Professionals Share Their “Fake It ‘Til You Make It” Stories

In this world, sometimes you need to bend the truth a little bit to get ahead. It’s unfortunate, but for some people, little white lies and exaggerations of certain skills or qualifications may be the key to edging out the competition. Here are the crazy “fake it ’til you make it” stories shared by real professionals online:

#1 Lies For Experience

My horrible brother-in-law used to lie and said he had heavy equipment operator experience. He’d get the job and get fired within a day or two, but then he’d pick up something small right after. He did that 15 or 20 times and kept moving around until he learned enough to not get fired. I always have trouble finding work, but my brother-in-law can get a job three days after getting fired from running a dude’s foot over!

#2 The Hiring Scheme

I was applying for a job and got rejected a lot of times. But I learned some. common questions and words that were being asked. I eventually learned enough about those topics just to present myself as the most brilliant person out there to do the job.  After four weeks of training, I got pretty used to the concept.

I learned to apply it to complete the work. It is just so messed up that companies would expect you to know everything about the job and then just train you for the job because apparently, everything you know is wrong. That is one messed up hiring scheme.

#3 Good To Go

I worked bulldozers and scrapers in landfills for a few years. I started out running the dump trucks and water trucks, then moved onto doing fuel-fill and greasing at the end of the day. That familiarized me with the controls on the machines (which I had to move, to fuel and grease). When an “operator” would not show up, I would fill in. My main skill was my ability to pass a substance test. I could get so tipsy on a Saturday night that I couldn’t stand up, but I’d be good to go on Monday.

#4 Self-Taught

I taught a class on a specialty software program. I was learning the software myself and I was literally one class ahead of the people I was teaching. My job is teaching the program and that’s what I did. I took in the information and presented it in a way that other people could take in… Until that one snarky student who knows everything started questioning me on things that were chapters away.

#5 Seeing Right Through

I had this file thing in elementary school where you have to put all your worksheets in a folder and my teacher will check it at the end of the year. Well… I did not do it and convinced her that I handed in but she lost it. She said she will get back to me… and I’m still waiting. This is probably why a good number of ‘fake it til you make it’ scenarios work. Some people see through the façade, but can’t be bothered to deal with it because it would be too much trouble.

#6 A Little White Lie

One time, I accidentally convinced a teacher that I handed in a worksheet. I did it and I thought I handed it in. I was convinced by myself that I handed it in. But then later, I found it in my bag. I never told my teacher because I was too scared of her (she was a really mean one and I didn’t think she’d understand). I got 80% on that worksheet.

#7 Fake Resume

I was desperate for a job several years back so I wrote up this resume that was utter nonsense on a whim granted some of it was legit but a good 80% was me white lying. Amazingly enough, I got a call for an interview and by some miracle, they ended up hiring me and I worked for the place for seven years before something I was actually qualified for opened up at another workplace. That nonsense resume saved me from ruin though so I always will look back in that crazy situation fondly.

#8 The Decade Act

My entire professional career. I “played with computers” growing up in so-far-as I knew how to turn one on, download a game, and play them very well. I knew next to nothing about building them or troubleshooting them, usually depending on my friends to help when my second-hand PC threw a fit.

Cut to me, fresh out of college with a waste of paper degree looking for a job. I get hired by an IT contractor, cause I knew a gal that knew a guy, with the understanding I needed to know the basics… I didn’t know anything. I made it up as I went along, googling the living heck out everything. That was 10 years ago. I’m now a Systems Administrator.

#9 Line Dance Improv

Last weekend, I was at a wedding dance and they played “The Git Up.” No one knew the dance, including myself, but liquid encouragement kicked in and I lead the entire wedding dance (50+ people) in a dance that I completely made up on the spot. Everyone was so impressed after that I “knew all of the moves” that I didn’t tell anyone any different.

#10 Just Say Yes

My business started with me just saying yes I can do that, I can supply that for you. I had no idea that they would be willing to hear me out. Five years later and I’m now supplying desks and office equipment to over 120 offices in London. You really can go far if you just say yes. I became much more successful at work after I learned that saying yes and making the effort was a better idea than saying no and telling them why it won’t work. Even if you’re right, no one wants to hear it.

