The Worst Best Interview
It was one of the best interviews I've ever had. The interviewer and I had an easy rapport. We moved swiftly from rote questions and answers to real, meaningful conversation. We traded laughs and war stories for nearly two hours, and he ended the meeting with an extra firm handshake and, "I have a feeling I'm going to see you again."
I never saw him again.
But he did call two days later to say how much he genuinely enjoyed meeting me and believed I would be a great candidate for the role, but I just wouldn't fly with HR because my resume didn't show the right job title.
That's when I knew I would need to fake it.
Little Write Lies
At that point in my career, I'd spent several years working in the management and analytics side of marketing. I hated it, and wanted to switch over to the creative side to become a copywriter. I knew I could do the job. I had just never actually done it.
In a way, my resume became my first copywriting task. As a marketing manager, I'd collaborated with copywriters on many projects. I just hadn't actually written them. But that was a minor detail, wiped away with a few strokes of the keyboard. Lucky for me, this was before people broadcast their whole professional history across seven social media platforms.
The refreshed resume landed me a new interview, but I knew that wouldn't be enough. A copywriter needs a portfolio. Samples that prove they've got the chops to do the job. Now, I was willing to lie about my previous experience — ends justify the means, after all. But I was not willing to pass off someone else's work as my own. I still wanted to land a job on my own merits. So, lacking any real work samples, I faked those too. I wrote a whole brochure and ad campaign for a fictional resort somewhere in the tropics. I even concocted an explanation of why I was sharing a Microsoft Word document rather than actual campaign pieces (because the developer killed the project before the piece made it into layout, of course). I don't know whether it was the fake resume or the real writing, but this time, when they called two days later, it was to offer me a job. Boom. I had become a copywriter.
Make It 'Til You Fake It
I spent the next few years learning how to do my job. Sure, I could string some words together from day one. But by watching my boss, getting to know other creatives, and keeping tabs on the best work being produced in my field, I learned what being a copywriter is really all about. Doing the research. Developing concepts, not just copy. Tapping emotion. Telling the right story in the right way and the right place to the right people. I don't know when I started to feel like "I made it," but at some point I stopped feeling like I was faking it.
Until I got promoted.
Today, my official title is "Associate Creative Director.” That means I am supposed to lead the creative process, direct the writers and designers, set a high bar for the Creative department and inspire everyone to reach it. Some days I feel like I'm doing that. But other days — more often than not, if I'm being honest — I get that old familiar faking it feeling. Except this time around, I have the title. I'm just not sure I have the talent to go with it.
I'm not sure because when I meet other creative directors, they just seem so much cooler and more creative than I am. I'm not sure because when I watch my own creative director in action, I feel like I'll never be so capable of commanding a room and convincing everyone of the course we should be on. I'm not sure because I've spearheaded projects that I was really proud of and passionate about that missed the mark entirely. I'm not sure because I still envy the work of other creatives and have no idea how on earth they got so. Damn. Good.
For now, all I can really do is what I did the last time I had to fake it. I keep working. I keep learning. I keep trying to live up to this title and all that comes with it. And if I keep that up, maybe one day, I will make it.
Diane Levine is the Associate Creative Director of the award-winning branding and marketing agency Think Creative. She specializes in writing, branding, marketing and inspiring people to believe in their own awesomeness so they can find more joy at work and in life (she writes more on those topics on her personal blog, Operation Goosebumps). She is a mom of two, a wife of one, and a collector of many pairs of high heels.
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