevitable talk is going to happen. It seems like the next mistake I make, any of my project leads will ask me whether I have time to “have a little chat”.
I’ve even imagined what it would be like to be fired before I even made it to the end of the graduate scheme. I imagine that I would be too shocked to cry and I would just pace around my room all day feeling numb because it was unsurprising from the very first month.
“It seems like the next mistake I make, any of my project leads will ask me whether I have time to ‘have a little chat'”
Thing is, I love my job. I try to convey how much having this job means to me through my attitude and my actions. I was the sort of person who had no idea what they wanted to do in their life ever since they were a kid. By the time I graduated, I started to think that my lack of passion and ambition was because I would be the type of person who could never work. I’m disorganized, messy, careless, reckless, and clueless about the world. How on earth would I be able to cope in the workplace, assuming I got a job in the first place?
But then I stumbled upon the world that is medical communications right after I graduated, and everything clicked into place. It was the definition of a eureka moment. On selection day, when I got the chance to visit the company and find out more about what they do, I knew that this is what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be.
Working my first full-time job has changed me. I’ve never had so much ambition before. I’ve never been so hyper-focused and able to finish multiple tasks within the same day. I’ve never had the chance to write and handle account logistics at the same time. I’ve never been able to sleep so at peace without having to worry about not having done anything due to procrastination. I’ve become much more efficient – therefore, a much better person. I’ve even started to use Excel outside of work.
But I feel like the person I am at work is so different from the person I was at interviews. I remember giving a passionate presentation during selection day, contributing in the group task, and my voice carrying passion, confidence and wanting in my interview. Now I feel muted in the presence of all my responsibilities. I walk along the corridor to my desk, passing my coworkers typing at their computers, and I feel so small. I start to feel the exact same way as I did while studying in Cambridge – that the only reason I was chosen was because the interviewers were experimenting with a new course and they didn’t really know what kind of person they were looking for.
But I’m not unhappy with my life. In fact, I’ve never been happier. My friends laugh whenever I say that and say “good one”, but it’s true. I have purpose. I’m doing my dream job and I enjoy what I do. Having all this responsibility gives me a thrill. When I wake up the next morning, I’m going to have the same amount of optimism that I always do – that today is another day and I’m ready for whatever is thrown my way. I look through the growing list of mistakes I’ve made, recite them, and plan ways not to repeat them. But deep inside, I’m still scared of fucking it all up.