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When you fake it, do you really make it? 4 ways to stop faking and boost your career

“In my humble opinion – ‘faking’ or ‘acting’ the part in your job is a short-term career hack at best and long-term imitation at worst. We don’t like to admit to our pockets of inadequacy, but a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing can only fool you for so long.”

I was about 19 in my first sales and service-related job when I was taught the self-promoting mantra ‘fake it til you make it’. I was young, enthusiastic and had a passion for working with people. It was my first ‘real’ job and it required persuasive selling techniques. I was excited and I wanted to learn everything at once! But, I was not exactly exuding confidence, so I was encouraged by my manager to ‘fake it’.

Did I find it helpful? The answer is YES! Although I was not a big fan of the phrase initially, and didn’t like the concept of ‘faking’, I learnt to appreciate the idea of ‘acting’ the part whilst developing the skills. Acting the part was only ever going to be a short-term strategy until I gained confidence in my abilities. It was also a time of learning to sit with self-doubt, uncertainty and accept insecurity. It was not comfortable, but ‘acting’ or ‘faking’ it felt like a survival mechanism and as far as I was concerned, I had to survive in order to thrive in the world of work!

You may also be familiar with the phrase – ‘face it til you make it’. To me this is a more positive and virtuous approach to professional development, as we move away from ‘faking’ and more towards the behaviours that promote responsibility – like showing up, facing the challenge, and taking action to learn what we need to learn to succeed in our role. Essentially, whether you like the idea of ‘faking’ for a short time or ‘facing’ up to your career challenges, you should be continuously growing, not hiding or sweeping knowledge gaps under the carpet.

So why is continuous growth and professional development a great way to boost your career? Well as I have suggested, it is one way you can transition from acting a part to the real thing! When we are doing honest self-assessment and making continuous progress by working on our strengths AND our skill gaps simultaneously, we stand out from those who are not. We become agile and always one-step ahead; we also remain current and relevant and this can lead to greater career opportunities.

Read on…

4 Ways to stop faking and boost your career

1. Give it a go and model someone you know

When I have been thriving, it’s because I was diving into opportunities. Firstly I was willing to give things a go even when I felt fear and secondly because I chose highly successful and authentic people to model my behaviour on (If you cannot find a role model in your place of work, look outside it). I have found one of the best ways to step up and grow my career is to find someone who represents a version of the person or the qualities I hoped to possess in the future. This way you have a focus, we don’t know what we don’t know, there is nothing worse than trying to ‘make it’ with no real idea of what making it looks or feels like.

2. Align and define your professional ethics

I learnt quite quickly that there are professional limits (what you will and will not put up with) that should rest on sturdy ethics and professional attitudes. Your Ethics are non-negotiable beliefs or values that you hold yourself accountable to. It is extremely beneficial to align with your professional ethics – as they become your standards. They can guide your choices in the toughest of times and provide comfort in times of doubt. This way you can follow your standards rather than fitting someone else’s. Check out ways to define your values (the first step to creating your professional ethics) by clicking here).

3. Do it for you

Validate and recognise yourself for your wins as much as possible, this is a way to turn inward and become intrinsically motivated. It’s great to be critical at times but try not to have higher expectations on yourself than you would on others. Similarly avoid building a career on proving your worth to others. Show up for you, you should be working towards your expectation not trying to fit other people’s expectations or perceptions of you.

4. Keep an open mind

This requires openness to feedback and continued learning. It is seeing your gaps from someone else’s perspective and being willing to work on them not only for your job but also for yourself as a professional who wants to take strides in their career. Openness can lead to rapid growth and helps us to manage change and information overload in the workplace.

If you continue to fake your way through your career without developing the actual skills, you are risking being left behind in the world of work where attributes such as growth mindset, flexibility, agility and adaptability are the most valued assets a person can possess.

Work Sux, so Be Grateful!

You feel like your manager is un-supportive, you hate your work environment, you think your colleagues are lazy, you don’t feel valued, and there is not enough opportunity for professional development.

What if it wasn’t your manager, your colleagues or the environment? 

What if it was you? 