#11 It Works Until It Doesn’t

I started at a big old multinational in retail as a college dropout. I started at the lowest rung of customer service in a store. Now, retail has lots and lots of staff turnover. And a multinational has a ton of rules, or you’d expect them to have. Also, I’m not the dumbest around (never mind the college dropout, that’s another story) and well, to be fair, not everyone in retail is super smart.

So there was a consistent lack of management (or they didn’t care) and all the rules and regulations had gaps in them. So people start asking questions: How do I solve this? What should I do next? Nobody had an answer to these questions, so I started answering them using common sense or what I’d think should work… just filling in the gaps which probably made me look a lot smarter than I am. Just faking that I knew what I was doing.

So I started climbing the ladders and I am now the Senior Finance and Operations Director for a store with a gross turnover of over 160 million dollars. HOWEVER, cracks are starting to show. The company got a lot more serious and I’m surrounded by smart people with high degrees where I can’t bluff my way through problems and meetings as easily. So, I’m thinking of taking a step back and relaxing a bit more in the lower position.

#12 Book Smarts

I went through a lot of school grad and post-grad. I don’t really believe in the notion that just because someone has a high degree is necessarily smarter. In school, some people do very well because they can memorize a lot of books and formulas.

In real-world work, you need to be able to apply what you learn and adapt, you can do this with or without a higher education degree. Some people who have very good grades get stuck in real-world work because the theories they memorized don’t translate one for one and they can’t solve the problem.

#13 Hollywood Lies

I’m an artist who works in the film industry. Some years ago, my wife got pregnant (purposefully) and I had to try to find a way to make more reliable income while she was on maternity leave. I also wanted to stay in the film industry. I got work as a Grip.

Grunt work lugging things around the set and building up large bits of lighting gear. No clue what I was doing. I started off on big shows like The Flash and Arrow. A friend got me to work on a small set and only 13 days into working as a grip, which I didn’t tell them, they made me the key grip. I was in charge of a whole department which is one half of the lighting team. Faked it until I made it!

#14 From Zero To CMO

I dropped out of high school in 10th grade. I hated school with a passion. I did get a GED. I started working retail and found I really liked managing projects. I ended up leaving retail for a call center job in a fairly large company. Within four years, I was running a marketing division. I had no clue what marketing was or anything. I’m just good at getting people to trust me and I’m very creative. I got bored there and somehow got myself into another marketing role at an even bigger company. Five years later and I’m the CMO.

#15 False Confidence

Social anxiety. I was always the quiet guy up until a few years ago. I decided I was tired of not having friends and I started faking confidence and talking to everyone. In the beginning, I was dying inside and felt like I was walking on glass. Now, I don’t know when to shut up and can talk to just about anyone.

#16 Learning On The Go

During college, I worked part-time as a deli clerk in a grocery store. I had zero experience with deli items—I didn’t know head cheese from salami, or provolone from muenster. So, I’d explain to customers that I was new and ask them to point to items in the case that they wanted and what the sign indicated for the price per pound. They always seemed happy to help out, especially when I gave them “free samples” from the slicing machine.

#17 Scared Into Success

I’d always been interested in programming. As a kid, I tried to teach myself C and Java with mild success. Fast forward to the time I’m 24. I’m working as a piercing apprentice at a tattoo shop making $20/day a few days per week. I meet a girl, fall for her, and she ends up pregnant…

A few hours after the pregnancy test I’m applying for jobs on Craigslist and I find a PHP job a few minutes up the road. I’ve worked with PHP for maybe a few hours in my entire life but it was a tiny company and the interview wasn’t technical. I lied through my teeth the entire time and get hired.

After being hired I tried to start learning PHP on the job. The owner of the company created his own PHP framework which was GOD AWFUL so I couldn’t figure it out for the life of me. I got fired two weeks later.

In those two weeks on the job, I made an honest effort to learn more about web design and development so I offered my “design” services to a local web design company for free so that I could learn. Walking home after being fired I called up the web design company and they ended up hiring me. I would learn on the job for a year or so and then take my skills to get more money somewhere else.

10 years later, I’m the lead software engineer on a big project making just over six figures. If a pregnancy test hadn’t scared me to death that day I would still be working dead-end jobs.

#18 Insomniac Problems

Sleeping. I fake trying to do it until I’m surprised by the real thing. I’ve had trouble falling asleep since I was a young child. I remember dreading nightfall because it meant having to lay in bed for four hours doing nothing. When I got to college, I developed maintenance insomnia (the inability to stay asleep).

