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Overcoming Imposter Syndrome as a Young PR Professional

Manisha Kataria

Like many other people in their 20’s I am beginning to navigate my way through adult life, piecing together what a career could look like for me. I didn’t realise that so much of it would be spent feeling like an absolute imposter.

Let's backtrack a little. I was once a top achiever at university with first-class, BA and MA, degrees in Media and Culture studies. University was a time where I exceeded my own expectations, I was very proud of my work and my lecturers were proud of me. My course allowed me to write to my heart's content about a host of topics ranging from feminist thought on 1950’s Americana to the performance of Men in Black during its 1997 release.

Soon after I graduated, I was introduced to the world of tech PR. It was an exciting next step and I was ready to submerge myself into a world of new knowledge. But something I had not anticipated was how work life was an entirely different realm to university, especially given the fast-paced nature of PR agency life.

Am I an Imposter?

It soon dawned on me just how little I knew. Yes I studied media at university level for 4 years, but nothing I was taught prepared me for PR.

I threw myself into work but I was falling short on the expectations I had of myself. My draft pitches were completely missing the point, my press releases would need to be completely redrafted or I would not hear back from a single journalist. My usual writing style was not suitable for client press releases, or pitches, or any PR writing for that matter. I had to unlearn what I once thought would result in success.

Then there were all the soft skills involved in PR: being ultra adaptable, handling housekeeping on a large range of accounts with different topics, and communicating effectively.

But most of all, I found introducing myself to a client or calling journalists on the phone terrifying. I was afraid that every move I made, and every word I spoke would be wrong.

My agency is filled with PR pros who are brilliant at what they do and I was willing to learn from the start again. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel like an imposter…

PR is a Whole New World

I recently celebrated my first year as a Junior Consultant and the truth is, I am still no expert. Yet, I can appreciate that the wealth of knowledge that I have gained this past year has been immense.

Re-learning is hard work and certainly does not make you an imposter, even if the judgement and pressure you place on yourself may convince you that you are. Because so what if you get nervous at large company calls or need a second person to read your work? We all have to start from somewhere and it will get better with time.

I for one have a lot more courage and conviction in my work and I now give myself credit for my work. I know that I make a positive impact.

Calling journalists is still a work in progress.

My final advice would be to not beat yourself up over mistakes. Instead, take time, take space, be open-minded and most importantly trust yourself and everything you bring to the table.