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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Faking It: You Are Only Hurting Yourself

Get your mind out of the gutter.

Whoever coined the expression, "Fake it til' you make it." should be punched in the face. While I understand the basic idea is to encourage a person to be confident and go after what they want (...I guess???), faking it, in general, is about the dumbest thing a person can do. While it might get you ahead for about a nanosecond, more often that not, you end up worse off than you started. (Ashley Simpson, Jake Pavelka,are your ears burning?)

Whenever I think about the topic of "faking it", one of the first things that comes to mind is one of my early college relationships. Because I'm not completely cruel, I'll refrain from listing this dude's name, but let me just tell you, I thought he was awesome (so awesome, I had my dad wire me money to buy him at a fraternity auction, but that's an entirely different blog entry). In any event, I had admired Mr. College Dream Lover for a good semester (and for a spastic, awkward college girl, that is a LONG time) and he finally gave me the time of day when we just happened to take the same elevator (Thank you, stars, for aligning!). I pushed a few buttons to floors where I was not getting off (enter awkwardness) so he had to talk to me for a few minutes. In the two minutes or so we rode the elevator together I managed to learn that he was a diehard Tupac fan, Jewish (pretty much a requirement for me), and a vegetarian. While I was already very well versed in everything Jewish (thank you, South Florida upbringing!), I freaking hated rap and, being a former fat kid, loved to eat, meat especially. Needless to say, I was instantly smitten after our special ride...and was surprised to find out that he actually kind of liked me, too. Within a week, he asked me out on a sweet little college date and we went to Fleming's, one of the best steakhouses around (ever).

Now, ask me what I ordered. (Blog audience: "What did you order, Megan?")

I ordered a freakin' salad. And, while it was the best salad that Fleming's could prepare, it was still lettuce...overpriced, stupid,lettuce. As I sat there and ate my lettuce (and pretended it was the best romaine I've ever had), I was secretly having intimate relations with every rib eye and filet around me. But, alas, this boy was hot so I muscled through it.

And then I started talking about my love for hip hop. And I might have made up some BS about being on a hip hop dance team in highschool. (For the record, the only "team" I was on in high school, other than soccer, was the Scrabble team.)

But, for a while, my faking it TOTALLY worked. This kid was all about me. We turned into a hot little item and would spend lazy Sundays feasting on tofu and lettuce, all while reading CD jackets and analyzing deep rap lyrics. Anyway, this went on for about four months or so until one day when I cracked. I'm not sure what made me crack, but I couldn't listen to another "beat" and all I wanted was a damn steak. So, because I have a natural flair for drama, I stormed over to his dorm room, told him I hated rap and that I hated lettuce and that I couldn't possible see how we'd work.

And then I drove to Texas De Brasil and ate all the meat I could consume. I was there for three hours-just me and my little red light/green light "keep feeding my fat ass" meat card and I left fat, happy, pants unbuttoned, and single.

Ever since, I've turned my back on faking it, because, while it did score me the coveted hot guy for about a season, I had to sacrifice things I really liked in the process and after it was all said and done, I wasted time on something that was not a fit for me.

Job searches are the same way. (Oh come on, you knew I was somehow heading in this direction, right??)

As a recruiter, I can completely understand a person's desperation to get a job, particularly if you are unemployed or stuck in a really crappy environment (I've been there!). I see it all the time, and while it is frustrating for me to sift through the BS, I get it. I can understand how it is reasonable to think that by inflating one area of expertise (or completely lying about it à la me and my flirtation with Tupac) seems like a good idea, because, well, you can always learn to do it...right? I can understand how a candidate can think that it isn't a big deal to list that they have five years of ad hoc reports experience versus the real one year that they do have. But, in the four years I've been in technical recruiting, I've never see it pay off for a candidate.

More often than not, inflating your background WILL get you submitted (after all, recruiters can only spot check so much), maybe an interview (maybe)...and then nothing else (other than laughed at and then yelled at by your recruiter). In all seriousness, if your recruiter doesn't catch you whoever ends up interviewing you will. This is why I tell all of my candidates to not put something on their résumé they do not want to get GRILLED about in an interview.
(Managers love nothing more than to ask you about that two-week contract you held sixteen years ago; unless you want to be put on the spot about something you have no recollection of, don't list it.)

Now, if you are the candidate that does manage to score the job based on BS, well, kudos to you. But don't count on it lasting. I think I've only seen one candidate manage to get this far...and he got canned within one month. He interviewed beautifully, literally got an offer off of a phone screen in less than 24 hours...and then completely tanked. Talking the talk is only half of the equation. If you can't actually do the work you might as well pack your desk now because your chances of actually succeeding are about as likely as me shaking it in the next Chingy video...not going to happen.

Inflating your skill set is only one way to fake it. Not being honest about the type of environment you prefer, your desired rate, work life balance, etc. all fall into the same category. "Yes'ing" someone just to get a job never pans out. I always ask my candidates when I first meet them to be completely honest with me; if you don't want to work for a startup just say so. If I'm offering a rate of $50.00 an hour and you really want $55.00...just tell me. As a recruiter, at the end of the day, all I want to do is help job seekers. When a candidate withholds information from me, intentional or not, I am not able to do my job and it results in a big freakin' epic fail.

...and this girl does NOT like to fail.

So, kids, the moral of today's post is pretty clear (or at least, I hope so). Faking it is lame. While it might pay off in the short-term and you might score a couple of hot dates with the vegetarian, Jewish thug in your dorm, it won't work. Eventually everything surfaces and you just want to abandon the rap, listen to a chill jam band, and eat a steak...or get a job that is actually a match for your background and preferences. So, quit while you are ahead. As boring as it can be to be honest, it really is the better way to go. So, when you hear some jackass say, "Fake it til' you make it!", just know, that they are, in fact, faking it, too.

And then feel free to punch them in the head for giving crappy advice.

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