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I am formerly somewhat of a minor celebrity. I'm no Michael Jordan or Brad Pitt, but probably 5 - 10% of you here from the US would have some familiarity with me.

As my time in the spotlight has mostly faded the past few years, so has my income stream. I used to make decent money (although not as much as you might think), but I was horrible at saving because I stupidly thought my success would last forever.

Needless to say, I've needed to start a new career as a regular Joe in a regular job. I've always had a side interest in computers, so I got an entry level job in IT. I'm actually enjoying the job and it feels surprisingly good to be doing regular work. Definitely a lot different.

My main problem is this: I have no idea how to navigate the corporate world, especially being somewhat famous. I'm used to working in a setting where everybody was either famous, or used to working with famous people. Now things can get just plain awkward in my job.

Here are a few examples:

  • My team is "star struck". In my interview a few months ago, they all sat with their mouths wide open. They asked me no questions at all, but just instantly gave me the job.

  • I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm constantly making mistakes, but everybody keeps covering for me. My boss yells a lot and is really harsh with everybody, but is super nice to me all the time (even though I'm clearly not doing a good job).

  • At least once a week, I get invited to some teammate's personal BBQ or fun event. I'd like to make friends, but this is just weird and I feel like coworkers are trying to somehow show me off to their friends.

  • People will randomly stop me in the office (I work in a huge office with a ton of people) and shout "OMG!!! It's actually <my name>!!!" Today I got mobbed by a group who wanted selfies with me while I was heading to my boss's office to try to explain why I didn't get anything for the past week.

My life as a minor celebrity is over and I want to move on and work as a regular person, but this is proving to be surprisingly difficult. What can I do to remain professional and try to get people to forget my somewhat famous background?

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My main problem is this: I have no idea how to navigate the corporate world

My life as a minor celebrity is over and I want to move on and work as a regular person, but this is proving to be surprisingly difficult. What can I do to remain professional and try to get people to forget my somewhat famous background?

You are in an entry level job. Virtually everyone in that position has no idea how to navigate the corporate world. That knowledge comes with time.

To help things along, stop thinking of yourself as a "former celebrity" and think of yourself solely as an "entry level IT worker".

Graciously refuse the selfies. Something like "Thanks, but I'm just an IT guy now" may help.

Work hard at your actual job and give it time. Work with your boss when you have questions about the corporate world. Solicit feedback on your actual work product and process. The better you are at your new work, the faster your past celebrity status will fade.

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    I think the last sentence is the opposite, or at least irrelevant. The better you are at the new work, the more god-like you become (especially given OP isn't experienced). Time will make the status fade. Underperforming will disillusion people about the celeb status--to a point. – Mars Jul 24 at 8:52
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    @Mars Perhaps it should be rephrased some, but the core is sound. The more you excel at your new job, the more people will see you as a colleague. Which automatically alleviates a bit of the star-struck problem. – Mast Jul 24 at 10:19
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    "Are you so-and-so? No, but I used to be. Now I'm just an IT guy." – RedSonja Jul 24 at 11:13
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    I feel like "[politely] refuse selfies" is unlikely to be good advice, and will likely backfire in the team. You don't want to make people feel guilty / turned off. I would say this person, whether they like it or not, are defined by both natures. Instead of declining selfies (effectively escaping from the former nature), embrace them, but also point out that this nature is not more important than the current one. As for 'show-off BBQs' it's understandable that these would happen; if they bother OP, he/she should just discreetly tell their coworker that they don't enjoy such spotlight anymore. – Tasos Papastylianou Jul 24 at 11:29
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    @RedSonja "So-and-so?" <puffs cigarette> "I haven't heard that name in years..." – Haydentech Jul 24 at 14:49
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Going anon for this answer...

I think I can speak from experience.

Not nearly as famous as "5-10% of the US" famous, but when I entered my current large-sized company, probably 500+ people knew me by name and face within the first week, including people from other branches and whom I'd never met. Invitations to events weekly and dining at the CEO table during company events.

