We've seen it on countless movies and television shows: people lying their way to great jobs and careers. They make it seem so straightforward in the stories, but is it really that easy in real life? The following people seem to think so. Read on for some insightful perspectives.
#1 Learning On The Job
Operations manager. I did it. No experience whatsoever. I learned as I went. I was super nervous until I realized my boss knew less than me. Loosely speaking, a medium-sized or larger organization requires people to ensure that day-to-day operations are running smoothly and efficiently. Operations managers are these kinds of people. Some examples are foreseeing problems before they become problems and trying to get ahead of them with mitigations, identifying improvements to streamline future activity, some administrative tasks, etc.
Operations managers are involved in the day-to-day running of the organizational operation, similar to a project manager, but while project managers tend to deal with projects, operations managers tend to deal with day-to-day "business as usual" operations. This isn't a precise definition by any means, but I also did not have any operations management or project management experience starting and I've handled fine.
#2 The Art Of Manipulation
I don't know, but it sure seems like all the people who I have trained at my company in the last several years have been "managers" at their last job. I don't know if companies just give that title out to everyone, or if people are padding their resumes or what. I guess many companies use the term “manager” in their titles for sales positions. Customers feel better about being served by a “manager” than they do an “associate.” It also helps if you’re in a position that requires negotiating, as people are more inclined to engage in negotiations with people they feel have the authority to negotiate. The art of manipulation.
#3 Jameson v. Parker
The head of a newspaper. Just always be in a rush and yell things at your underlings. "Get me that scoop! Do what you gotta do to get me that story kid! I need pictures of Spiderman!" I work for a newspaper. Aside from going to lunch for an hour and being in the washroom for at least an hour, I have no idea what my publisher does all day.
#4 Newspaper Hierarchy
I worked in newspapers for 14 years. You could definitely lie your way into the publisher's job, which is usually the top job. A conniving publisher could get away with doing almost nothing and just being an outstanding bluffer. On the other hand, ironically it would be damn near impossible to lie your way into the second-highest job in the company: editor-in-chief. That's unless the person hiring you had no idea what they're doing.
#5 Same Old Physics
This really happened to my roommate. He has a doctorate in nuclear engineering, and he got a job as a theoretical physicist. They asked him about his knowledge in theoretical physics, and he said, "Not very much." They said, "It's easy, you'll catch on quick." To be fair, a background in nuclear engineering wouldn't exactly be far from theoretical physics. At the very least, he probably already had a lot of the mathematics he needed.
I'm not sure if this is a high-level job, but paranormal investigator. Lying with conviction and charisma is one of the most important qualities one can have in that line of work. I watched a clip where the paranormal investigators built a "ghost vacuum" that was exactly a vacuum with a clear plastic box. They were all sure it would suck up the ghosts and contain it in a clear plastic box. Apparently, ghosts can come from the other side for hauntings, but plastic boxes will mess them up.
#7 Plagiarized Portfolio
I used to be a part of university interviews (sitting in with potential future students). A girl turned up. She went white as a sheet and we quickly realized she had used my work in her "portfolio" (I'm a photographer). Another guy turned up and did exactly the same thing with a fellow photographer's work. I wondered how many people blagged their way into university this way and I was made to sit in all interviews for the three years I was there. I caught so many people out.
#8 Winging It
I lied my way into a tech repair job. I asked my new boss if he could run me over their operating procedure with an example on the bench and apart from putting my PC together, I had no real experience at all. But I watched, learned, and asked for lots of second opinions in my first month. I never got noticed and I got extra work from him using my software experience. I still freelance software solutions for him and is clients today.
My former principal was a business model guy and a big believer in cronyism. He replaced the greatest teacher tech person I have known with a guy who was a friend of his... who didn't want to teach. I went to him for an issue once and I watched him Google it. After that, I learned to just Google it myself or call my friend if I needed help. That lasted about two years. The god awful principal is gone, but he's still at our school, and I'm still not sure what he does.
Sign Up For Our Newsletter
Stories that matter — delivered straight to your inbox.
