Impostor syndrome in the communications industry and how to recognize it

Does it seem to you that you were just lucky when you won the pitch and secured a new client for the agency? Colleagues and superiors praise you, but you think they are exaggerating? Are you meticulously dedicated to every task and without exception think you can always do better? The unshakable belief that you are insufficiently qualified for your job, less capable and intelligent than others think, and the fear that one day someone will expose you, is known as “imposter syndrome”. According to the research conducted by the technological market research company Innovate MR, as many as 65% of professionals have encountered the negative sides of this phenomenon.



Impostor syndrome affects everyone, but women are more prone to it

Although impostor syndrome affects various groups of people, it seems that women are somewhat more prone to it. According to the before mentioned research, as many as 75% of women in executive positions experienced impostor syndrome. Furthermore, 53% of women aged 25-34 are currently struggling with this phenomenon. In order not to be perceived as weak, 85% of women prefer not to talk about it with anyone. Research conducted by Clare Josa in 2019 also showed that the impostor syndrome is one of the key causes of the “glass ceiling” phenomenon and the wage gap.


The problem is particularly noticeable in the communications industry. Namely, Josa points out that leading positions are held by white men. In the absence of role models from “their own ranks”, there are greater possibilities that women will feel like frauds and that they do not belong where they are. It is the same problem with members of minorities and other races.


Why do PR people fall into this trap?


Circumstances that additionally contribute to the increasingly frequent occurrence of impostor syndrome among communicators is the fact that communication itself is very difficult to measure. This makes it more difficult to quantify success. Feedback on creative concepts and texts is often subjective, and rejection is not uncommon. Hours spent searching for key insights and creative thinking of ideas sometimes simply fall into the water because “that something” is missing. Even with simpler tasks, like writing and sending out press releases, it’s increasingly difficult to get published in the media, which can be very discouraging in day-to-day work.


Finally, communication is very much related to digital channels. It is challenging to follow all the news, communication trends and get to know new platforms that are constantly appearing. Even without having  a respectable number of followers on Instagram or LinkedIn and mastering TikTok trends, in your work as a communicator you are often a psychologist, creative person, project manager and person responsible for client relations. You must be able to navigate different types of communication and topics, follow communication in the media every day and have a broad general education and natural curiosity. Reason enough to sometimes wonder how good you are at your job, right?


Five tips to overcome feelings of inferiority at work


Formal education, courses through which you will learn about market trends and new platforms are a great start. Despite the need for different skills and wide knowledge in the job of communicator, start building expertise in a specific area. In this way, it will be much easier for you to convince yourself that you are truly expert in your job. Finally, evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and think about how to improve what you perceive as weaknesses, and how to highlight what is good.


Keep reminders of compliments, messages and e-mails from clients and colleagues that can remind you that your success is real and the result of dedicated effort and work. Set realistic goals and expectations and accept that failure is an integral part of life and work. Finally, with impostor syndrome so widespread, it’s very likely that some of your colleagues are facing the same dilemmas. Open conversation, mutual help and understanding can certainly help.