Foster the Imposter  

 

For those of you that are resettling into civilian life or are seasoned Veterans already, chances are with a few years' service under your belt you have your fair share of ailments.  

If you are an Army Veteran, it’s your back, knees, hearing or all three. Royal Navy? Then it’s a squinty periscope eye-twitch. Royal Air Force? Well, it’s the removal of your Hilton Honours card that has broken your heart in two.  

There is one ailment that could be lingering like a career laugh at an AGM and it’s the last thing you would expect when encroaching 1 (UK) Civ Div, but it can strike anyone, anytime. It’s contagious. It’s insidious. There are no obvious symptoms, it’s odourless - actually, that’s not true because this ailment absolutely stinks. Oh, and unfortunately there is no vaccine. 

It is Imposter Syndrome (cue dramatic drums).  

You may have forgotten but looking back at your career you have had many facades when adopting roles that you (possibly) were not privy to their existence until you read your Posting Order. Unfortunately, Siri isn’t’ ‘MOD enough’ to answer questions such as “what the hell is a JDLMO GBAD SME LO?” but you’ve managed to crack on, right?  

I once asked a colleague how he was getting on in his new job. He said, “Kate, I just pretend I know what I’m doing and take each day at a time. People micromanage and correct me anyway, that’s how I learn”. I was impressed with his ability to blag his way to the rank of WO2. “But you always look so busy. What are you doing if you don’t know what you’re doing?” was my reply. He continued, “(the) trick is, carry a piece of paper everywhere, better still, go all-out with a full folder. You look busy and like you’re on a mission, no one will stop and ask questions, that keeps the tasks away so I can focus on my job.” What a genius!  

Well, ish. He later tested positive on a CDT so clearly the bullsh*t detector sniffed him out in the end. Literally and figuratively. Anyway, that’s by the by... 

Hear me out.  

 

I recall another conversation with my (then) new boss regarding my impending role, post-promotion. “So, you’re the Link 16 SME.” He wasn’t asking a question. “The…?” I attempted to interject. “The Link 16 TDL GBAD SKS SME of 7 ADGP” he continued. The f*ck is that? I thought. He chatted away as if we were on the same page and I drifted off, hoping I to find some paraphernalia on this abbreviation conundrum, because if I dare ask, surely the answer would be “isn’t that your job, Kate?,” whilst shooting a puzzled and almost concerned look back at me… then my rank slide.  

I was so out of my depth I could have buried my head in the sand underneath The Mary Rose. Once I was on the one-day course (yes, one entire day to become an SME) and thrown into the murky world of Tactical Data, I was relieved to confirm that yes, I was indeed out of my depth and it was a hard reminder of why I joined the ‘big guns go bang’ crew and not the RAF. Also, I was comforted to learn that I was not the only one. Many light blue personnel, sat through the arid-dry PowerPoint slides, intelligently chewing the end of their posh pens with quizzical ‘smell the fart’ expressions on their faces, legs crossed and scribbling frantically into their issued leather-bound notebooks as if they have just solved the Riemann Hypothesis. There was a main culprit of the ‘I’m all over it’ crowd, a proper planet head with more lines on his lapel than on a Canary Wharf cubicle. You know the type; when you ask if there are any questions and no one responds yet someone hangs on at the end, very slowly packing their daysack or checking their phone. I did the same. The smart RAF Officer hung on to the ask questions, questions that I would ask, that are answered in normal English, not the long arse ‘look how many big words I know’ English. So, he was as clueless as me, which was nice.  

Moral of the story. No one expects you to know it all, just to take interest and try. That is why companies want Veterans because no matter what is thrown at us, we will take the task and run with it, owning it all the way until we royally screw it up, then we will have another crack. It’s not just about turning up on time or having shiny shoes – as JobOppO say “Look Past The Uniform” because let’s face it, if some stuffed shirt barked orders at us in the real world, they would be told to f*ckoff. It’s about work ethic, mindset, and giving it a go. Yes, it can be challenging giving up the uniform that has hidden the imposter for so long - and having to be you, but be honest, are you ever really you in work? You’re still Darren/Lisa that sometimes forgets to wash at the weekend because you’ve been festering in your pants eating Wotsits and watching B-rated movies on Netflix. We see you.  

The fact is that we have all been in a role and felt out of our depth. If you haven’t then you clearly have never stepped out of your comfort zone when that is what makes us so adaptable. It doesn’t need to have been a job role because I will put money on it, if you are a parent then you have at least once stood in absolute bewilderment and asked yourself “how the f*ck is my child still alive?” Remember, you were not born a parent and you were not born a Project Manager (because you wouldn’t have had any school friends – kidding), you were not born a Service Person and nor were you born a Veteran. Embrace it, foster the imposter, and please remember to wash at the weekends.  

 

- Kate Mizon, Army Veteran and OppO

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