I often hear the term “fake it until you make it” – usually in relation to a woman who does not feel confident in her own abilities. In fact, I recently used that term when mentoring a young woman. She was hired by a new client who was really stretching her beyond her comfort zone. This new client was a nationally known brand and the stakes were higher than any client she had experienced working for in the past. She just did not feel that she had the depth of content knowledge or experience. Yet, the client had hired her as the expert.
She did all of the things that you would expect; researching and talking to others who had similar clients and challenges, but she still did not feel confident. As I was prepping her for a first meeting in New York City with her new client, I found myself saying, “just go there and be confident, don’t let your hesitance show to the client, just fake it till you make it.” What I really meant was, don’t let yourself defeat yourself. In the eyes of the client, you are the expert. Make sure you see YOURSELF as the expert too. Come into the room with a air of confidence, a command of the subject matter, reaffirm the problem to the client and turn to other experts on your team to provide the detail.
In reflecting on what I said to her, perhaps “fake it until you make it” led her to believe that she did not have the content knowledge, but she did. It simply meant that she needed to get the age-old foe of women, the imposter syndrome, out of her head. She was not faking anything, she had the right stuff, she just needed a bit of a confidence-booster.