#10 The Nerd Life
Honestly, the best way to get into an IT job isn’t your experience or skills, but willingness to learn and ask questions. Some of the best co-workers I worked with were ones who had no experience starting but asked lots of questions. Also, if you work in a corporate IT environment, be either an absolute freaking nerd or a fan of sports because... man, we’re all massive nerds.
#11 Founded On A Lie
My dad told me that his first job out of technical school was at Enron. He had a good friend that worked there so he was able to get an interview. My dad winded up lying on his resume, mostly regarding his experience and knowledge of software development. Once he arrived at the interview, he took notes on the technical questions that they were asking him as he lied his way through.
Long story short, he got the job and used the notes he took during the interview to buy coding books (I believe they were O'Reilly, mostly because I remember thinking how cool the illustrations of the animals on the covers were). He would study the coding books cover to cover, learning how to do his job as he went along. He wound up doing very well there until Enron went bankrupt. Fortunately, though, he found work as a lead software developer at a large electric services company and does very well for himself.
#12 Dirty Politics
I know a guy that lied his way into a bunch of political campaigning jobs. He’s in jail now though. He’s a really shady guy in general; I think he went to jail for something fraud-related. But yeah, he’s been a campaign manager, an aide... a bunch of politics stuff. It's not Manafort, by the way, but when you're talking politics, the people that get caught are just the tip of the iceberg.
#13 Quack Experience
Life coach. There's someone this year on Big Brother who describes herself as such. She's 24. In her interview, she said something to the effect of: "Sometimes people ask me how I can be a life coach at 24 when I have no life experience," and then she just went off the crazy deep end with crystals, essential oils, and something about spirit guides. She was crazy, and 100% lied her way into that job.
#14 The Way It Works
For those unfamiliar, most studies show that a person is promoted because of their talent and competence at their current job. So if I am a salesperson and I do really well, I'll get promoted to head salesperson, where presumably I'll still be on the floor making sales and continuing to do well. Then, I'll be promoted, maybe to the regional sales director, for instance. At that point, I'd be managing salespeople, not actually doing sales. I might be a horrible manager, but I've already been promoted, and short of doing something heinous and glaring, I'll probably coast through the rest of my tenure with the company doing a poor-to-mediocre job in that position. That's because firing someone for being "only mediocre" could open the company to a lawsuit, and execs aren't willing to do that. Hence, most people rise to the level of their incompetence.
#15 Schmoozing The Boss
I was the Director of Operations at a solar company eight months after starting as an entry-level installer. It was a pretty legit promotion, too. I always showed up early, asked a bunch of questions about everything we did, and got along really well with the owner. When the job became available, he knew it was a stretch, but thought it might be a good fit. It was.
#16 I Saw It On YouTube
I've been a video producer and editor for 24 years now. I could probably teach someone how to successfully edit and traffic broadcast-quality commercials well enough in four to five days and make $50 to $60k at an editing house. I met a producer for a household name talk show host five years ago at a party where he told me they needed a new video editor. I told them I could edit (I couldn’t) and he hired me on the spot. I spent the weekend looking at YouTube videos on how to edit. I started my career and I now run the post-production department at a different production house.
#17 It's All Make-Believe
Being a horoscope writer seems pretty straightforward. My mother used to work at a local newspaper when she left college. She would receive a general guideline weekly from an "expert" and then she would write whatever she thought would help the people she knew that read it. I hate horoscopes because they’re so general but I hate the people that believe in them more.
#18 Strange But Successful
Regional manager at a paper company. To be fair, he ran the most successful branch. He started his own competing paper company in a terrible market. Negotiated his job back for himself and his employees. He keeps his employees happy and entertained and truly cares for them all, and they mostly end up loving him. Definitely a strange management style, but very successful.
#19 Think Green
Not kidding, our national TV station has a diversity consultant. She just happens to be a friend of the CEO. At most corporates I've been to, there has been someone with the role Environment Manager or some such. Always an attractive 20- or 30-something female whose sole visible contribution seemed to be the occasional note in a corporate newsletter asking people to turn off lights and monitors, or at most, organizing a "Green Week" which would be an email a day with helpful tips.
