I got an email from a reader following yesterday’s piece on Impostors and Bullying enquiring as to just how many impostors I have encountered in my working life. I’m not sure how statistically valid the encounters of one ranting blogger in his working life are. Well that’s not strictly true – I can state with a high degree of confidence that the statistical validity of my encounters is precisely … none. However, undeterred by something so tedious and unimaginative as statistical invalidity, I press gamely on. How many impostors have I met in my professional life to date?

A lot.

Remember that wonderful line from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in which Douglas Adams is describing the immensity of space?

“Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly hugely mindboggingly big it is. I mean you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space. Listen …”

How many impostors have I met in my professional life so far? A lot.

[Incidentally, isn’t this new-fangled Impostor Syndrome thingie just a way of restating our old friend The Peter Principle? Yeah, yeah, I know – but Impostor Syndrome sounds so coooool.]

Let’s just examine my first couple of [utterly statistically invalid] years out of college. I stumbled into the advertising industry largely because I enjoyed fooling around with words and had really enjoyed a couple of optional lectures I had attended entitled The Use and Abuse of the English Language. My first job was in a boutique advertising agency which had a wonderfully shambolic approach to the business.

Very shortly into my sojourn in the advertising game, I was approached by a Director from another agency who wanted to know if I’d be interested in moving to his agency? By now the shambolsim I was enduring on a daily basis was wearing a little thin, so I unhesitatingly said, “Yes.”

So I was invited to interview a few days later and wandered up the road during my lunch break. I stepped in the door of this agency, looked down, and thought, “Oh ho!” Because my shoes had literally disappeared into the deep pile carpet of their reception area.

Then the most glossy human being I had ever seen in my life asked if she could help me. [“Oh hooooo!”] I told her I was there for an interview and took the proffered seat in the reception area. I gazed around at the rich decor, the award-winning advertisements set into subtly-lit alcoves, the glossy receptionist, the immaculate magazines and newspapers on the coffee table, the glossy receptionist … and I thought to myself, “Oh ho! Now these people know what they are doing!”

Long story short, I did the interview, was taken on the tour of the agency [“Oh ho!” at every turn] was offered the job and showed up a couple of Mondays later for my first day. I sat through a ferociously impressive cup of coffee and briefing with my new boss, attended an equally impressive weekly meeting with all the department heads and then got down to my first day.

That afternoon, my boss and I were taking some creative concepts out to a major client. Back in the 1980s, that meant sticking the hand-drawn roughs down onto some stiff card, carefully placing a sticker with the agency logo on the mounting and hiding the concept beneath a hinged card cover, ready for the dramatic reveal later. As the scary hairy creative geniuses brought the roughs out to my boss’ car, I noticed something a little odd – none of the roughs were covered.

“They’re all wet,” I was told. The mounting cards were placed carefully on the parcel shelf of my boss’ car and the heating was turned up so that they would dry en route to the client’s premises.

I was with that agency for about a year and I never saw a dry rough. Not once.

People make jokes about the value of the last minute. Were it not for the last minute, that agency would have been out of business in a day. Everything happened at the 59th second of the 59th minute of the 11th hour in that place. Which, as you can imagine, grew a little wearisome …

So there was this client company of mine. Seriously together people. Sound, smart, polished. These guys knew their market share data down to tenths of a point. Broken out by region. These guys could tell me the science behind their products at a molecular level and they could tell me which customers were using what product and who was ‘for sale’ and who wasn’t. Broken out by postal district.

“Oh ho! Now these people really know what they are doing!” I thought.

Not so.

They poached me, I had the same sort of bewildering first day and then … nekkid emperors as far as the eye could see. Short-termism, P&L stripping, profit calls, loading the trade, interdepartmental squabbling, stupefying bureaucracy …

Is there a lot of this about or is it just me?