I'm in my 3rd year at this company and have a much stronger IT background than OP, but a lot of the treatment is the same. For some psychology background on the treatment, try checking out "Hot-hand fallacy" and "attractiveness bias."

In short, people actually see less of your shortcomings and embellish your successes on their own. And that can cause a lot of anxiety. An important step for your technical growth is to try to remain objective--don't just focus on your failures and dismiss the embellished successes. Try to notice the successes and failures of others as well, and be careful to compare apples to apples. Keeping a feat-failure journal may help you stay grounded.

Regarding your career growth, I don't expect the novelty will wear off as soon as other people expect. You'll probably grow rapidly and feel uncomfortable, the impostor syndrome that Harper mentions. But company-wise, it's actually likely that you contribute much more greatly than you expect. Company morale and charisma have value. Don't be afraid to contribute with soft-skills until your hard-skills catch up.


In short, roll with it. You are who you are and that's not going to change.

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    +1 for "Don't be afraid to contribute with soft-skills until your hard-skills catch up." – WBT Jul 24 at 2:58
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    Welcome to the site! Looks like you have some experience here, maybe you could consider staying! ;-) XD – Cullub Jul 24 at 16:02
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People will randomly stop me in the office (I work in a huge office with a ton of people) and shout "OMG!!! It's actually !!!" Today I got mobbed by a group who wanted selfies with me while I was heading to my boss's office to try to explain why I didn't get anything for the past week.

This is really an opinion question, so here's mine.
The mods may close this down as "opinionated" soon, but...

I disagree about the selfies -

Be generous with selfies. Let the novelty wear off.

When it does, you don't want to be remembered as a jerk that was too good to give selfies.

Say something like, "I'm late to a meeting, so really quick."
Do one selfie per person and keep moving.
If someone complains that theirs didn't turn out just say, "That's okay, I work here. We'll do another one soon."

Just tell your boss that you are sorry you are late, but seven (or whatever) people stopped you in the hall on the way there.
Explain that you didn't want to come off as a jerk, and say you expect it will wear off soon.

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    Sorry, but this comes off as using his celebrity as an excuse to be late. This is not a good look and I wouldn't recommend this approach. – Steve-o169 Jul 23 at 20:47
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    @Steve-o169 Except... unless OP is lying... that is what actually happened - saying "I expect it to wear off soon" is the apology that puts the damper on it. The bigger deal is the fact that s/he will have to work with all the people that were excited to have selfies who were turned down. They will still be his co-workers a year from now. S/he will have a PR problem then... over the turn downs. – J. Chris Compton Jul 23 at 21:01
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    I agree, don't allow yourself to be late because of it. If anything, plan for it... – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jul 23 at 23:37
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    "If you want a selfie, drop by the cafeteria at such-and-such time, that's when I take lunch." – EvilSnack Jul 24 at 1:12
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    Too many people in this comment thread are stuck on the specific example rather than the general premise. I agree with the premise. Don't refuse selfies. It can completely flip your image with your coworkers and make you stand out as the toxic person in the team instead of the charming one. Accept your former nature, but also point out that you don't want to be defined by it alone, and that you're enjoying the current nature too and would like people to engage with that too. Having a multiple skill stack is a good thing, not a bad thing. Use all of it, but responsibly. – Tasos Papastylianou Jul 24 at 11:35
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What can I do to remain professional and try to get people to forget my somewhat famous background?

You probably won't be able to get people to forget your background and who you are but you can still remain professional. Regarding your current issues:

-I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm constantly making mistakes, but everybody keeps covering for me. My boss yells a lot and is really harsh with everybody, but is super nice to me all the time (even though I'm clearly not doing a good job).

Not knowing what you are doing and making mistakes is somewhat normal as you are in an entry level position. When you are unsure of something, ask questions. Speak to your colleagues and/or boss so that they can help you with your tasks. When you make mistakes, ask what you did wrong and try to learn from them. You can't control people covering up for you or treating you special but you can control what you learn and how you perform your work.

