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by Alex Duffy, Best of HESM 2021 Volunteer

In 2020, five years into my social media career, I applied for my first ever award. My (then) head of department suggested I enter my work for the Best Use of Instagram category, focusing on a campaign I ran using user generated content.

Truthfully, I didn’t think I’d win. I enjoyed my work immensely, but I didn’t consider it worthy of any accolade. I regularly compared myself to other social media managers, putting their work on a pedestal whilst simultaneously disregarding my own.

Imagine my surprise when I won the Best Use of Instagram award! I had already resigned myself to not winning, as I knew I was up against some heavy hitters. It was an absolute shock; for the first time in a while, I felt like my work was good. I had physical evidence to say “I’m great at what I do”, and that’s an irreplaceable feeling.

You might look at awards and think “I’m not good enough to win this”, but that shouldn’t stop you from applying. After all, you’re judging from your own perspective, and other people may think differently. You may nitpick the small issues with your work, but would the judges have the same concerns? Even if you don’t win the award, simply being shortlisted is proof that other people see value in what you do.

As social media professionals, we tend to devalue our own work. We’re often overlooked and underappreciated in our organisation, and our work is simultaneously important enough to constantly critique yet unimportant enough that we’re not kept in the loop. That’s why awards like this are vital; other people in your industry are telling you how much your work is worth. Colleagues in other departments may not understand what you do, but they understand the meaning of an award.

An award win can take you far in your career. It’s undeniable proof that you’re good at what you do, and both current and future employers will be impressed. Your work can also inspire others to try new things or push themselves further; the more the #HigherEdSocial community can share ideas and celebrate amazing work, the further we can all grow as professionals.

If you’ve never entered your work for an award, now’s a great time to do so. The past twelve months have been undeniably difficult, and we need validation for our work. No matter what their role or career experience is, most people who have been nominated for an award have (at some point) thought “I don’t deserve to win this” or “I’m gonna lose”. It’s time to shed that humility and be proud of your work!

Alex Duffy

Alex Duffy

Social Media Manager at The Manchester Metropolitan University

Alex is a Social Media Manager at Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK. He’s responsible for running the university’s Facebook and Instagram account, developing a range of content to keep students engaged. In Alex’s 5 year career he’s won awards for his Instagram work and management of student ambassadors.

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