Clare Farrugia, senior account manager at Alpha Digital outlines the lessons she’s learned rising from intern to last week’s Rising Star for Women in Media for those coming up through the ranks…
Imposter syndrome doesn’t discriminate. I believe it can happen to anyone at any stage of their career. And it was doubt and nerves that left me waiting until 11.59pm on deadline night before hitting send on my application to become a mentee for the first round of mentoring at Assisterhood (an initiative to partner young media females with industry heavyweights). That was four years ago and I believe it was the start of real growth in my career and contributed to the recent Rising Star award bestowed by the Women in Media awards.
I think it was only adrenaline that pushed me to hit the return key in the end.
It’s been a bit surreal since winning last Friday, but before any more humblebragging gets too contrived I wanted to share a few thoughts about what I learned since that first application to the most recent award which might help others who are building their careers. There is plenty of advice online for senior leaders, so this one is aimed at people, like me, who might be starting out as an intern or junior and want to progress and contribute more quickly.
Hunger trumps experience
I can’t say this enough, but ask questions and show that you care. In my experience, people are very generous with their time when asked about topics they are passionate about. Asking your team or others in the industry for their thoughts will also broaden opportunities for networking. I had a few connections I made at university; and one of them being Linh Diep, who had launched a program for mentorship for females in media/marketing when I had just graduated. I knew straight away I needed to be a part of the Assisterhood program, in spite of my fears. I joined as a foundation year mentee, and the opportunity became such a crucial stepping stone for me, and helped me realise that other leaders I aspired to be like, also had similar hesitancies like I did. But without feeling uncomfortable you’re not going to grow and if you don’t ask you don’t get. At Alpha Digital, I started out as an intern and by constantly asking more senior team members about how they worked with clients, opportunities opened up and within three years I was able to become a senior account manager. It’s incredible to be in a position where I can now pass on that knowledge to others. Be curious and gracious when someone does offer their time. And remember to pay that forward to others as your career matures.
Surround yourself with inspiring people
This is vital for me. By seeking out people online, in-person and cold emailing who I would like to learn from, it’s allowed me to feel more at ease, quicker, with my own experience. Those that you find inspiring will usually have tips for how to stay driven or feel less critical of yourself when things might not go to plan.
Find your tribe
This is similar to surrounding yourself with the right people, but goes further. These supporters should be absolute advocates for you. Find those in your workplace both senior and more junior, who will be willing to back you and speak positively on your behalf. Or they could be friends at a similar stage to you, who can recite your elevator pitch at events or on social media when spruiking is required. It also helps whenever there may be public voting for awards.
At Alpha Digital, I campaigned to set up an initiative for the graduate program called ARK; a collaborative session focused largely on whole-of-person development for our grads. The initiative helps everyone involved to understand each other’s strengths and opportunities for growth, and we have all become supporters and advocates for each other.
Get involved – contributing to your community
Showupability is massive in business. Those that consistently go to events, have personal goals and just say yes are likely to experience more. You’ll become more trusted and relied on and ultimately more valuable as a colleague and professional; whether you initially know how to solve an issue or not. Say yes and work out the how later. There are limits to this of course, but it again comes back to attitude, and I guess persistence.
For example I’ve joined the Women in UX Australia group without knowing much about the topic or working in that space. It’s one of many communities which has free events and meetups online. It’s allowed me to speak with people who I’d never have met otherwise. I offer my view on human-centred design, from my own experience as a consumer, and we find shared common ground, while growing my network. Before attending any events though, think of how to make meaningful connections; something more than just finding out where and how someone makes their living. Speak to different types of people all the time, jump in head first and you’ll be consistently amazed by yourself and the generosity of others.
Growth is better when it’s shared
It may be slightly cliched, but also very true. Through a number of intentionally uncomfortable situations I’ve submitted myself to, I really feel like I’ve grown professionally and personally in the last few years. But that personal progress has not compared to the feeling of satisfaction when taking what I’ve learnt and passing it on to our more junior team members. It’s why I love and cherish agency life. Wins are more rewarding when we succeed collectively. This might be a small thing, but when I was coming through there wasn’t a senior account exec position in the agency. So I enlisted the backing of the leadership team to help create one for me to provide support before stepping up to account manager. I went through the process and now have championed others who are on the same path. When you can make the path easier for others to follow it can give your work life more purpose, or it has for me anyway.
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