“Fake it ‘till you make it.”
Sounds like solid advice right? If you’re not confident, just pretend that you are and the confidence will follow. Not so fast! As a new grad, who has gone through the interview process many times, I've learned to do better. Knowing what you're doing is one thing but admitting when you don't know can be much more valuable. In fact, it tops my list on why you should NOT fake it 'til you make it.
1. Admit When You Don’t Know
I promise, it’s going to look a lot better if you’re upfront about what you don’t know than if you pretend you do know it. Honesty is more valuable than embellishment of your skills and knowledge base. This approach also helps employers help you because they can teach you, and help fill your skills gaps, at the beginning of your training with them.
During one of my interviews, the manager asked me how much knowledge I had about the field. As it was the first job remotely in my field that I was interviewing for, I told him I didn’t know much. He told me he knew that I was a new grad and that I had no work experience. It wasn’t necessarily a trick question, but he wanted to see how much I was willing to admit. And because I was upfront, even though I didn’t meet all the requirements as an applicant, he was ready to give me a chance.
2. Be Willing To Learn
“I don’t know, but I’m willing to learn” is such a powerful sentence. It shows that you’re taking the initiative to follow through and be proactive about your learning.
I lack experience and knowledge as a new grad, and chances are you will too—there’s no shame in that. However, when I was hired, my manager told me that he appreciated that I said that I was willing to learn when I didn’t know the answers to certain things he asked me. It let him know that I was ready to put in the work and not be passive about it.
3. Ask Questions
Don’t be afraid to ask questions! It shows that you want to take charge of your learning and know what you need to learn. As mentioned earlier, you’re not going to know everything about the field you’re in. Even when you gain more experience, you’re never going to know everything, so ask the questions. Then, take that step to make sure you know what you need to know about the job you’re doing.
I ask my manager and coworkers for clarification about what I need to be doing daily, if not multiple times a day. When new tasks come up that I’ve never done before, I make sure to ask how to do it. It reiterates that I want to know, and I’m not just going to sit around and wait for someone to ask if I know what I’m doing.
In my experience, “fake it ‘till you make it” hasn’t been a valuable piece of advice (however well-intentioned). It tells us that we’re not allowed 'not to know' and that we can’t ask questions or make mistakes. It forces us to paint the best picture of ourselves to employers and be inevitably disappointed in ourselves when we mess up or don't meet the mark.
Instead of 'faking it 'till you make it' why not do better? Try bringing your whole, true self to work and be open to learning - especially from peers or mentors. You may be surprised what you can do…