fake it till you make it

Fake it till you make it? No thanks.

Written by Jaclyn Bradshaw at JBrad Digital providing digital consultancy, strategy and content, Women in Agencies Member.

fake it until you make it

The other day I made a pretty sizeable mistake at work. After my initial reaction of terror/anxiety/shame/fear, I turned on my usual internal pep talk;

“You’re not a pilot. You’re not a surgeon. Nobody is going to die as a result of this”.

Then I got on the phone to the relevant people, admitted my mistake, apologised and moved on. Everyone was lovely and understanding about it – as most people usually are if you make a mistake. Not always, but most of the time.

I’ve always worked in this way. When I mess up, I fess up – in every aspect of my life, from work to parenting. And do you know what? It feels like a superpower sometimes. It’s liberating to admit my faults, say sorry, speak up when I don’t understand something and own my infallible human nature. I think it’s served me incredibly well within my career, and indeed my life.

So I’ve never understood the phrase, “Fake it till you make it”.

Why would I pretend to be good at something when I’m not?

I feel it’s better to showcase the experience, strengths and skills I do have, and develop on those that need work. There’s no use pretending I’m good at absolutely everything, like a faultless robot, and then having to work twice as hard to deliver on overpromised expectations.

The same principle applies to job interviews – whenever friends or colleagues ask for tips on how to ‘nail’ their interview, I’ll always say the same thing; “If it’s easy and feels right, it’s right. If you have to pretend to be something you’re not, it’s not the right role or company for you. You don’t have to fake it till you make it”.

I belong to a number of forums and groups for working parents. At least once a month, there’s a post from a parent (usually a mum) asking how she should “explain” the gap in her CV due to maternity leave…

…should she fake it till she makes it to get that next job?

Of course not! If a company doesn’t support the fact that you stopped work while you birthed and raised an actual human baby, they’re probably not going to be super supportive when you have to leave work early to attend a sports day, or take the day off when your child has the chicken pox.

Don’t fake it till you make it. Instead, showcase the skills you do have, or go on courses to refresh or develop them if need be. You can share your concerns about any knowledge gaps with a potential employer, but show your commitment to bridging them and excelling in any role.

Be honest and upfront – the right people will get you, and the others don’t matter. This can be challenging when you’re desperately seeking a job or you want to make a good impression in a new role. But I firmly believe that if you apply the ‘fake it till you make it’ mentality to any aspect of your role, sooner or later, you’re going to be found out. Or you’ll burn out from the pressure of trying to be someone or something you’re not.

The brilliant musician, Michael Kiwanuka, sings a song called “You ain’t the problem”. He says it’s about the fact that if you feel like the odd one out in a group, or like you don’t belong – it’s because that’s not the right group for you.
You’re not the problem – you don’t need to fake it to make it, being yourself is good enough. You just need to find the people and places who make you feel like you belong.
Beth Hellowell
Founder of Women in Agencies and co-founder of Signify Digital. Mother, social media scroller and frequent pasta eater.