-At least once a week, I get invited to some teammate's personal BBQ or fun event. I'd like to make friends, but this is just weird and I feel like coworkers are trying to somehow show me off to their friends.

Find out if these teammates normally hold these events or if they are just doing it to show you off. Ask your other coworkers. If a teammate usually holds these events and invites you it is less likely that they are simply trying to show you off. If they have no history of holding these events then they're probably trying to show you off. Regardless, if you don't feel comfortable attending for whatever reason then politely decline.

-People will randomly stop me in the office (I work in a huge office with a ton of people) and shout "OMG!!! It's actually !!!" Today I got mobbed by a group who wanted selfies with me while I was heading to my boss's office to try to explain why I didn't get anything for the past week.

You can thank them for their interest and politely decline the selfies. Make it clear to them that you are in work environment and would like to focus on your tasks. Eventually, they will get used to you being around and you will be just another coworker.

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    I worked with a guy that was once a minor celebrity as well, in the world of music toured around with Good Charlotte, and opened for a bunch of other (more notable bands) and this was his exact approach when left that "job" to have normal life with his wife and child. It took time, but eventually he became "John Smith from Marketing" (clearly not his name). – Crosbonaught Jul 23 at 14:18
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    @JCrosby - yes, clearly, because you would expect a good marketing person to have a better name than ‘John Smith’ - where is the pizzazz in that? – Jon Custer Jul 23 at 22:39
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    @JonCuster, you'd be surprised at how many comments I have gotten on other sites when using bland names for this purpose (or similar) so I figured I would abide by the KISS principle...and spell it out for everyone. – Crosbonaught Jul 23 at 22:47
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This is not a joke answer - it's based on my own experience, working in a company as an intern, going back to university for a year, and then starting a full-time job.

Grow a beard. Or if you already have one, get rid of it.

Having done a beardless internship, and being known by most of the workers in a large office, I was very surprised to find that returning with a beard very few of them recognized me at all, though they remembered me once they found out who I was.

So if you want to get rid of the "wow factor" attention, it's an option worth considering.

8

It's very difficult for me to answer, as frankly it's tough putting myself in your position, and also putting me in the position of your coworkers, and understanding what I'd need to be able to look past this.

If you are an ex-athlete, you may consider getting professional help from organisations that specialise in offering assistance in this area. For example athlete365 Career. Even if you re not an ex-athlete, they may still be willing to assist you.

Anyway, regarding your current situation:

I think that after a while people will get used to you. Dare I say, once they realize that you're very much like them, the novelty will wear off. But it will take a time, and dare I say, longer than you may be prepared to wait.

Just on your examples:

My team is "star struck". In my interview a few months ago, they all sat with their mouths wide open. They asked me no questions at all, but just instantly gave me the job.

This is regrettable. And to be honest, probably makes it look like they hired you for some sort of wow factor. This is very unprofessional by them.

If I may make a recommendation, if it doesn't work out where you are, maybe you should apply for a role with online tests. That way if you make it past the first round, you know they have performed some sort of assessment of your capability, and it may help them view you as a professional and not... well... a celebrity.

I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm constantly making mistakes, but everybody keeps covering for me. My boss yells a lot and is really harsh with everybody, but is super nice to me all the time (even though I'm clearly not doing a good job).

Well, you not knowing what you are doing is understandable, you are new. However, you should be treated the same as other new people. You should speak to your boss to see what you can do to up-skill yourself. Note that managers yelling at people is somewhat uncommon, which may make it different to what you're used to if you used to play sports.

At least once a week, I get invited to some teammate's personal BBQ or fun event. I'd like to make friends, but this is just weird and I feel like coworkers are trying to somehow show me off to their friends.

I would only go to team events, where are large percentage of your team is there. And I would make sure that I do go to as many as you can. You will get a whole bunch of questions, and attention, but it's better to deal with it then, satisfy people's curiosity then, and hopefully during work everyone can focus on work.

