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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 August 19, 2019

20 Critical Skills to Include on Your Resume (For All Types of Jobs)

20 Critical Skills to Include on Your Resume (For All Types of Jobs)

A resume describes your critical skills in a way that compels a hiring manager to want to meet you. That is a resume’s sole purpose.

And make no mistake: Writing a resume is an art.

Today each corporate job opening attracts 250 resumes on average, and somehow yours will need to rise above the competition. It’s actually harder to snag an interview from an online posting than to get into Harvard. But don’t let that intimidate you. Instead, open your laptop, roll up your proverbial sleeves, and let’s get to work!


Employers generally prefer candidates with skills that show leadership ability, problem-solving ability, and perseverance through challenges. So in the resume, you should demonstrate that you’re a dynamic candidate.

Refine the skills on your resume so that you incorporate these resume “musts:”

1. Leadership Ability

Even an entry-level employee can show leadership. Point out how your skills helped your department ascend to a new level. Capture leadership attributes with compelling statements.

Example:

“Led change that drove efficiency and an ability to cut 800 error-free payroll checks.”

2. Problem-Solving Ability

Most employees are hired to solve problems. Showcase that ability on your resume.

Example:

“Led staff in campaign to outrival top competitor’s market share during a down cycle.”

3. Perseverance

Have you been promoted several times? Or have you maintained margins in a down cycle? Both achievements demonstrate persistence. You look like someone who can navigate roadblocks.

4. Technical Skills

Consider including a Key Skills or Technology Skills section in which you list computer and software skills.

Example:

“Expert-level knowledge in Java.”

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5. Quantified Results

Nothing is quite as attractive as objective results. Did you increase sales by 25 percent? Win three new clients? Surpass the internal goal by 15 percent?

Use hard-hitting numbers to express your point. State the result first, and then provide a sentence or phrase describing the critical skills you applied to achieve the milestone.

Example:

“Boosted sales by 200 percent by developing new online platform that made it easier for customers to compare and contrast sizes, textures, and fit.”

6. People Skills

Employers prefer congenial staff members to prima donnas or mavericks. Relate your strongest soft skills.

Example:

“Organized, hard-working staffer who listens well and communicates effectively.”

7. Passion in the Field

Recruiters and hiring managers can intuit whether candidates care about their career performance by the dynamism behind the descriptions of their skills on their resumes. Are your efforts “transformational” or merely “useful?” Were your results “game-changing” or boringly “appropriate?”

The tenor of your words reveals whether you’re passionate or passive. (But don’t overdo it. See the “Hyperbole” section below.)

8. Being the Entrepreneur within the Corporation

Whether you took the initiative to create a new synergy or worked independently to land an opportunity, share how you furthered organizational goals through your self-directed efforts.

9. Your Adaptability

Have you switched career paths? Weathered a corporate takeover?

Make it clear that your resilience helped get you and your organization through the turbulence.

10. Confirming Your Expertise

Every job posting states experience requirements. Ideally, you want to meet these requirements or best them. But don’t exaggerate.


While proving that you possess the credentials described in the job posting, you can still stand out if you are able to offer additional special skills to showcase your personality.

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Consider adding any of these special accomplishments, if true:

11. Referencing Award-Winning Talents

If you played center on your college basketball team that made it into the Top 10 finals, then working collaboratively and cooperatively are among your natural callings. Be sure to say so.

12. Unveiling Your Work Persona

If you were repeatedly singled out for your stellar performance in work settings, becoming employee-of-the-month, top revenue generator, and so on — it’s worth mentioning.

13. Capitalizing on Commonalities

From Googling the hiring manager, you discover that she was formerly a Peace Corps volunteer in Belize. Listing your Spanish immersion course in Central America may draw her attention to the other outstanding skills on your resume.

14. Highlighting Creative Tactics

If, for example, in your HR role, you piloted an employee incentive program that became an industry model, include it. Such innovative thinking will command an employer’s attention.

15. Specifying All Accolades

Listing any honors received instills confidence that you will bring that level of perfectionism forward in a corporate environment.

16. Transferable Skills

You spend your spare time conducting your community orchestra. Highlight this after-hours pursuit to show that you have the critical skills needed to keep a team on task.


