Fake It ‘Til You Make It

Fake it ’til you make it. I mean, don’t lie on your resume, but feel free to be a little…aspirational in your description of yourself on your personal site and in your Twitter bio. Do you obsessively follow tech news and want to write for Wired, but pay the bills by writing up community meetings for a suburban newspaper? Change your bio to “Reporter at Podunk Daily and freelance tech writer.” Then write about tech on your personal platforms, where you’ll develop ideas and build credibility. Never describe yourself as an “aspiring” anything.

Former GOOD editor Ann Friedman (who is now part of the team putting together Tomorrow magazine), has some terrific advice for people who are trying to jumpstart their writing careers, but what she says above can be applied to pretty much any sort of job you’re hoping to have.

My mother did not dream about becoming a dancer. She said she was a dancer, and then started dancing (she hasn’t stopped since). I remember this one time in high school when my Spanish teacher asked me what I planned on doing with my life, and I said, “I’m going to work for Snapple, and come up with new flavors that people will love.” I was mostly joking (because I imagined working at Snapple in product development actually sounded like it would be fun), but I had said it with such conviction that she actually got in touch with the company for me. I was really amazed, and it just goes to show you that you never know who’s listening to you, or reading your blog, or checking out your twitter account and will help you get to where you want to go. Also, it sort of proves that The Secret totally works.

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12 Comments / Post A Comment

This is a great list. I’d also add “Never doubt your ability to write or at least learn to write anything.” I know tons of people who are terrified to even apply for like 50% of all writing jobs because they’ve never done anything exactly like it.

Also, for interviews: For the love of god, if someone asks for clips, bring your best work – don’t bring in every single thing you’ve ever written (unless they ask for that, which I’ve never had anyone do). Also electronic copies are great, but if you’re going to an interview bring it in as some form of hardcopy, even if you’ve already sent it to them. And bring extra copies. That way you have something to carry (in a slim classy binder or brief, natch) and you won’t be one of these people who’s like “Uhm well I didn’t bring it with me but you can check it out on my website!” Because they can, sure, but they probably won’t.

@Leon Tchotchke Also before you put in your two-weeks notice at a writing job, consider going down to the basement where they keep all the back issues and stealing a whole bunch of the ones that your articles are in to use for clips. Not that I’ve, uh, ever done that.

Does this work for any profession other than writing, blogging, and maybe photography? “Hamburger technician and freelance thoracic surgeon”?

ThatJenn (#916)

@stuffisthings I enjoyed going through and trying to reframe it in my career of choice. Some of them lack broad applicability as major advice (while everyone could stand to learn how to distill important information down into a short headline-style format, it’s not exactly going to make your career in some other fields), but some are extremely useful, like about how to frame your experience on your resume.

mishaps (#65)

@stuffisthings pretty much any tech job, if you can show that you’ve done that thing outside of your rent-paying employment, you’ll be taken seriously. So, instead of “blog all the time,” maybe “contribute to an open-source project a lot” or “blog about code/usability/strategy” or blog/tumblr/Dribbble your visual design work.

Megano! (#124)

Bless you Mike Dang. I am going to fake the crap out of it into a job!!

probs (#296)

Also, unless you’re applying for a very very technical position, if you’re just doing an office job, always say you are highly proficient in every program with which you have any familiarity, especially if you think the office skews a little older. You can learn anything you don’t know, you’re smart and there’s Google. On every application that asked I probably said I was moderately proficient at Excel. When I actually started working, I was some sort of Excel god-wizard in the eyes of my colleagues. “Aspirational” is definitely the way to go for applications.

Megano! (#124)

@probs This is…probably why I don’t have a job. Stop being so honest on your applications Megan!

probs (#296)

@probs yeah man, don’t lie, but sell yourself! You can do it!

jfruh (#161)

@probs when I was in grad school temping a grad-school friend of mine managed to get a really sweet temp gig through the same agency (i.e. it last all summer, paid reasonably well, really only provided about 3-4 hours a day of actual work and they didn’t care if he read or dicked around online the rest of the time) entirely because he listed “Quattro Pro” as one of the software packages he was familiar with. Quattro Pro is (or was in the late ’90s) a sort of off-brand Excel, and my friend had in fact used it in a different job, but he said that it would literally take zero time to learn if you were reasonably computer-savvy and had used Excel before. I was jealous of his much-better-than-mine gig, and felt I learned a Valuable Lesson that day.

ThatJenn (#916)

@Megano! Yes! List everything you have ever touched that you believe you could be competent in using given access to Google. (I don’t mean that you should lie, but if you are the kind of person who has used Excel, or WordPress, or basic HTML before and you could relearn and add skills in it quickly, list it among your skills.) I made this change to my resume and started getting more interviews immediately, and I haven’t disappointed anyone who’s hired me with that resume.

theotherginger (#1,304)

@Megano! Good luck! But why is selling yourself so hard!

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