This past weekend I attended a graduation party. Guests were asked to write down their “key to success” on a tiny piece of paper attached to a key in order to inspire and help the new grad succeed in their new adult life. Such a cute idea! Something that should have been a simple task turned into quite the brainstorming session for me.
I’ve been given tons of advice over the years, mostly good, some bad. How could I just pick one small quip to fit on this little paper? There’s all kinds of one liners or inspirational quotes out there, and I’ve heard a lot of them. Most advice comes into your life right when you need it the most, the perfect saying to get you through a tough time. Any other time it wouldn’t mean anything to you and just nothing but mere words.
I thought about “Just be yourself”, “Other people’s opinions don’t matter unless they’re paying your bills” , “If it won’t matter in five years, don’t spend more than five minutes being upset about it”. All good advice that has meant something to me at one point or another, but has never added to my success. The only piece of advice that has consistently added to my success in my adult years is “Fake it until you make it”
I live by this quote, and I truly believe it has gotten me to where I am today. It doesn’t mean be a fake person or not genuine. It just means don’t let anyone know you don’t know what you’re doing, especially in a professional setting. It means appear to be confident even when you’re not 100% sure of yourself on the inside.
I remember my first “big girl job” I was working in a dental office, maybe only 20 years old. I had years of dental assisting training and was licensed, but I was far from confident. I fumbled over everything, I made blatant mistakes,and generally appeared to not know what I was doing on a daily basis. I was bad at my job. It took me a good 6 months until I felt like I wasn’t failing every single day. My boss and co-workers were more than patient with me and I had learned so much from them. One co-worker in a particular. She never said “I don’t know what I’m doing.” or “I don’t know where that is.” It was so simple but so genius at the same time. Even when she didn’t know something, she took time and figured it out behind the scenes, she always appeared to be in control, although she felt as lost as I did.
I’ve taken that into every new job I’ve ever had. My bosses and peers will never see me looking lost or not knowing how to do something now. Even if I have no idea how to do something, I excuse myself and look through SOP binders, or Google it, and come back within 30 minutes with the correct answer. “I’ll get back to you on that” is a great face saver, it’s so much better saying “I don’t know.” I’ve become so much more confident now than I was in my first job. I’m sure some of that has to do with experience but I would also like to think a lot of that confidence comes from faking it til I make it.
I feel like I’ve semi made it and I have to fake it less often these days. I’m somewhat of a leader and teach every new hire in my training class to “use their resources” it’s a more HR friendly version of fake it until you make it. Use your binders, Google, your neighbor, do not come to me with questions on how to do something until you’ve exhausted every resource available to you. Figure it out, be confident, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Appearing confident everyday won’t be easy. Some days I even want to throw in the towel and ask for help, but I know that won’t help with my image and personal brand. I want to always be the girl in control, who knows exactly what she’s doing at the office. Even when I feel completely out of control on the inside no one else needs to know. I’m faking and making it every single day. People respect and look up to me. I’m a lot of people’s go to person for advice and extra projects for this reason. I worked hard to be that person. I learned a lot of things the hard way but they stuck with me more than the things someone just told me or did for me.
New grads, it absolutely won’t be easy. It’s a struggle and learning process, but I can promise you it will be worth it. I wish 20 year old me was as confident as 28 year old me. I maybe would have been promoted faster, or switched jobs less often, but I’m right where I need to be right now, doing exactly what I need to do stay there. You’ll figure it out too. Confidence is key.