So I wrote a post at work which I thought would be great to share on my personal blog. “Failure Fridays” was the premise… it’s an initiative where each Friday, a member of my team would share a post of when they bombed in the workplace. I think it’s pretty cool if I’m honest; especially at work where people are generally so pressed on being the smartest guy or girl in the room, it’s interesting to hear people relay their vulnerable moments. I had those ‘so you’re telling me this happened to you too’ moments when I was reading some of my colleague’s posts. So caught up in main character syndrome that I forgot other people be going through it too. Next up, I was at the helm to share my experience. Thankfully for me I haven’t been at my current org long enough to share an in-depth failure anecdote… well, maybe you’ve gotta ask my boss to confirm that lol. But for sure, over the course of my career I’ve definitely faced more challenges than I care to admit so I thought I’d take it right back to the beginning.
I started my career in banking; a technology graduate scheme to be exact, so probably the least banking-related scheme you can get. I was so chuffed to get the opportunity to work for one of the leading banks in Europe and after years of having my bank balance not balancing, this was a welcomed reprieve. I knew this role would change the trajectory of my life, so I was eager to show my worth. Prior to officially joining the scheme, all of the graduates on my cohort attended an organised meet and greet to get to know one another and honesty, that’s where the doubts crept in. I remember speaking to some of the grads and I soon realised that these lot went to amazing universities and had master’s degrees, PHDs, internship experience etc… there was even one guy who was apparently a doctor – Lord knows why he was on the graduate scheme but that’s another blog entirely. And there was me, with a 2.1 degree and retail experience to show for my 20 years of existence up to that point. I had a huge dose of imposter syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome – A psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.
On top of that, I was the only black guy in my cohort. You know that unwritten rule where you have to work twice as hard as everyone else in order to be recognised? Imposter syndrome had me attributing my achievement in getting onto the graduate scheme down to pure luck and unfortunately for me, this reflected in my early performance. I would often be silent during meetings, afraid to say the wrong things. If I didn’t understand something, I wouldn’t ask clarifying questions because I didn’t want to be seen as the dumbest guy in the room. Asking for help was me admitting that I didn’t know my stuff and I didn’t want to reaffirm the notion that I wasn’t supposed to be there. This took its toll as it meant I wasn’t enjoying my graduate experience and I also found it difficult to tell people about what I was going through. Everyone just assumes that if you’re at a huge company, making decent money, you shouldn’t have any complaints, right? Wrong!
My turning point was when I had the opportunity to attend a personal development workshop and this truly resonated with me. The key mantra I took from it was the idea of ‘Diversity of Thought’ and ‘bringing your best self to work’. Contrary to beliefs, Diversity of Thought isn’t just a tick box exercise that HR use to source folk from different races and genders in a workplace lol. It’s also about people of different social and career backgrounds bringing their diverse thoughts to the table. The ‘why is representation important’ type notion. This hit home because I realised that what I had to offer was different – or dare I say unique – to others, providing a perspective which otherwise wouldn’t have been heard. ‘Bringing your best self to work’ lol, so I guess you can’t take this too literally. I’m not saying running bants in the workplace, but not expending energy trying to acclimatise to an environment that doesn’t resonate with you. I started to lose my sense of self and was not being genuine. The moment I started being authentic, acknowledging my personality – even the quirky bits – and bringing my interests, opinions and even fears with me to the workplace, I felt like a huge weight was lifted. This was the jump start I needed.