Before you vehemently protest, hear me out! I have had a number of slumps in my career that had me feeling underwhelmed by my job, it was easy to blame others or the environment or the culture, but that meant I was out of control. I hated that feeling (you might too) and I learnt to shift it by changing how I looked at it. If I was the only part I could control then I would need to focus on me. This all came about after spending six months in a position where there was almost no training and very little support to develop my skills, on top of that I felt like I was being targeted by my manager (at the time), this person would ask me to do something one way and then once I had done it they would suggest otherwise. They would pit me against my colleague and every one-to-one meeting was about what I wasn’t doing right, despite my constant communication and checking in. I felt like I was going insane, I’d never experienced such emotional stress, uncertainty or confusion in previous roles. So, after what felt like months of hitting my head against a wall I was forced into a place of survival! I had to be resilient, self-motivated and completely control my mindset. This included shifting my self-doubts and self-talk into self-belief, I just had to hang in there until I could move out of that particular position. I’d call it something like – “survive to thrive”. I did this through the use of mindfulness practice and gratitude.

I began to truly comprehend the notion that “freedom is a state of mind”. I had felt trapped but I knew freedom lay within me, so I supported myself by staying present and treating each day like an opportunity to develop myself as a person. This was one way of practicing self-care and valuing myself even when others did not. I kept sane by practicing gratitude for what was working well and the positive things in my life such as the great colleagues I worked with, the great friends I had, my supportive home life, my housemate, my health, even the good weather and the grassy noll I had to sit on at lunchtime. This took me out of entrapment, it was a shift in perspective and it grounded me through some of the most humiliating, confusing and trying times. Practicing gratitude at work is so beneficial that I believe it can grow you as a professional and person faster than any course or in-house training. 

It is not always simple to be mindful and hold an open and positive attitude towards thoughts. Our inner critic or negative thoughts can be repetitive, usually familiar to us and often intrusive. It is perfectly normal that these thoughts creep in, it’s how we respond that makes the difference. Notice that I said respond rather than react; a reaction is an automatic response – as in we have no control. When in actual fact we do have control, it is all about choice. Negative or ‘unhelpful’ thoughts are often ‘running commentary’, ‘stories’ or ‘recordings’ we tell ourselves out of habit. It can take just one negative thought to piggy back onto other thoughts and they can easily spiral on.

It’s important to recognise and acknowledge that thoughts are not always correct, factual or require action. So, remember to give yourself a break and roll with the setbacks, even if those set backs feel like a direct correlation with what’s going on around you. We cannot control how other people view us or behave around us, all you can do is gently bring yourself back towards being open, mindful and kind to yourself. A great way to shift back into ‘helpful’ thoughts is by practicing Mindful Gratitude.

In the study of Positive Psychology the ability to harness gratitude is a personal virtue or strength, it is consistently and powerfully linked with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish experiences, have better health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships (Siegel, 2009).

I’m lucky enough to now be in a team that is supportive. I still practice mindful gratitude as often as I can because it’s a way of being and a way to continue to grow.

A wonderful exercise to do is to consciously and mindfully record all the things you are grateful for on a daily basis.

Mindful Gratitude practice tips:

  1. Choose a mode or way of recording your gratitude; this may be in a journal, on social media (publicly holds you very accountable), electronically etc.
  2. Sign a metaphoric peace treaty with your negative thoughts or self- doubts. i.e “ I choose to love and accept all thoughts, for they are not all true, I understand that I am human, I am not perfect and I will not expect things of myself that do not make me happy”. Begin to develop an attitude that is thankful and respectful towards yourself by acknowledging and accepting your strengths, the good things in your life – These may be small or large, majorly impactful or lessor so.
  3. Make it a rule, aim, or challenge, to record a certain number of things you are grateful for each day. If this is new to you, you may begin with 1 thing to be grateful for each day. You might then take it up to 2-5 per day. Another option is to start with 1 thing per day for 1 week, 2 per day for 1 week and 3 per day for 1 week and so on.
  4. Start with simple things- for example things that sustain your life like food, a roof over your head, your basic physiological needs. Slowly work into areas of your life like safety, love and belonging, self-esteem, relationships, career or any other self-actualizing pursuits. This can also include your strengths, personality traits and abilities.
  5. Be as descriptive and creative as you like by elaborating on how or why you are grateful, your feelings or emotions that are attached. If creativity is your outlet you might like to make it into a poem, a rhyme, a picture, mind map or a song!
  6. Consider your personal attributes, strengths and virtues. If you are not sure what they are think of things people have reflected back to you, about who you are. Use the positive feedback you have received in your life to reframe your negative beliefs about yourself into healthier ones.
  7. Consider people and relationships in your life that have impacted or continue to impact you positively (Surround yourself with these people).
  8. Don’t think too hard or put expectation on the process, let yourself be freely grateful. Allow the thoughts to flow out trying not to second guess or minimise the initial thoughts or feelings that come up. There is no wrong or right way to do this.