#19 Healing The Land

A while ago, I decided to stop complaining about environmental destruction, climate change, etc, and ACT. So I started planting trees. Keep in mind I had no training in this, I never even gardened before. I considered myself a “brown thumb.” I researched how to do it and it seemed pretty easy. But everything died. I’d plant a tree exactly how they said, but it wouldn’t survive. I had to baby them so much, just to get them through their first year, and maybe half would make it. But I just kept planting and planting and “faking” I knew what I was doing.

Then I came across stuff by Dr. Elaine Ingham on soil science and it kind of changed everything for me. It made a whole lot of sense. Ecosystems transition from deadland, to weed pit, to grassland, to brushland to a forest. As they do, the soil microbiology changes from dead soil to bacterial dominated soil, to fungal dominated soil. So the correct way to plant trees is actually to transition the soil to forest soil as fast as possible.

Well, that changed everything, and now I go around planting mini starting forests everywhere on my land, in wild places, abandoned lots, etc. I’ve seen little pockets of life I’ve planted turn from a few trees to a small thicket. At this point, it’s unstoppable and the land heals.

#20 A Deep Hole

This is how I am with salsa dancing. I know the basic steps and I know how to spin but nothing else. So I start making stuff up as I get tipsier and tipsier. People always revere it as an amazing skill and I’m just freestyling and I’m too afraid to own up and tell them I don’t actually know. My wife even thinks I’m good… It’s a pretty deep hole.

#21 Lucky Interview

I George Costanza’d my way into a job in high school. I was looking for a new job and went to apply at a local movie theater. The general manager asked to interview me on the spot, which I wasn’t at all prepared for, but I went with it anyway. This was like a Wednesday or Thursday night. The interview went well, and she told me she was going to be out of town this weekend, but she would let me know on Monday.

I didn’t want to wait, so the next day at school I got my work permit filled out and took it back. I dropped it off to another manager and told them she told me to bring this stuff in. They asked if I could start the next day. I ended up working there for over three years.

#22 Faking Goodness

I was told that in order to get sober, I needed to find a church and start going regularly. I picked a church, went to every service, sat in the front row and sang along with all the hymns. After about two months of regular attendance, the priest asked if I wanted to take over the Sunday School class.

I politely declined. I managed to convince a priest I was Christian enough to take over a Sunday School class but it was still more than another year until I could get sober (without the church).

#23 Tracing To Fame

Not even going to lie, I used to trace other people’s art SO OFTEN as a young artist, but now, I have that guidance of technique with me when I create my own pieces. Honestly, if you’re a novice who isn’t going to publish or claim the work, tracing can be a handy way to learn techniques. When you’re confident, you can move on to just looking at references while you draw (and, though it’s impressive to be able to draw from the mind, I don’t think you should ever completely abandon the practice of looking at references).

#24 Fake Hired

Not me, but my cousin applied for a brand new restaurant job and didn’t get it. Her friend got the job and she was upset she didn’t get hired. So her friend told her when orientation was and she decided to have been “fake” hired. She went to orientation, did all the training, introduced herself to all the staff, management, and made her presence known. After a couple of weeks working, everyone got their paychecks, except her…

She went up to management and was like, “What, everyone got paid but me… you’ve seen me working for the last two weeks!” Management went into the computer system and checked. “That’s so weird, you’re not in the system… I’m so sorry… It must be a clerical error… We will get you in the system, and pay you right away!”

#25 WiFi Hack

I kept a Verizon Jetpack (mobile WiFi hotspot thingy) that had unlimited data after leaving a job. We worked on the go so we all got one so that we could keep up with paperwork via laptops. Well, for four years, I used that as my internet provider. It’s been six years now and I still have the thing. It works great. I don’t use it at home anymore, but it’s been awesome to take on vacation or to the golf course or wherever.

#26 From Shy To High Up

I’m painfully shy and terrified of speaking in front of people. A few years ago, I started volunteering at my local animal shelter and would always sign up for a time slot before the shelter opened to the public so I wouldn’t have to deal with people. I kept getting assigned new volunteers to show them the ropes because my time slot was when it was quiet and there wouldn’t be interruptions.