Maybe you'll just have to continually decline the more "personal" offers until they get the idea. I know it kinda sucks cause I'm sure you want to get to know your colleagues.

People will randomly stop me in the office (I work in a huge office with a ton of people) and shout "OMG!!! It's actually !!!" Today I got mobbed by a group who wanted selfies with me while I was heading to my boss's office to try to explain why I didn't get anything for the past week.

I know you're probably conditioned to be polite to people, but you have to give them a firm no. Explain that while you're at work, you need to work.

If there are casual drinks after 4 PM or something like that, you should really embrace it. It will give a chance for people to get to know you, and normalise you mentally.

Sometimes issues happen in the workplace where they simply have to be addressed by management. If you feel like you are not able to work effectively due to the attention, you need to speak with your manager and get support. Even if you think they are star-struck, you must give them a chance to address the issues at hand.

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    Along with the suggestion about "outside events only if the team is invited", I'd suggest doing a "team invite" event at your place, but just for your team and their SO's. While you are there, formally explain to them your situation and what is making you uncomfortable. Also, answering their Q's in a private setting may help get the "OMG" out of your team, as well as get them truly as your team to not only help you level up your work situation, but also ward off other office people's "OMG" moments. – computercarguy Jul 23 at 22:55
  • @computercarguy You should post that as an answer. – gerrit Jul 24 at 11:16
  • @gerrit, there's already several answers that provide a lot more insight. My suggestions fits better as an addition to this answer than an answer in it's own right. But thank you for the suggestion. – computercarguy Jul 24 at 15:54
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It's called "Imposter Syndrome"

And it's worse for you, because you actually have a rational basis for believing it. It's where you believe you're not that good at your job. And it can often be a vicious circle, since if you feel like you're not that good at the job, then "hitting the books hard" to get good feels like a waste of your time.

But that's exactly what you should do.

I don't imagine you got to be a popular celebrity by sucking at your core craft... take actors, there are lots and lots and lots of starving actors, and if an actor isn't competent, or if he can't operate in the business climate of Hollywood, or if he's too difficult to work with... he'll never elevate to stardom in the first place. So whatever you did with the ferocity you needed to make it in the very complex entertainment business... do that with the tech.

One other poster says "grow a beard"... I say grow the beard1 in the craft you're pursuing now.

The relationship at work is going to change somewhat when you start being able the helpful one, the one who spots things others miss. When they start going "hey, you know who would know this? (your name here)..."

As far as the selfies and adoration, I would say let that be. That isn't a starry-eyed crush, it's also respect for the craft of what you did before. Whatever performances you pulled off back then, they are recognizing that you are capable of that. Let them have their appreciation!

1. Urban Dictionary link

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    If someone is constantly making mistakes in their job, they're either inept or, more likely, they're new to it and not yet experienced. That is distinct from impostor syndrome where someone is already quite competent but feels like they aren't. – forest Jul 24 at 9:46
  • That would be a neat little box, now wouldn't it? No, you are proposing that imposter syndrome only happens to the highly competent. That's like saying Dunning-Kruger only happens to the incompetent. (read the actual paper). Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're *not out to get you...* – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jul 24 at 12:47
  • That's... not what I'm proposing at all. – forest Jul 25 at 0:48
1

The great thing about IT is that it is used in every industry. TV and radio stations, movie studios, concert venues, etc, all need someone who can get a new printer on the network, troubleshoot the wifi, maintain their website, and so on. The day-to-day workers here will be less starstruck since "minor celebrities" frequent these types of places regularly. You might even find that experience in your prior life help you in such a setting, in that you may have insights into how technology can improve the work environment for the minor celebrity of the day that happens to drop in.

In the meantime, take any professional development courses your current job may offer. Enroll part-time in a college and work toward an IT-related degree. You have your foot in the door. Learn the ropes and leverage your experience into your dream job.

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