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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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Published on January 7, 2021

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

How To Train Yourself When You Lack Attention To Details

Some people see the trees for the forest, and some see only the forest, meaning they lack strong attention to detail. But even if you’re one of the people who take a macro rather than a micro view, true professionalism requires balancing both.

If focusing on the fine points is not your forte, you will benefit from training yourself to pay attention to details. You will profit by saving yourself time, effort, money, and credibility.

Why Training Yourself in Attention to Details Pays Off

You add value to your organization when you make the effort to ensure that you performed your work thoroughly and effectively. This is why job postings often list “attention to details” among the required skills.

When you present your supervisor or client with well-completed, high-quality work the first time, it maximizes your value and minimizes wasted time. Detail-oriented people are also more adept at catching mistakes that could lead to costly blunders.

Moreover, attention to detail is an indicator of possessing other in-demand employee qualities, such as organization, thoroughness, and focus. In some professions, such as accounting, engineering, medical research, and more, you can only excel if you have trained yourself to pay attention to details.

In other professions, possessing strong attention to detail is the very quality that will get you promoted to a position where you will be asked to consider the big picture.

Finally, if you are the “go-to” details person, everyone else on the team can relax a bit. They know the project is in good hands and will likely throw you more projects as a reward. This will ultimately lead to your advancement.

3 Important Aspects of Becoming More Detail-Oriented

Here are the 3 important things you need to learn if you want to remedy your lack of attention to detail:

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  1. Respect deadlines
  2. Understand the work-flow plan
  3. Build in time to mess up

1. Respect Deadlines

Deadlines lend all projects a finish line. One smart idea is to take the given deadline and work backward from it, calculating when your piece of the project is due. Then, if you stick to the proscribed schedule for completing the mini-projects that you have, you will never miss a deadline.

One important note on this: It is smarter to stick to the deadline and turn in work that merits a “B+” than to blow the deadline with “A” work. Chances are, through revision and suggested changes from others on the team, you can bring up your B+ work to an A later. But if you disregard deadlines, you will lose the respect of your boss and fellow teammates.

2. Understand the Work-Flow Plan

Your team is developing work in conjunction with other teams who have projects and deadlines of their own. When you grasp the whole work-flow plan, you may be able to either add insight to the greater project or to your own smaller piece of it that others at the firm will consider valuable.

3. Build in Time to Mess Up

You can expect that “what can go wrong will go wrong.” Don’t overpromise on deadlines. Something likely will mess up, but when it does if you built in the time to fix it, those around you won’t freak out.

Chances are, you already give your attention to several details. Take heart. You can do this! You can overcome your lack of attention to detail and become more detail-oriented.

For starters, consider this: Most people take the time and put in extra effort into the activities or undertakings that matter to them most. Training yourself to become more detail-oriented can mean adopting a similar pattern of behavior.

Apply the same attention you give to your appearance. Are you a meticulous dresser? Do you pay attention to how you pair patterns and colors, and how you accessorize a particular outfit?

This is the same system to use when you lack attention to detail with your work. Give every item careful consideration so that each one contributes to the perfectly pieced-together whole.

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Assemble the ingredients the way you do when you cook. Cooking and baking from scratch require close attention to details as you measure and add each ingredient in sequence, and you time everything so that the meal comes together at the same time.

Similarly, your work product requires you to gauge whether all the ingredients have been added and that your final product is delivered on time.

Organize your business network like you do your social contacts. If you follow a broad base of friends and acquaintances on social media, you can apply similar skills to stay up-to-date on details associated with business acquaintances.

When you meet somebody who could be influential to your career or a resource for improving your skills, follow that person on social media. Respond to their posts to keep the lines of communication flowing.

12 Tips to Help You if You Lack Attention to Detail

Teaching yourself to take note of important details involves sharpening your perceptions and thinking ahead. The following tips will help you adopt these practices. Master these habits when training yourself to become detail-oriented.

1. Learn to Listen Well

You will pick up relevant information and needed nuance when you apply the skills of active listening. In conversations, train yourself to make eye contact, give your undivided attention to the speaker, and ask pertinent follow-up questions.