I really didn’t want to deal with people, but I went ahead anyway because it meant I got my own kennel key. I was nervous as heck and didn’t know what I was doing, but plowed ahead anyway. Then I got the hang of it. Now, four years later, I’m one of the leads, I have access to restricted areas of the shelter, I’m one of only two volunteers allowed to update the animals’ notes on the shelter site, and I’m highly respected and considered a role model.

#27 Under The Radar

Honestly, I felt like this for most of my jobs in the IT industry. I work on Cisco voice systems and it always seemed like I was getting jobs that were just a bit higher technical level than I was at. So I was constantly working hard to learn what I didn’t know to get to the level that I was supposed to be at.

That, or they would have one of the Cisco voice platforms that I wasn’t familiar with but expected me to troubleshoot and work on, such as my current job which has UCCE. I’d never worked on anything but UCCX, which is the very slimmed down version of UCCE and is very different. So now, I’m working hard to learn UCCE, but I’m always feeling like at any time they’ll realize they can get someone better and replace me.

#28 A Total Imposter

The first paper I wrote got accepted to PNAS. I had an imposter syndrome induced panic attack. Then, textbooks started referencing the paper, and the panic came on again. It wasn’t until my fifth paper that I actually started to believe my work was important and I wouldn’t be “found out” as an imposter.

#29 His Dark Past

My coworker has a degree in mechanical engineering in another country but was lucky to get a job in the US helping to fix the Y2K bug. He was told to search for year codes in software and edit it a certain way. He was so out of his league that when he made a mistake that he couldn’t just backspace to fix, he would “accidentally” … turn off the computer to restart it… just because he didn’t know how to undo edits. He’s now our lead Java Developer.

#30 Breaking Free

I always had friends but found it difficult to engage with people outside my small circle. I used to get such bad social anxiety that I would throw up before every major social engagement, like parties, and sometimes in situations where I knew there was definitely nothing to fear, like going to lunch with my friends.

I decided I needed to do something about this, so I started paying attention to how a friend of mine who was very good in social situations conducted herself, and just copied her. After a while, I started appearing confident, though I still had the anxiety, and eventually the anxiety went away almost completely (it still happens sometimes, but I rarely throw up—like, maybe once a year in a really daunting situation).

Now people always remark on how confident I am and I always make a point of telling them it’s learned rather than innate.

#31 Forcing It

Recovering from some mental health issues. I had a really hard time around people, constantly questioning myself and their behavior towards me, but I just forced myself to believe the best and kept pressing on. I found friends that way and had some great experiences.

#32 The Senior Project

My undergrad major required a senior project. The Honors College program I was in also required a senior project. Because my major was a pretty common one, the major and the Honors College allowed students in my major to combine and do one project instead of two.

The project for my major required 400 hours of work and participation with a mentor, and the presentation of the final project. I was also required to present my project in two public forums in order to graduate. Not only did I not get the hours needed, but I also just DIDN’T PRESENT MY PROJECT ANYWHERE.

Because I was split between my major and Honors College, I don’t think anyone took responsibility for me, and I graduated no problem. Still my best act of mediocrity to date.

#33 First World To Third World

I’m currently living in a third world country after being in the first world my entire life. I’m 16. I’m gonna fake that I’m happy here till we make it, fella. I sort of want to start a YouTube channel about my travels and what living in a third world (and one of the world’s most dangerous countries) is really like… What do u guys think?

#34 Catch Me If You Can

I went from a hospitality job at a casino to an engineer by faking my resume. I had general electrical knowledge but that’s it. Within six months, I got promoted and left to a higher paying job where I constantly feel like the least experienced engineer, telling my engineers how to do their job. Granted, I studied a lot, but my old chief engineer said I was like Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can.

#35 Out Of The Shell

Honestly, being happy and social. Going into high school I was in a super bad place, I was treated very poorly throughout elementary and middle school and essentially was a social outcast for a long while. In order to make friends, I faked being a social and outgoing person since I had a fresh start with different people. Now that’s actually the way I am, very social and friendly, and willing to talk to anyone. It’s tricky to come out of that shell but you get there eventually.

#36 On The Spot

A few years ago, my class had to write an essay about an important moment in our lives and read it in front of the whole class. When it was my friend’s turn, he went up and did his speech, like normal. The teacher asked him to turn it in, and he said he didn’t have it. Turns out, he never wrote one and just made it up on the spot.

