My Problems with Fake It Until You Make It
There is a fear that we all seem to have ever since we were kids: making friends and finding where you belong. As we get older, the problem still seems to apply as we navigate with classmates, professors, co-workers, employers, family and friends. Finding a place that supports yet challenges us, pushed us to discover ourselves while staying true to who we really are - is there really such a place? I have learned that, whether that place really does exist, whether you have found it or not, it all starts with being honest with yourself.
During this meet-up, I found that most of the members were not originally from the Vancouver area, rather they lived in both either big cities like Toronto, smaller communities on the Island or both. I found heir insights very helpful, since I have only known Vancouver as my home. They remarked how communities and people differ from each area. The overall consensus was that there was a certain mentality here in the design and business industry in Vancouver: fake it, until you make it.
Have you heard of the expression? What does it mean? Why do people agree with it? Does it succeed or fail? In theory or in practice?
I left the meet-up asking myself these questions. A reason may have been that despite my notions in the design and marketing industry as a cut-throat and competitive sphere, there are some very genuine and generous professionals out there. It was then a pleasant surprise joining the Communo community, described by one member as a balance between creative and business communities. His opinion was that some creative communities were almost cult-like in their beliefs of design practices and applications where other business communities stifled any personal connections as they focused too much on numbers and production.
It did not really occur to me that I was really in a spot that professionals found balance. But I quickly began to understand why. In my experience, I felt quite alone. Although we actively knew how to search and apply for jobs, it felt like we were in a sea of other applications and other professionals. How are we to find our place? I did not have many contacts or a network. My education and experience, in contrast, seemed quite little. But I knew that I was willing to learn and work hard. Yet without the opportunities to prove my skills, I did not know what to do.
To keep myself positive, I drew inspiration from the phrase fake it until you make it - to me it meant, act like you have got it all together, be the entire package that someone is looking for and willing to invest in. If you act like a professional, do what a professional would do, you will surely become one. If you believe in your skills and value yourself, others will believe in them, too. It is a tricky way of thinking. In the end, it did not really work out for me because I did not want to fake it.
I knew all too well where I was lacking: networking, practicing my skills and applying myself. I did not care to act like a designer if I could do actually just be a designer. As a freelancing designer/solopreneur, I knew that these business and marketing aspects of my brand could not simply be faked away, rather I just had to take the time to learn and put effort in practice.
So I joined Communo. I have spoken quote highly of it in my posts as a testimony to what I think about the community. I really think that surrounding yourself with good people in a healthy and creative environment not only provides some security but also and incentive to go out there and do your best. When you are a member of an idea you respect and believe in, how to act and do business change to follow that. In Communo, there is the idea of reciprocity, giving and taking for the good of everyone. Conversations simply flow, without the worry of someone taking advantage or making money off an idea to benefit that one person - rather sharing ideas are to help and connect everyone.
So when it comes to the idea of being someone you are not or are not yet is silly to me. Cutting corners does not help you. It may take longer to figure out who you are - as a designer, a professional, as a business, as a solopreneur - but I believe that time is better spent building a foundation, instead of a house of cards.
Risk of Being Caught
An instructor gave some great advice when he said: It is better to promise little and deliver a lot than to promise much and deliver little. This really struck me and was a big reason I could not keep pretending. I was afraid of getting caught. As new designer or professionals, it is hard for us to admit that we are lacking. When applying for a job, I can see immediately that I may not be the best candidate. For the first couple, I am okay with it, but after several applications, it can feel devastating. So this idea of having it all is the only way to succeed.
However, I have learned that businesses work best with experts. A new grad who is okay at video and alright with design does not compare to an experienced videographer or skilled graphic designer. If you are not good at one thing, that is okay. If you are not good at a hundred things, that is okay, too. Why? Because it can get you closer to discovering what you are great at.
This is an example of how I look at my high school experience. I knew that many subjects were not for me. Even the subject of art was so vast that through trial and error I eventually found what I liked. It would be a combination of computers, storytelling and design. Just by how you look at the situation, every no is leading you to a yes.
The worst thing is to find yourself in a place you never truly wanted to be in anyways. So catching yourself early in the wrong job or field is better than risking getting caught by your manager or boss. So be honest and intelligent in your decisions. Every choice has a reward and consequence. Make the best choices that reward you.
The Value of Honesty
It may seem nostalgic to talk about the value of honesty. With online scams and dodgy marketing advertisements and sales techniques, we begin to question what is really true and what is not. No one likes to be lied to to their face. Worst is lying to someone without them knowing.
Honesty builds trust. So in any relationship, personal or professional, there is value in saying the truth. We may not like where the truth will lead us - a pass for that job or project - but it will get us to where we may need to be. By being honest professionally, I found my applications declined for better candidates. But at the same time, by being true to myself, I knew that I had the skills and passion to design, so if I did not qualify for those jobs, maybe I needed to prove myself first. I proposed projects, I gained experience doing work that tested myself and enjoyed. By being honest, I did not get to where I wanted to be, but I was on my way there.
By being professionally honest, I met other professionals like me. I met incredible entrepreneurs and spoke with experienced businessman and businesswoman and learned from their experiences. I learned to trust myself and others in their respective fields and find power in working together. I came to realize that saying I could not do something, although may have cost me a project, I gained for myself more awareness and honesty in what I truly want to do and am passionate about.
When a client is looking for a graphic designer, I want to be confident in saying that I am a graphic designer. Building this trust in a business for prospective clients is not just for them, but for yourself as well. By learning more about yourself as a professional, about your services or products, about your value, you can better position yourself with the work that you want while being confident in bringing your best foot forward. Who does not want that?
The journey getting there may differ for everyone. We are all racing to the top. But take a look at how and what you are doing to get there. Are you building your way up grounded in your experience and hard work or with something else?
Being humble does not mean putting yourself down. It took a long time for me to learn this for myself. I have met amazing people, experts in what they do, who are humble. Even though they are known for their great work, they still consider themselves still learning or improving. As a professional, I thought it meant you knew everything there is to know in your field. Although a good standard of knowledge, skills and expertise does not hurt, in the creative business, we are constantly learning and adapting to our changing (physical/online) world.
Surround yourself with people better than you are try to be like them. I am always humbled by the connections that I have made professionally and personally. Friends and family who have made great sacrifices, professionals that have taken great risks in reputation and standing for what they believe in. It is like when we were kids and we would copy the people we admire. There is nothing wrong with that. Maybe as we got older, we began to think that was very childish or unprofessional to do so. But without an aim or goal we are just blind.
So be aware of where you are and make an aim of who you want to be. If you cannot find the right environment with the right people, create. Get together with people who are aiming for the same thing. Go out, meet people, try something new, listen. Your first impression starts with you. Who do you want other people to meet? Is it really you? ■