#20 Going Against Nature
As an environmental engineer, there are a lot of environmental regulations that most companies should be following (though most don't even know such regulations exist let alone apply to their industry). After one of the inspections I did last year, I ended up writing the environmental manager a big fine... he called my boss and pitched a fit about how he didn't think it was a "real inspection." Their company then spent more money hiring an environmental consultant to try and prove us wrong than how much it would have cost to pay the fine. Also, they still ended up paying our fine.
#21 Chief Of Nothing
There are plenty of people calling themselves "CEOs" because they run a tiny one-man company with exactly zero other employees. Nothing against small companies, but you can't be "chief" of anything without a team working under you. That's where the nonsense comes in, and it doesn't require any level of achievement beyond registering a business.
#22 Good Framing
Not an actual job, but since I'm Indian and the way I present myself... most people assume I'm a doctor. I do regularly get asked for medical advice and to look at something, and even after I explain I'm not a doctor, people still trust I would know the answer. I could probably get away with impromptu exams if spent some effort to frame things.
#23 Banker For The Rich
Private banker... which is basically a banker for really rich people. Imagine having your own designated bank employee to handle anything you want. Just be hot, have rich friends and be willing to be a glorified PA. No other experience is necessary. I've been interviewed for private banking roles and the only question they're interested in, "Who do you know and what's their net worth?"
#24 Fake It 'Til You Make It
Not to discredit the real meteorologists out there, but faking Meteorology on TV is all about the delivery. If you check Weather.com for a local weather forecast, sound like you know what you’re talking about, and have playful banter with the reporters as you transition the segment back to them you could pull it off. Throw in the buzzwords “high-pressure system” and “coastal breeze” and you’ll sound knowledgeable enough to pass. People really don’t use weatherman to get much more information than what you could already get on your phone.
The best part is that you’re locked into the job until the company cuts you. Who is really going to come in and take your job away? How can they prove they’re a better meteorologist? You are the only one at the news station who “knows” about meteorology, so management can’t determine that they know more than you. And if they do get rid of you, now you have experience on your resume!
#25 Sales Confidence
Commodities broker here. Basically a stockbroker but we trade tangible things! Also, our market isn't really affected by the stock market... supply and demand is our biggest reason why something would be higher or lower cost. It's all about sales and confidence. I walked into the interview with the idea that they needed me more than I needed them and that seemed to work.
#26 The Other End
I could rock an air crash investigation! From my deep understanding based on the show, the job is 90% sitting around a room full of graphs and model planes spitballing ideas until you get a phone call accompanied by a dramatic musical cue that blows the lid off of the whole investigation. The real trick is to be the guy on the other end of the phone.
#27 Grandpa's Dealings
Not me, but my grandpa lied his way into an electrician position. He went into the interview talking about his experience, etc, but when they asked about his schooling, he said he got it from XYZ college but lost his diploma. He freaking NAILED his interview, so the company called the college. Grandpa did his research. The school he said he went to suffered a massive fire that led to the loss of a ton of documents. After learning everything there was to learn at that job, he went in as a lineman for a major electric company in the state, then later moved away and went into business for himself as an industrial electrician.
#28 You Just Need Money
Elon Musk knew as much as any of us on rocket science before starting up Space X. I remember that some employees were talking about how they would get nervous when they were asked about what they know because they thought Musk was testing them, at first. Then they realized that Musk was just trying to learn from his employees.
#29 Confidence Is Key
In 2004, the CEO of the place I worked for was exposed as a con artist. She had no qualifications and somehow convinced headhunters to place her on the board of the BBC as the head of BBC Technology. Nobody ever checked her CV. She was in charge of multimillions, in fact, sold part of the BBC for over £100 million. She went back to prison when she was caught abusing expenses and it all unraveled. It goes to show that you don't need to know anything but need to be supremely confident to be a big boss! It's been kept under the radar as far as possible but there are some articles to be found if you Google Ann Wilson or Ann Harrison-Mee.
#30 Speaking Tongues
I did that a few years back, and it went pretty well. I had no experience in interpreting and translations at all, I was just trilingual from the languages I was exposed to since childhood. And I went through my job for a few years without my boss or manager noticing that I had no expertise in that since none of them understood French. The process wasn't pretty but at least I got the job done. I left the job on my own later.