As human beings thinking critically comes natural, that’s how we survive adversity and potential threats. It’s only natural that we can think of a myriad of things we don’t like about ourselves or life, it takes effort and energy to work the parts of our brain that will combat the harsh expectation we naturally place on ourselves. Believe me it’s worth it and it gets easier. You will truly feel very empowered and in control if you consistently practice mindfulness and gratitude together.

 “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them”

-John F. Kennedy

Yasmin W.

References:

Siegel, R,. D. (2009). Positive Psychology : Harnessing the Power of Happiness, Personal Strength and Mindfulness.

Beyond Blue: Yes, mindfulness is really a thing https://www.beyondblue.org.au/personal-best/pillar/wellbeing/yes-mindfulness-is-really-a-thing

The Inner Mission

Thanks for joining me!

“We can do so much more when we navigate our way through the journey together “

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One thing I’ve always wanted to do in my career is move “up”, believing that the main objective was to climb the ladder towards management and leadership positions. I held myself back for many years because I didn’t feel good enough, secure enough, consistent enough or intelligent enough to sustain a position like that. The emphasis being the “enough”, somewhere deep inside I knew I had “something” I knew I had the ability, but I created an opposing picture, I would seek out evidence that proved I could only half do the job and so, I convinced myself I never fully fit the brief. I’ll use an analogy, my career thus far could be likened to my swimming squad days, in the pool I was one lane off the top squad team (with the fastest swimmers), but I never quite reached the top. Similarly, if I apply this notion to my career history; I was often excelling in my lane, I was a high achiever in sales, I was a dedicated customer service expert, coach, consultant, trainer, facilitator and team player. The many roles I have had all indicate a high level of drive, aptitude and commitment but I had remained at a level that was comfortable. That lane became safe, I was pretty darn fast, I was pretty good, but I wasn’t the best and somewhere along my career journey I had decided that was ok.

Until, I began to realise that the more I held myself back the more resentful I felt, queue next job where I’d promise myself, I would step up! This process eventually wore me down, so I started to take a closer look at myself. Who was I trying to impress? Me? Or others? And most importantly what did I truly want? I felt lost, burnt out and needed to “find myself” again.

I know this sounds like elementary thinking in a world where personal and professional development is at our fingertips, but I found no matter how much material or reading is available, cultivating a strong sense of intuition (gaging how we are feeling about our options or decisions) has been my special ingredient to career satisfaction. Sometimes our potential is over-shadowed by limiting perceptions of ourselves in such a way that it’s not until we have a major wake-up call such as experiencing burn out (like me), our relationships suffer or we reach a pain point so great that we just can’t live in the shadow any longer, so we finally take action! I’d like to think we can prevent ourselves reaching these points by re-focusing inward more often. A mentor once told me “intervene early and intervene often”, this was to apply to Human Resource Management but it is a great mantra to use when managing our own professional development. I’ve found it extremely useful to check-in with how I am feeling regularly at work, if you are in a high paced role that requires a consistent level of emotional intelligence then it’s important to self-regulate by taking care of yourself. Understanding what’s happing for you on the inside can make all the difference to how you respond to work situations on the outside.

It’s not a new concept to seek answers from within. I view it as a cyclic part of life where we sometimes need to return inwards for the “true” answers as we learn, forget and re-learn time and time again what we really need.

Life is busy, expectations can be high and unless you are an enlightened monk, I think we are stretched and challenged away from and back to ourselves, our wants and our needs throughout this lifetime.

I’m now at a point in my career where I would like to share some of the ways I have learnt to ‘self-manage’ and stay true to myself and my needs. In my experience personally and as a coach I see career transformation or change as a choice to unlearn behaviours and beliefs that are not serving us any longer; turn down the external voices, pressures and all the have to’s, should not’s and could not restrictions that can be used as evidence against our pursuit of professional happiness.

One of the best things I’ve ever done, is to give less of a *bleep* about what people think of me. I’ve come to find comfort in the beating of my own drum, my lane doesn’t look so bad, I stayed true to myself, even if I had held myself back at times, does it matter? Maybe I wasn’t ready. From where I began to now, I have discovered life choices MUST be driven by me! Living up to the perceptions of others is career suicide and it’s enough to cause major fatigue and unhappiness in your whole life.

It’s taken me a long time and as a creative person, it has hurt my soul (more than a little) to deny my true passions but I don’t think it matters how long a lesson takes to sink in, we all have a path and there is always time to tune inward and love ourselves back in the right direction.

If you’d like to know more about the strategies and tools I’ve used to coach myself through various career challenges please follow my blog.