"Fake it till you make it" = BAD career advice. Here's what to do instead

We’ve all heard this motivational cliché too many times to count. The saying is supposed to be a rallying cry for those of us with challenges around confidence, optimism, motivation, competence, etc. It is often espoused when individuals are looking to improve their professional lives, either during work related experiences like high-stakes meetings with clients, promotion discussions with bosses, or during career transitions and job changes.

In the past, I even used it (gasp!) to coach clients on improving their performance in job interviews. Then one day, I realized what a disservice I was doing with that advice.


Articles on the behavioral science and professional success implications abound. I’m not going to argue science, I promise! What I am going to challenge is the notion that any of us aren’t already exactly who we need to be – including competent and confident. Why waste precious time and energy focusing on what we think we need to possess or be in order to “make it”? A better and more productive use of time is in identifying and thoroughly owning exactly who we already are.

The goal is to realize with our very real and proven (aka NOT FAKE) abilities, talents, experience, and accomplishments we have already made it.  

Every single individual has achieved professional success and has identifiable value in the job market. It is not your job to pretend you have value until someone else notices and now you’ve “made it”. Your job is identify your own very real, authentic value and learn to communicate it effectively to others. And by the way: made what exactly anyway? Often it is a misguided desire or requirement to be whatever it is our world (friends, family, partner, job, coworkers, community, etc.) tell us we need to be. What a completely reactive approach that voids any control over our personal and professional lives.

There is a better approach routed in really knowing and fulling embracing your talents and experience, and owning the capacity you already possess to make an impact and add value.

So, the next time you're prepping for an important meeting with the boss or client using a power pose or speaking affirmations in the mirror attempting to “fake it till you make it” do this instead:

  1. Establish: Get to know yourself, I mean really! The evidence of your professional value is all around you. You have solid professional strengths and abilities; you have achievements and accomplishments that have made an impact. Identify those, learn to communicate those, and live and breathe those – Now! 

  2. Embrace: Start feeling yourself, I beg of you! Once you identify your value now it’s time to start internalizing that value. Use your newfound awareness about the value, expertise, and ability you already possess to improve your clarity and confidence in your professional competence and career goals. It is your belief in the very real value you can bring that will be contagious to others.

  3. Execute: Now do the damn thing! With a clear understanding of the type of professional you are and the kind of impact you can make, it's now time to promote the heck out of yourself. You don't need a boss, peer, or some industry expert to tell you how good you are and the impact you can make. You own your work experience, professional expertise, and future career potential. Leverage that ownership to start performing at the level you know you are already capable of.

Need help? Get In Touch to learn more about how I partner with professionals like you to craft and tell your professional story in an authentic and compelling way, to define your full value in the job market, and identify ways to gain access to opportunities that align with your career goals and that inspire and motivate you.

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