#31 Quick Learner
My mom worked for a translation company in the UK, one that was government certified to work legal stuff (things like officials document translation). She said that the language part was, for her at least, about 70% of it. She had to learn a whole bunch of stuff, like legal mumbo jumbo that even in her native language she'd never come across, then learn the English equivalents. There were also specific ways, especially for legal documents, that she had to learn to prepare documents as well. According to her, at least for her work, the other 30% was learning stuff (and having to learn quickly).
#32 Learn The Job, Land The Job
You might be able to do it in an IT field for a local government.I actually have a degree in Computer Information Systems. I applied to my county government as a Software Developer. I only took a single course in college on the entire subject. I ended up getting it, leading a team eventually, and leaving after a few years to move on to a larger company. If you can learn it, you can basically become anything you want.
#33 Easy Money
If you're white, you can move to China to teach English with no experience. Or so I heard from the internet. My friend and his girlfriend did it. She was Serbian and English was not her native tongue. Her agent just told people she was American and none of her students knew any better. She was getting $80 USD per hour teaching high paid execs and business people. My friend who was an English native said that she was actually a way better teacher than him because she knew all the grammar rules from when she had to learn English as opposed to him just "knowing" them and not knowing why or what they were called.
#34 All About Stocks
Stockbroker, a cat-proved hat one. The hard part about stocks is that if you're talking individual stocks, it's almost random as to which one will go up or down. That said, building a balanced portfolio requires a little bit of knowledge. What is the risk profile of each stock, what kinds of companies, do you want bonds, stocks, or a mix, do you plan on buying options, will you do options spreads or individual options?
All those questions are ones that a good financial adviser will ask you, and be able to explain what it all means when you inevitably ask "huh?" However, often a news website will play a fun game called: "Let's call up a random financial professional, ask them to pick a stock and ask a goldfish, cat or monkey to pick another one to see who does better!!!"
#35 Good At Lying
Project manager at a video game studio. Seriously... the project managers are just friends of other people within the studio at most studios I've worked for. None of them are classicly trained. Most of them are good at lying. I've worked for places outside of the video game industry where those same project managers would have drowned...
#36 The Wedding Planner
A wedding planner or event planner. At the age of 17 (I’ve always looked older than I am) I had a class in design at my high school and one of the projects was to design a fake business card. I ended up actually giving one to this lady at the supermarket who was talking about her wedding, but only as a personal joke between me and my mom who was there with me. A couple of months later, she ended up calling saying her original planner canceled with her. After I realized I could make some money out of it, I was motivated. It was like something out of a movie but I actually managed to pull off an entire wedding all before my high school graduation.
#37 The Marketing Truth
A lazy marketing or PR position in a small-medium company. I'm sure there are excellent people, but I know people who work in the area, and they seem to get away with writing a press release every month or so and sending it to a list of people. Then they ignore your email for the rest of the month. I think the issue is that most companies don't know how to keep their marketing people and agencies in check. The best way is to set up a reporting dashboard and hold them against those KPIs. Or just hire an agency that will always be reporting results as part of their protocol.
#38 Just Keep Publishing
Eh, in the past this was probably true (selling yourself would probably require the same skills as being good at the job), but nowadays, depending on the type of marketing you want to do, it's really metric-based. I work in content marketing (essentially the "just keep publishing" school of thought), and it does require a good understanding of the underlying numbers and SEO rules, plus a good backbone in some basic web development and copywriting skills. There's also a ton more copywriters and graphic designers than there used to be, so those jobs are getting a lot pickier. Now you could definitely lie your way into a social media manager position...
#39 The Best Job Ever
Yep. That’s what I do. Best job ever. There is a level of random outcomes with advertising and every client knows that. If it doesn’t perform as expected there are any number of reasons why it under-delivered. I know someone I work that actually uses the same pitch presentation projection numbers with every client because ultimately it doesn’t matter for small businesses. If they sell a terrible product we can’t change that.
