Fake it till you make it in the workplace

In the early noughties, a Channel 4 reality TV programme called Faking It burst onto the stage. As an early social experiment, contestants were put through their paces as they tried to conquer a world they had no experience of. Cellist Sian Evans learnt to be a club DJ, burger-van proprietor Ed Devlin trained with Gordon Ramsey to become a cordon bleu chef, a former naval petty officer trained as a drag artist and city lawyer George LuBega learnt the art of the garage MC. If it sounds like something up your street you can still watch all the episodes on 4OD.

But can you really fake it until you make it (FITYMI) in your career? Yes you can, and here’s why:

It takes you out of your comfort zone

FITYMI helps you to go out of your way to put in the leg work. If you don’t have any experience in something specific, there’s no way you are going to get it until you go out and seek it. And FITYMI is a great way of getting the experience.

Once you do have something to show, you won’t be faking it, and can build on your experiences to something bigger and better. 

The sciences says so

The old adage from Victorian psychologist William James states ‘If you want a quality, the fastest way to get it is to act as if you already have it.’ This holds true via the 'As If’ principle which notes that if you want to feel a certain way, you should behave as though you are already there.

An example of this is via a study in confidence at Columbia Business School. Volunteers were split into two groups. In one group, the volunteers were asked to power pose, by putting their feet on the table, looking up or interlocking their hands behind the back of their heads. The second group were asked to adopt poses that weren't associated with dominance, such as placing their feet on the floor, their hands in their laps or looking at the ground.

After one minute, the power posers expressed a real boost in confidence whilst they had significantly higher levels of testosterone, proving that the poses had changed the chemical make-up of their bodies.

We see things in a new light

It’s often difficult to imagine how to go about solving a problem or face uncertainty, beyond what we already know. FITYMI shows your brain an alternative scenario—one that involves you thinking, feeling, and/or acting differently. You’re essentially giving yourself new evidence, proving to your brain that there might be a different way to look at things. 

Over time, you’ll have more experiences and more ways of thinking to fall back on, which will really help you excel in your career in the long run. 

However, as much as FITYMI works, be aware that you shouldn’t use it in all situations in your working life. 

When to use FITYMI

The best time to FITYMI is when you want to change your behaviour. For example, if you need to present the work your team has done to a client, but are often nervous in such situations, faking it can help you feel less self conscious and more self confident. After a number of times of presenting, you’ll be far less nervous when taking the stage, and may even start to enjoy the process. You’ll be able to develop your presentation skills to the max by taking on board feedback and adjusting your behaviour accordingly. 

You can also use FITYMI to develop a personality trait or habit. For example, if you want to be more creative, start acting as though you are more creative. The more you act that way, the more your brain and body will start to feel like that person and in no time you’ll be that person. It can even work for those dull traits, such as organisation or time management that you just know you need to work on.

When to not use FITYMI

FITYMI should not be used when it comes to competencies, and starts to fall into the territory of lying. For example, if you have told people that you have experience of project management, and are then asked to lead a project there’s every chance it will come back to haunt you further down the line. 

Ways to FITYMI in the workplace

Dress as who you want to be

As FITYMI is all about changing behaviours, one easy way to change your behaviour is to dress the part. Whether you are on zoom calls all day and dressing the part means actually getting dressed in the morning, or being more creative or more ambitious in the workplace, getting into the clothes that fit the behaviour are a quick win. 

Throw yourself in the deep end

Take charge in the workplace and volunteer to be that person. Present your findings at the next meeting, work on a new project that you haven’t been involved in, or take over someone’s position when they are on annual leave. You’ll soon realise that you’ve not as many obstacles in your way as you originally thought, and will soon leave with a new-found confidence. Plus those higher up will be impressed with the initiative you’re taking, which may lead to more formal career moves and promotions and soon you’ll be doing the work without faking it. 

Take up space

As with the study mentioned above, quickly help yourself feel confident and the part by acting as though you are already it. A great example of this is through Amy Cuddy’s Power Pose.

Use music 

Music can help you instantly get into a certain mood. Having a playlist that you can access easily of all the songs that help you feel more confident, ambitious or creative is a great way to FITYMI in the workplace. 

How do you FITYMI?