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Why “Fake it Till You Make It” Is Poor Intern Advice

Why “Fake it Till You Make It” Is Poor Intern Advice

I recently read a post on Thought Catalog titled “Fake it Till You Make It: The Ultimate Advice for Any Intern.” The title alone says it all: you don’t need to know much to create success as an intern.

The author illustrates some useful pieces of advice, such as the power of networking and knowing the right people. However, she then goes on to say that the only real skill you need to know is “pretending.” If you pretend you know what you’re doing, you’re good at everything in the eyes of your employer and your network.

While this advice could work for the short-term, let me fill you in on something a little more useful: faking it till you make it is poor intern advice. It not only discredits those interns and internship employers who are striving for meaningful experiences, it also doesn’t work very well for you in the broader scheme of things. If you pretend you know what you’re doing, then are thrusted into a situation where you have to be knowledgeable, how will you get from Point A to Point B without embarrassing yourself and your organization?

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Whether you’re currently an intern or about to embark on your first opportunity, don’t pretend you know what you’re doing—that’s not the point of an internship. Instead, hone your skills, learn from the best, and acquire the knowledge and confidence to where pretending is actually knowing. Here’s how:

1. Seek out better opportunities

It all starts from the beginning. If you seek out better opportunities, you’ll probably have a better experience. Research shows that this comes in the form of paid internships. Paid interns are generally happier, more engaged, and they have an increased shot at getting hired after their program. In fact, 61 percent of paid interns received at least one job offer.

In addition, paid interns have workplace rights, such as protection against discrimination. Unpaid interns are not viewed as employees in the eyes of the law and therefore do not have the same legal rights as paid interns. This means taking on an unpaid internship can open you up to a slew of issues such as sexual harassment and arbitrary dismissal.

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2. Ask for mentorship and access to executives

When you start your internship, you should immediately begin the process of learning and growing. While faking it till you make it may be the advice you’ve been given, obtaining that real-life knowledge is what interns really want. In fact, 47.3 percent of interns noted that they want mentorship and access to executives. When you have this, you won’t have to fake anything.

At the beginning of your internship, sit down with your employer and ask for real-time feedback on your tasks, your goals, and your overall performance. This provides you with the foundation for a quality career moving forward.

3. Don’t take on a project if you’re not ready

Sure, you could lead a client meeting or perhaps take on more work than you were assigned. However, the quality of your work will suffer if you don’t know what you’re doing. When you’ve perfected your skills and received the right kinds of feedback on your performance, going above and beyond will actually produce great results.

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In the end, you should feel confident enough in your skills so you won’t have to fake anything. However, if you’re not confident, don’t think you’re weak. There’s nothing wrong with saying that you feel uncomfortable if you counter with the desire to continue the learning process. For example, you could say the following: “While I appreciate the opportunity to do this task, I don’t feel like I have the necessary skills to achieve what you’re looking for. Do you have any suggestions on how I can sharpen my capabilities?”

4. Move forward

If you take the time to secure a mentor, perfect your skills, and know your industry, you’ll have proven your worth. Interns with value move forward, whether it’s an extension of the internship or getting hired. Look, no one is going to give up a good candidate. Your organization is going to keep you or help you to find opportunities elsewhere.

However, you have to take control at some point. Before, during, and even as your internship is coming to a close, establish your desire to stay with the company and to grow professionally with them. This shows your commitment to the company, while showcasing your dedication to your career.

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Though faking it till you make it can help you in the duration of your program, it doesn’t help you to learn new skills or adequately prepare you for an entry-level job. Take the time to acquire real knowledge during your internship so pretending won’t ever have to be on your radar.

What do you think?

Are you an intern who has pretended to know what you’re doing? Why or why not?

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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