Should You ‘Fake It Til You Make It’?

I was delivering some one-to-one feedback to a young woman recently, who confided in me she often lacked confidence in meetings. She was new to the business and was usually the least experienced person at the table.

Her boss had picked up on this and advised her to simply act in the meeting “like you’re the most experienced person there”.

He was telling her to ‘fake it til you make it’

I visibly flinched when I heard.

For one thing, how was this woman meant to suddenly flip her mindset from the factual perspective that every other person there had more experience, to the fictional perspective that she was suddenly the most knowledgeable person in the room?

And secondly, how would that have been received by her colleagues? She’s very early in her career and a sudden boost of false confidence could easily be received as a sudden surge of arrogance.

So I gave her my two pence-worth

When it comes to personal branding, I have zero tolerance for anything fake.

The whole point is to be who you are, understand the value that brings and educate others to see that value too – not pretend to be someone else, oversell your expertise and hoodwink others into believing you.

If you want people to buy your brand, you have to be legitimate, authentic, genuine, true, bona fide – whatever word feels right for you. But what you can’t be is fake.

Which is all well and good to say, but for this young woman it wasn’t solving her problem.

That’s why I offered a different tack

Whatever your difference from the people around you – whether it’s the amount of experience, the type of qualifications, the level of ability, the career path taken – that’s exactly where your genuine confidence should come from. Because you have something they don’t – and that has value.

A perfect example is that this woman’s inexperience means she can add value by offering a fresh perspective – seeing things in a way that older eyes can’t.

Or another is a man I spoke to in the private bank who had a degree in drama that was starkly in contrast to his colleagues’ economics degrees. The value was he could pick up on non-verbal cues and express himself in a way they couldn’t.

Or my own example

In the early days of my business I was kindly invited to join a private dinner hosted by the Chief Executive of Yorkshire Bank. He kicked off the evening by asking each person at the table to introduce themselves, plus give their thoughts on the state of the economy.

One by one my fellow guests reeled off their job titles – including a Chair of the Institute of Directors, a Chief of Police and a Managing Partner in a major law firm – as well as their well-informed views on the markets.

I was paralysed with fear. I had literally set up my company the year before, was the only person in the business and, after running a press office for a building society for the previous eight years, had been enjoying the fact I no longer had to read the financial press – until it became clear I had zero knowledge as a result.

I’m not kidding when I say I was calculating what I could do to get out of the room before my turn came. And then the realisation hit me:

My difference is my value

So I said, “Hello. I’m Jennifer Holloway and I have a very different perspective on the economy, coming at it from the viewpoint of someone who’s just set up their business and is building their client base.” Then I followed it up with what I’d experienced.

It was at odds with what many of the guests had said, but it didn’t matter. I’d couched my comments as being ‘based on my experience’ – so they couldn’t be wrong, because they were my experience.

And guess what?

Nobody laughed in my face. Or told me I was wrong. Or asked me to leave because I was obviously in the wrong place. And I hadn’t had to fake anything.

I simply knew who I was, understood the value that brought and educated others to see that value too.

What are your thoughts on faking it to make it? Do you think it has value? Or do you agree with me? And what advice would you offer someone who’s told they should fake who they are? There’s a comment box below that’s itching to have your thoughts added. Thanks!

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2 responses to “Should You ‘Fake It Til You Make It’?”

  1. Wil says:

    Hi Jennifer,

    I with you on this. Intro’ing your comments from one’s own experience, provides context and clarity. for the audience, and a start point for a further conversation.

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