“One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.” Bertrand Russell
In the last couple of weeks I’ve been interviewing graduate-level candidates for potential roles at BOTTLE. And pretty much without exception, each of them has announced excitedly that they’re crazy about social media.
They love it! It was the thing on their course that really fired them! They simply can’t get enough of it!
Only, when I question them about how this overwhelming passion manifests itself, it becomes apparent that it means little more to them than spending insane amounts of time farting around on Facebook and Instagram.
They struggle to name social media campaigns that have impressed them. They can’t really tell me about brands they think are utilising social media particularly well or creatively. They don’t read any social communications blogs.
There’s just nothing there beyond over-confident bluster. And yet that unwavering belief that their very veins have social media marketing blood coursing through them is unaffected.
I don’t mean to sound nasty. In an interview situation it pays to show enthusiasm and it’s important to demonstrate that you’re interested in a potential employer’s core business. I get it.
But for God’s sake, back it up with something. Anything!
Unskilled & Unaware
The process has put me in mind of a psychological phenomenon called the Dunning-Kruger Effect. This is a theory which states that inept individuals are under the mistaken belief that their level of aptitude is much higher than it actually is. Their lack of awareness of their own incompetence robs them of the ability to be able to critically analyse their performance, leading to them significantly overestimating themselves.
Or, to put it more harshly, they’re too stupid to realise that they’re stupid.
I’d have a far greater opinion of someone I interviewed who said that they have a genuine interest in social communications but who recognised that they wanted or needed to learn, than someone who’s a self-proclaimed “social media junkie”.
Personally speaking, I’m learning all the time. I read a LOT of articles and blog posts on the broad topic of digital marketing every single day. I hate being called an ‘expert’ by my colleagues. I’m not an expert. Not by a long shot. I’m just prepared to work at doing my job well and understanding my industry as best I can.
I’ve written before about constantly doubting my own ability and feeling like I’m about to be ‘found out’. As it turns out, this is what’s referred to as ‘Imposter Syndrome’, whereby competent people tend to underestimate their ability compared to others.
It’s hypothesised that actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others must have an equivalent understanding. And it’s the inverse of the Dunning-Kruger Effect.
Self-esteem is important. A strong ego and confidence in oneself enables us to produce our best work. There’s a Woody Allen joke about a guy who has such low self-esteem that when he is drowning, another person’s life flashes before his eyes.
But there’s a fine line in an interview situation between demonstrating confidence and enthusiasm and making unsubstantiated claims about your love for an industry, a job role or a topic. After all, the last impression you want to make is that you’re cocky or ignorant to your own limitations.
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Posted by Paul Sutton