Why waste your time trying to be someone you’re not? Instead, develop the skills to be successful in whatever career you choose.

Share story

They seem to be almost everywhere on the Internet these days — articles explaining how you can fake your way to success.

There are tips on ways to look smarter than you really are, how to look more important during meetings, how to sound like you know what you’re talking about (even when you don’t), and how you can show authority by striking a power pose or taking up more physical space during meetings.

But here’s the thing, faking it will never get you the career success as quickly as hard work and a career development plan. Because faking it leaves out the most critical part of the equation: Effort.

Psychologist Angela Duckworth came up with two equations I like to use with my career coaching clients:

  • Talent x Effort = Skill
  • Skill x Effort = Achievement

If you’re busy trying to fake something, what you’re not doing is expending the effort to learn that skill. Which means what you’re really doing is holding yourself back in your career.

Instead of trying to look smarter than you really are … read, and read a lot. Read books on the skill you want to learn, read articles, watch TED videos, observe people who are great at that skill, find mentors who will help you improve in that area. Don’t be a fake; invest the time and energy to become a true expert in that topic.

Instead of trying to look more important during meetings … gain the respect from others by earning it. Show up to meetings on time or early. Never hold a meeting without a defined agenda and objectives. Don’t interrupt others or talk too much. Make sure everyone’s voice gets heard by encouraging round-the-table opinion-sharing. Don’t be a fake; become someone others want to invite to meetings or to lead projects because of your collaborative communication skills.

Instead of trying to sound like you know all the answers … be honest. Don’t pretend you know all the answers, because you don’t. No one does. And that’s OK. When someone asks you a question and you don’t know the answer, tell the truth: “I don’t know the answer to your question, but I’ll do my best to find out and get back to you with the answer.” Don’t be a fake; be truthful about your weaknesses.

Instead of striking a power pose or trying to take up more space in meetings … be yourself. Are you really going to stand like Superman or Wonder Woman during your presentation? Are you truly comfortable spreading out your belongings and taking up the space of two people? One of my favorite Dr. Seuss quotes is, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” Don’t be a fake; stop trying to be someone you’re not and learn to be comfortable with the wonderful person you already are.

Instead of wasting your time trying to be someone you’re not, invest effort in developing the skills and gaining the experience you’ll need to be successful in whatever career path you choose. Analyze your strengths and weaknesses, create a career development plan, seek out mentors and ask for support from your manager.

Learn how to be the best person you can be and how to be comfortable with all your unique qualities. Because life is too short to spend even a minute on trying to “fake it till you make it.”

Lisa Quast is a certified executive coach, and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at lquast@careerwomaninc.com.