#40 How To Get Promoted
Agile consultant. I accidentally got promoted from an IT development design role to a change management coach. I help craft messages and have meetings about the perception of the project. I got this promotion because I was done with all of my work for the week one random Tuesday. In a moment of boredom, I went to the nearby cube of a director I’m friendly with and asked if he had anything I could help him with. A month or so later, he gave me an official promotion plus pay raise, and I do this stuff full-time for my Fortune 500 company.
#41 Being "Agile"
Companies pay people to come in and tell them how to become "agile," which if they just read about it they could do themselves in an afternoon. Agile is a bit like religion. Going to church every Sunday doesn't make you a good Christian, and having a standup doesn't make you agile. Following preachers is pointless if you don't actually put some work into becoming better. Given enough time, you'll revert to your old ways.
#42 A Yikes Moment
The engineers at my work. They're so bad at their jobs... Once, I saw a blueprint where a moving part was shown to interfere with the legs it sat on. We had to cut off the legs and replace them with legs two inches smaller.
Let me run that by you again. I'm in a line of work where the tolerance is sometimes 1/1000 of an inch. They were off by two inches.
#43 Slipped Through The Cracks
My mom works for a background checking company and she had an applicant for one of her clients who claimed he had an aerospace engineering degree from some well-known university. They called the school to verify his degree and the school didn't even know who the guy was. So the guy subsequently got sued by the school... for forging his degree, it looks like.
#44 Excel Expertise
I became an analyst for a government agency's retail department just because I was good at Excel. I then became a Client Services level 1 operator for them, and within three months I was the most knowledgeable one there. So now they've moved me into Quality Assurance testing everything from website formatting to critical level back-end stuff. I have no degree and everything I know I've learned as I went.
#45 A Suits Moment
When I was 11, my mom divorced her second husband. A while later, when I was 12, she started dating again. She met one of those really nice, charismatic guys and I actually liked him. He was a partner at a large law firm in L.A. He even bought me my first ghi for Taekwondo, shortly after which my mom suddenly cut ties with him. Turns out, he came clean to my mom that he, even after making partner, had not actually gone to law school. he cheated the BAR exam and rose through the ranks on a wave of nonsense. That's the highest level con I have ever seen.
#46 Becoming CTO
I'm somehow the CTO of a multi-billion-dollar company, and I still feel like I have no place being where or doing what I do, constantly. I'm a glorified software developer and reverse engineer who got tired of management being lazy and just started doing what I thought their job was for them with no prior management experience. Now people seem to listen to what I have to say even though half of it is filler nonsense while I try to think about what I actually want to say. A lot of my progress has been due to getting impatient waiting on others and just doing it myself when I see they're not taking time but just procrastinating. I'm not possibly an expert in dozens of fields, I'm just impatient; somehow people view that as being an expert.
#47 It's Easier In India
If you're from India working for a consulting company and you have a fake degree, it seems awfully easy to get a programming job. Americans have to go through a three-stage interview process, but people from India working for these consulting companies get brought on with no verification whatsoever. It's always fun when they can't write a single line of code, nor can they tell me what existing code is doing.
#48 Infiltrating Aerospace
I lied my way into a buyer position at a fairly large aerospace company. I was interviewing for a shipping clerk job. I dropped a few names of companies I have dealt with, the names of a few programs I had experience in, along with some knowledge of operations involved with making airplane parts. Within five months of being hired, I nearly doubled my salary and landed the job as a buyer. All I had was a GED, no college degree, and now get paid to spend the company's money. All in all, pretty good.
#49 About Neil Gaiman
Can’t exactly do this anymore, but Neil Gaiman has on a few occasions told a story about how when he was first interviewing to become a reporter, he lied and said that he’d written for several major publications. Harder to check before the Internet and the guy didn’t bother. Gaiman later made it a point to go and write for all these publications so he could say he didn’t lie, he was “chronologically challenged.”
#50 A Travelling Lie
I did this with my last job sort of. It was a great position so I embellished my experience a little and somehow got hired after the interview. It was a 100% travel job that I just scraped by enough to keep eyes off me, but it eventually caught up to me and was laid off after 2.5 years. The experience I did get from working was huge and it helped me land a similar job, but more cush and much easier.