Training yourself to pay better attention to details in conversations includes learning to fully concentrate on what others have to say. If you find it hard, there’s no harm in taking notes on what they say.

2. Pay Attention to Social Cues

Make a point of noticing body language and facial expressions that provide insights into how others perceive a situation. Social cues offer details that give you an understanding of how words and actions impact others. The infamous character Michael Scott of the television show “The Office” epitomizes the consequences of not paying attention to others’ body language.[1]

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3. Follow Rules

Rules and protocols usually come about from lessons learned and are put in place to avoid further mishaps—whether from a safety or efficiency standpoint. If you’re given step-by-step procedures to follow, check them off as you go. Also, return to the rules at the project’s end just to make sure you adhered to them all.

4. Take Notes

Note-taking is a way to boost your retention and gives you something to refer back to when you need to keep track of pertinent details. You will also heighten your focus as you listen for relevant information. Review your notes shortly after the meeting or conversation and highlight the content that you intend to apply.

5. Prioritize What Needs Your Attention Now

When you have a full slate of work that demands your attention, take a few moments to sort assignments from most to least urgent. Keep a calendar, spreadsheet, or project planning software up-to-date with schedules and deadlines to help you stay organized.

As you tackle each urgent assignment, give it your full attention so no details are missed. Give yourself ample time—especially if you tend to be someone who waits until the last minute—as rushing can make you overlook important details.

6. Have a Detail-Oriented Assistant Check Your Work

If you lack attention to detail, then it makes sense to seek help from someone detail-oriented. If you have this option, take advantage of it. Two sets of eyes are better than one. Just be sure to credit your assistant for their help once the project is completed.

7. Learn the Rules of Writing Well

English is a difficult language, and grammar, punctuation, and spelling can all sabotage you unless you pay attention to detail. When in doubt, look it up. Free to use website services such as Grammarly can help.

8. Proofread Before You Hit Send

Nothing is perfect in its first draft. If you lack attention to detail, then put in the extra effort before submitting things. Before you send off any written work, check carefully not only for misspellings and incomplete sentences but also for improper tone, inappropriate colloquialisms, and inconsistent formatting. When your written communications are error-free, they will have their intended impact.

9. Minimize Distractions

It is impossible to stay focused when colleagues carry on conversations nearby or your mobile notifications ding you throughout the day. Do your best to limit distractions.

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If you are working where there is a lot of noise or side activity, try wearing noise-canceling headphones or seeking out a quiet corner. Disable your notifications when you need to focus, and resolve to only check them after you have completed your assignment.

10. Take Breaks

It may sound counter-intuitive to stop and take a walk, but it’s necessary. Walk away from the screen. Moving from one task to the next across the span of your workday is a recipe for brain fatigue. Give your brain a recess time when you come to a natural stopping place or after you complete one project and before you start the next. These short pauses are necessary for sorting through all the details needed for coming up with successful solutions.

11. Make Time for Reflection

At the end of a workday, take a few minutes to go over the day’s events in your mind. What was said or relayed in conversations? What is the status of the projects you worked on? What else occurred that you should pay attention to? Could there have been any details you might have missed that you should address tomorrow?

12. Keep a Detailed To-Do List

This simple organizational tool is your best ally for getting your work done on time and for paying attention to the details. If you are pressed for time (and who isn’t?), write your list to coordinate with dayparts.

Allot a certain number of hours to complete each task, do it, and then check it off. Nothing feels more rewarding than completing all the tasks on your list. But if you can’t finish them, then carry them over to the following day.

Final Thoughts

Details may seem small, but they can become a lot larger when they are overlooked. If you know you lack attention to detail, commit to training yourself to embrace the many facets that can help you consistently excel in the tasks you set out to accomplish.

When you begin to catch your mistakes in advance or apply the tidbits of information you gathered from paying close attention, you will know that you have trained yourself in the fundamentals of becoming detail-oriented. After that, you should start hearing the phrase “Great job!” more often.

More Tips on Boosting Your Attention to Detail

Featured photo credit: Cristina Gottardi via unsplash.com

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