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?
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.
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.
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.
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?