University, the place we go to earn the degree which will help land us our dream job – but can the gap between education and the world of work lead to Impostor Syndrome? 

Natasha Carlyle is completing an Internship with The Future of Marketing and we asked her to put this article together to tell us about her experience of the transition from full time education to the world of work.

Marketing Intern: Natasha Carlyle

The Impostor Syndrome Phenomenon

It’s been said that 7 in 10 of us experience impostor syndrome in our lives. The phenomenon which causes an individual to experience feelings of dread and anxiety that they’ll be ‘caught out’ and exposed for being a fraud is particularly evident when a person accepts a job role they feel they are not qualified for. Having studied a degree in both Business Economics and Business Management with Marketing, I couldn’t relate to this more. 

Having finished my first degree with a less than desirable classification, I struggled to find work in relation to what I’d studied for. Many job applications ruled out candidates who had achieved less than a 2:1 and I simply didn’t meet the requirements. Having spent a few years working abroad and changing jobs more times than I care to remember, I decided to return to education and get the degree qualification I truly wanted. 

Marketing is something I have always had an interest in and having picked up some experience through various jobs in the events industry, I decided that this is what I would study. I enrolled in an online University which placed me in the second year of the course (the perks of having studied something so similar in the past!) Right away I was given the support I needed to find an internship in relation to my new field of study.

Securing an Internship

Internships were not something I’d ever considered before so I had no idea what to expect. I’d managed to complete my time at a brick and mortar university without so much as an hour of work experience relevant to my field of study so I simply had no idea what I was about to get myself into.

I applied for two internships, one with a local charity and the other with a company who developed technology to help rehabilitate prisoners and to prevent ex-convicts from re-offending and to my surprise, I landed them both!

This is where my first true experience of impostor syndrome kicked in. While there was certainly an overlap in some of the job tasks, these two organisations were completely different to each other – let alone any of the job roles I had had in the past. 

Within a few days of starting each, I started to feel a little out of my depth. I was being asked to do things I’d never encountered before and even though I had passed both interviews with flying colours, I started to think that maybe I had exaggerated my skill set and maybe I wasn’t the right fit for the roles after all. 

It didn’t help that both of the roles were exclusive to business students at my university. Had going into second year meant that I’d missed out on content that I needed to succeed as marketer? It was all a little daunting. 

Overcoming Impostor Syndrome

Having had little communication with other interns in a similar position, I decided to have a word with senior members in my team. I made it clear that I was struggling to understand some of the tasks that had been asked of me and to my surprise, everyone was very supportive and keen to help me learn.

I had forgotten that the purpose of an internship was to help students gain experience within an industry while allowing them to expand on their skill set and put everything they’ve learned into action. While I was there to support the company in achieving their marketing goals, I was also there to expand my knowledge and gain experience in a marketing position. I wasn’t expected to know everything and the difference between the two job roles proved that. 

The Gap Between University and the Workplace

What I had learned in University helped me to understand why I was asked to perform certain tasks but not necessarily how. When it came to social media, writing email campaigns, creating graphics and conducting market research, I had little to no idea what I was doing. In fact, there’s a lot of things a marketing degree won’t teach you in relation to practical job skills. 

In the experience I have gained so far I have learned that the degree qualification sets firm foundations on which you can build a career – but the reality of entering the world of work is that there are lots of new skills that need to be developed and can only be learned from lived working experiences.

My advice when applying for internships would be to relax when it comes to applying for positions you feel like you’re under-qualified for. Qualities such as having a willingness to learn,  ability to use initiative, effectively manage time and a capacity to work under pressure are perhaps more beneficial when undertaking a role at internship level. 

It’s worth remembering that sometimes even the recruiters get it wrong when it comes to looking for the ‘ideal candidate’ – Read more: ‘What’s wrong with Digital Marketing job descriptions?’

About the Author

Natasha Carlyle is a Marketing Intern at The Future of Marketing and current Business Management student at the Open University.

Having completed a degree in Business Economics at Queen’s University Belfast in 2016, Natasha spent a number of years working abroad in various PR and Event Management Roles before deciding to return home and pursue a career in Marketing.

The Future of Marketing is developed by BlueSky Video Marketing

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