How to "Fake It 'Til You Make It" and Stay Honest / Careers / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Sometimes you need to resort to “faking it ‘til you make it.” Here are some tips to help you focus more on making it than faking it.

To advance in your career, you need to take a step up and that often means taking on a greater workload and more responsibilities.

This may include things that you aren’t familiar with, have little experience of, or may even have never done before.

But never leaving your comfort zone won’t get you anywhere, so sometimes you need to resort to the old adage, “fake it ‘til you make it” to get by.

People often get hung up on the word “fake” in that sentence and worry that it means they are somehow being dishonest.

Well, that’s not the case. At least, not if you’re “faking it” in the right way.

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Faking It

Faking it ‘til you make it isn’t about lying about what you can do, it’s more about projecting a little more confidence than you really feel.

And while you’re doing that, you should be working hard to get up to speed so that you no longer have to fake it.

The key is that this should absolutely be a temporary state. If you’re never going to make it, then all you’re doing is faking.

If you’ve somehow talked your way into a position you not only can’t live up to now but never will be able to, you’re a plain fake.

Allowing anyone else to think otherwise is dishonest.

One situation you should never try to fake your way through is a job interview. It is possible to fake your way through an interview, but you will get found out at some point. The potential repercussions of that aren’t worth it.

Be honest if you lack some of the skills or experience listed in the job description.

It’s up to the hiring manager to decide whether they want to take a chance on you being able to get up to speed.

Making It

If you find yourself in a “fake it ‘til you make it” situation, the first thing you should do is be honest with yourself: Will you ever make it?

Is this something you can really do with a bit more knowledge and practice? If the answer is yes, you’re all good.

You should stop worrying so much and put that effort into bridging the gap between your skills and the tasks required of you.

Start by figuring out exactly what you need to work on. Compare your skills with your responsibilities and identify where the gaps are.

This gives you a list of what you need to strengthen.

Here are some ways to do that:

Google It

If you are worried that asking your boss or colleagues too many questions might out you as a fake, just type your question into Google (or Bing, or whatever, if that’s how you roll).

You will find an answer, usually with step-by-step instructions and helpful pictures.

You’ll also learn as you go along. If you find any particularly useful websites or tutorial, bookmark them. Soon you’ll have a list of helpful resources.

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Get a Mentor

Find someone who does or has done your job and ask them, politely, if they would mind helping you out.

The chances are, they were once in your shoes and felt the same way. They probably made some mistakes and can help you to avoid doing the same.

Get that person to give you some general advice to start off with and then talk about more specific issues as they come up.

Read Blogs and Books

Whatever line of work you’re in, there is a mass of literature about it. A quick Internet search will lead you straight to the best industry blogs, magazines and books.

Pick out a few and read every word. Instead of visiting a whole bunch of websites every day, use a service like Feedly to get all your articles in one place.

Watch and Learn

Check out video tutorials on specific skills or processes or talks on more general topics that relate to what you do.

These are easy to find by searching on YouTube or TED. And once you’ve found one, both sites will suggest plenty more related videos.

Go Back to School

If you prefer to learn in a more structured way, see if there are any classes you can take. There are tons of online resources for this, as well as offline courses in your area.

This is particularly useful if a new aspect altogether has recently been added to your responsibilities, e.g. if you are a marketer but your new job asks for some design work.

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Check out udemy, Coursera or edX for online courses, many of which are free and run by well-known universities.

All of these methods allow you to fill in the gaps in your skills and get one step closer to realising your full potential, until the next time you get promoted or change jobs.

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