When you fake it, do you really make it? 4 ways to stop faking and boost your career

by Sep 15, 2021

In my humble opinion – ‘faking’ or ‘acting’ the part in your job is a short-term career hack at best and long-term imitation at worst. I know we don’t love admitting to our skill gaps, but a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing can only fool you for so long.

I was about 19 in my first sales and service-related job when I was taught the self-promoting mantra ‘fake it til you make it’.

I was young, enthusiastic and had a passion for working with people. It was my first ‘real’ job and it required persuasive selling techniques. I was excited and I wanted to learn everything at once! But, I was not exactly exuding confidence, so I was encouraged by my manager to ‘fake it’.

Did I find it helpful? The answer is YES! I learnt to appreciate the idea of ‘acting’ the part whilst developing the skills. Acting the part was only ever going to be a short-term strategy until I gained confidence in my abilities. It was also a time of learning to sit with self-doubt, uncertainty and accept insecurity.

It was not comfortable, but ‘acting’ or ‘faking’ it felt like a survival mechanism and as far as I was concerned, I had to survive in order to thrive in the world of work!


Face it til you make it

You may also be familiar with the phrase – ‘face it til you make it’. To me this is a more positive and virtuous approach to professional development, as we move away from ‘faking’ and more towards the behaviours that promote responsibility – like showing up, facing the challenge, and taking action to learn what we need to learn to succeed in our role.

Essentially, whether you like the idea of ‘faking’ for a short time or ‘facing’ up to your career challenges, you should be continuously growing, not hiding or sweeping knowledge gaps under the carpet.

So why is continuous growth and professional development a great way to boost your career?

It is one way you can transition from acting a part to the real thing. When we are doing honest self-assessment and making continuous progress by working on our strengths and our skill gaps simultaneously, we stand out from those who are not. We become agile and always one-step ahead; we also remain current and relevant and this can lead to greater career opportunities.

So, here are four ways to stop faking and boost your career.


1. Give it a go and model someone you know

When I have been thriving, it’s because I was diving into opportunities.

I was willing to give things a go even when I felt fear, and chose highly successful and authentic people to model my behaviour on. I have found one of the best ways to step up and grow my career is to find someone who represents a version of the person or the qualities I hoped to possess in the future.

Finding a role model in your place of work or outside it is a great way to give you  focus. We don’t know what we don’t know, and there is nothing worse than trying to ‘make it’ with no real idea of what making it looks or feels like.


2. Align and define your professional ethics

I learnt quite quickly that there are professional limits: what you will and will not accept.

These limits are defined by sturdy ethics and professional attitudes. Your ethics are non-negotiable beliefs or values that you hold yourself accountable to.

It is extremely beneficial to align with your professional ethics – as they become your standards. They can guide your choices in the toughest of times and provide comfort in times of doubt. This way you can follow your standards rather than fitting someone else’s.


3. Do it for you

Keep it one hundred with yourself!

Validate and recognise yourself for your wins as much as possible, such as noting all your projects, strengths and achievements somewhere for future reference. This is a way to turn inward and become intrinsically motivated.

It is great to think critically and constructively about your areas of development but unrealistic expectations can have the opposite effect and actually demotivate you.

Similarly, avoid building a career on proving your worth to others. Take on feedback, yes! But show up for you and aim to work towards your expectations rather than just trying to fit around other people’s expectations or perceptions of you.


4. Keep an open mind

This requires openness to feedback and continued learning.

Openness can lead to rapid growth and helps us to manage change and information overload in the workplace. Seeing your gaps from someone else’s perspective and being willing to work on them shows you’re not just ticking a box for your job, but working towards becoming a professional who wants to take strides in their career.

If you continue to fake your way through your career without developing actual skills, you are risking being left behind. In the present and future world of work, attributes such as growth mindset, flexibility, agility and adaptability are the most valued assets a person can possess.


Featured image courtesy of Unsplash

Yasmin Willmott

Yasmin Willmott

Officer | Student Administration Unit

Yasmin is a Human Resource professional with a holistic and human centred approach to recruiting, training, onboarding and staff engagement. Currently Working in Workforce Management at UTS Yasmin is focused on hiring and developing a highly skilled workforce. Yasmin thinks through a creative and innovative lens, she likes to lead with empathy and drive activities that foster continuous improvement, staff strengths and wellbeing. Her extensive background in coaching and facilitation see her passion for people extend outside of her work and into supporting people (including UTS students) to find a sense of purpose and define their career goals.

B Couns (Coaching), GradDip Car Ed & Dev, Dip Transformational Coaching, Dip Human Resource Management