Why ‘Fake It Till You Make It’ Doesn’t Work

fake it till you make it drawbacks


We’ve all heard the advice, “Fake it till you make it.” Whether it came up in that college presentation, during your first interview or when your boss asked if you were up for a challenging project, we bet you’ve said, “No problem!” more often than, “Actually, I have no experience in that.”

Admitting that you don’t have the creds to take on an important task is super embarrassing, but do you know what’s even more embarrassing? Lying about your experience, taking on the task and failing miserably. This, friends, is why you should never fake it — because you likely won’t make it.

Kimberly White, the senior director of operations at tech rental management company Vacasa, told Fortune why the mentality just doesn’t do you favors in the long run.

“Contrived confidence is artificial and easy to spot, and I’ve found that authenticity and transparency earn you greater respect, anyway,” White said. “Say, ‘I don’t know, but I’ll find out,’ and you’ll build a stronger relationship than if you spin an answer out of buzzwords and wishful thinking.”


Our issue with the phrase? Depending on your industry, you could be thrown into a fast-paced environment that doesn’t allow you the time to learn whatever task you said you already knew. For example, if you said in a job interview that you’re extremely comfortable with Adobe Suite and you’re hired soon thereafter, you could be spending your first day tasked with making a ton of graphics and have no idea what to do. And worse: Your boss will definitely notice that you lied.

So, what should you do instead? It’s not reasonable for you to say no to every task for which you don’t have the ideal experience. The best approach is to say, “I’m not totally familiar with X, but I’m happy to learn quickly!” You’re basically saying, “No, I don’t have the experience for this, but I’m willing to gain the experience to complete the task.” Win-win.

The bottom line: Being dishonest about your abilities (or lack thereof) is actually a huge turn-off to employers, professors, coaches, etc., so don’t “fake” anything. Be real about what you have yet to learn. You may just find that the people you’re trying to impress will not only be forgiving, but also impressed with you for being so transparent. So go ahead and drop “fake it till you make it” from your cliché phrase vocabulary ASAP — trust us on this one.