#37 Job Hopper

My brother’s resume looks good and bad. He’s had nine jobs in 12 years. He’s only been let go once, but he gets tired of jobs fast and the second he hears he can earn more, he just goes for it. I told him it looks horrible to have that many jobs in that many years etc., but he’s managed well.

#38 Less Is More

I actually had an experience recently where I went for a job up against someone that worked at about six different places in the past while I worked at two jobs consecutively in the past nine years; one of which was a supervisor. The interviewer looked at the other individual with a wow expression and said, “Well this position may be beneath you.”

#39 Easily Bored

I get bored so easily. Once I feel like I’m not learning anything new or being challenged or appreciated anymore, I start looking elsewhere. My first job lasted a whole month. McDonald’s. $5.15 an hour when I was 16. I found a new job paying $8 an hour and I jumped on it. I hate call centers, but back in 2006, $8 an hour was decent for me. Now I’d starve to death if I don’t get 20+ hours of overtime a week. And I’m making a lot more per hour.

#40 Green Guys

Our company had a habit of hiring “experienced techs” that were just about the worst people. They knew what they were doing but thought they were too good at it. I will take a green guy that is willing to learn and work over an experienced guy that spends more time complaining about having to pull a wire because he is too valuable for that any day. If you were able to learn and work, I have no doubt they would help with troubleshooting and such and not say a word to the boss about it.

#41 The Path To VP

The marketing manager left the company I worked for. As the youngest person on staff, management asked if I knew digital marketing and could maintenance the website… I said, “Oh yeah I know all about that!” Knowing absolutely nothing, I proceeded to Google everything, SEO, Paid Search, HTML, etc.

Fast forward 10 years and I am the VP of a prominent digital advertising company and responsible for record company high revenue! I keep up on industry trends and I always look to see how I can better understand the technology.

#42 Interview Skills Matter

I applied to a C++ job and went to the interview. I got the job at afterward and bought an “Introduction to C++ programming” book on the way back home. Here I am 25 years later, still working at the same job (as a lead software developer).

#43 Take Position

I was in Leadville, Colorado during their annual Skijoring festival. I was with my wife and our newborn daughter. I am a hobbyist photographer and I thought action shots of skiers being pulled by horses would be a great challenge. So about the time they were clearing everyone, except professional photographers, I realized that the all-black diaper bag I had with me could look like a gear bag. I flipped my baseball hat around and took a position. It was awesome.

#44 Worth It

I quit my job and road-tripped all of North America over four months to finally end up on the west coast. I had never been to California before and it just felt like this is where I want to live. I was supposed to go back to Michigan, but every day I’d wake up and say to myself, let’s stay another day (because it was amazing).

I started going to events and socializing, making new friends, upon being asked I’d say I live here, every time. I got to the point where I had made really good friends (closer than the ones I had back home), I started interviewing, and landed a sweet job. I moved here for real and never ended up going back!

#45 Being Smart

Being smart. I do admit I like knowing and I like thinking but all my knowledge is surface knowledge and very superficial. I usually hang out with older people and I don’t always understand or comprehend what they are saying so I usually just shut up. Then say something that I heard one time about the topic or ask a question. And at school, I just mention random facts or trivia about the subject and now everyone I know actually thinks I am smart.

#46 Easy Money

Coding and software development. I took a bunch of IT certifications, learned some basics, and did well at interviews. I kind of understand how to code HTML, CSS, Javascript, SQL and a little bit more. I doubled my salary with zero background in coding and tech.

#47 Slacking Pays Off

I spend my days being a marketing executive at an electronics manufacturer, traveling the world to be heard in meetings, conferences, and trade shows, but actually, I do nothing behind my PC and just go on YouTube all day, watching people pop pimples.

#48 Second Place

In my school, there was an inter-house rifle shooting competition being held and I wanted to go but I didn’t get selected. Even though I knew this, I went to team practice anyways and the teacher for some reason didn’t even give a heck. On the day of the tournament, my team came second.

#49 Endless Ambition

I messed up at a four-year university a billion times until I had enough credits to reverse transfer them to a two-year college. I got four associate degrees and a huge boost in confidence. I think I’ll eventually go back and get my bachelor’s, but it’s kind of hard. Wish me luck.

#50 Behind The Scenes

In the retail world, the trick is to stay out of any customer-facing roles and work behind the scenes as a merchandiser. I’m making about 2/3 more than I was about four months ago and I don’t have to deal with customers.