Take note: Hyperbole can hurt you. So, show your credibility.

Although it may be tempting to use embellishments to boost your experience, improve your job title, or enhance your education, resist. These days, a five-minute search will reveal the truth. And taking self-inflation too far could easily come back to destroy your career.

Hiring managers have their antenna up for resume hyperbole. A survey shows that 53 percent are suspicious that candidates are often dishonest.

Follow these guiding principles when writing your own resume:

17. Accurately Describing Your Degree

Make sure to differentiate between certificates attained and degrees earned, along with the name of the institution awarding them.

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18. Stating Job Duration with Honest Dates

Honesty is the only policy when reporting the length of a particular job. If you’ve been out of work for an extended period of time, state the reason you have gaps.

Whether you traveled, had to cope with a family emergency, or went back to school to change your professional track, communicate the positive outcome that came from the hiatus.

19. Claiming Only the Skills You Truly Possess

Unless you’re proficient in a software program or are fluent in a second language, leave any mention of them off.

Conversely, if you feel like you must include them, then accurately qualify your level of competence.

20. Being Honest About Your Role in a Project

You may think you were the lead person because you did most of the work, but chances are your supervisor thinks otherwise.

Besides the 20 critical skills to include on your resume, here’re some important notes for you.

Bonus Tips for Writing a Resume

You Only Have 6 to 7 Seconds to Impress the Employer

Hiring managers and artificial intelligence “bots” may spend only 6 to 7 seconds perusing your resume, which means you need it to teem with essential skills, quantifiable achievements, and action words.

If, in fact, you believe that a “bot” will be analyzing your resume before it even lands on a hiring manager’s desk, be sure to include some of the actual key words from the posting in your document. There’s no reason why you can’t customize your resume to each job posting.

Another tip: Be sure to show your resume to a few individuals who work in your field, so that you can fine-tune the information as needed.

Starting at the Top

The Objective at the top of your resume is optional if you’re seeking the same job you already have, just at different company. However, if you’re switching fields, it’s critical to include an Objective, which is a one-sentence summary of the job you want.

For example:

Objective: To become web editor at a thriving news website.

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If you’ve been in your field for ten years or more, you will probably want to include an Executive Summary. This is a one-sentence takeaway about who you are, including the critical skills you amassed throughout your career.

For example:

Executive Summary: Award-winning creative director with over ten years experience managing teams on three continents.

Depending on your field, you may also want to add some skills as bullet points in the Executive Summary section.

And what about your Education? If you graduated from college within the past ten years, include your Education just below the Objective section (and forgo the Executive Summary). If it’s been over ten years since you graduated, then include your Education at the very end of your resume. Only cite your grade point average (G.P.A.) if it was exceptional—3.7 G.P.A. or higher, or if you won scholastic awards.

Ideally, the critical skills you amassed during college, at your previous job, and throughout your career will add up to a riveting portrait of a professional who’s ideally suited for your dream position: You.

Tailor, Tweak, and Fine-Tune

If you’re targeting different kinds of organizations, you’ll need customized resumes for each outreach.

Don’t be afraid to parrot some of the words on the list of requirements back to the company. Many times, organizations will actually use the key words mentioned in the job posting when screening resumes.

Approach Your Resume as a Skills-Based Story

Like any good storyteller, lay out the framework at the beginning. Include the skills you’ve mastered and state how you can add value—wording your sentences in a way that reflects the specific job you’re seeking.

Are you vying for a sales position? Quantify your results: “Responsible for 50 percent of all sales that resulted in $750,000 in annual revenue.” Use your critical skills, peppered throughout your resume, to tell the exciting story of your distinguished professional career!

Researching the organization that you’re targeting will help you make your examples specific. Does the company cater to a particular audience or clientele? Be sure to note any experiences you’ve had with similar audiences.

Putting It All Together

A resume is not a laundry list. It tells a cohesive story. Your story should highlight your qualifications and critical skills in a way that makes a logical, well-constructed case for your compatibility with the organization and its advertised position.

Packaging your story into the concisely prescribed format of a resume means that it will read as a synopsis — one that will hopefully land you the job.

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Featured photo credit: Bram Naus via unsplash.com

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