Jump to content
I Forge Iron

Imposter syndrome? Or "Fake it till you make it"?


Recommended Posts

I had a conversation with a client a while back that was very thought-provoking.  He's working at a General Contractor as a Project Manager / Estimator.  Without question, this gent is more successful than at least a dozen past hires at this firm.  He's not only landing profitable work, he's delivering the jobs on time and on budget.  As with most stuff, there are a few qualifiers that matter.  He's primarily working with repeat clients who typically have a committee that makes decisions.  There doesn't seem to be much evidence to suggest that he's actually competing against other contractors for the bids.  That being said, he's actually able to get some of the most indecisive client committees to sign contracts and generally get things done.

Yet he feely tells me that he feels like an imposter since he lacks any sort of formal training, or even relevant past work experience in construction.  

I have the dubious distinction of having worked for quite a few clients who didn't know what they were doing.  It's my considered opinion that most of the people working in Construction Management are doing more harm than good even as they follow industry best practices.  

There's a whole lot of seasoned professionals with unshakable confidence in their conviction that nobody can be trusted. Every particle of their bureaucracy is finely tuned to generate frustrating and costly snags.

Conversely, there are a whole lot of rookies out there "faking it till they make it", by presenting an air of confidence they don't actually  feel.  A whole lot of them don't want to make a mistake, so they try to buffalo the world with endless and mindless demands for "more information".  Every request for greater detail is a transparent attempt to find a gigantic arrow to point them in a safe direction.  These folks call lots of meetings where everyone participates, but nobody does anything.

Then there's my client who seems to build trusting relationships everywhere he goes.  I don't know how he's avoiding the crooks and the fools, but somehow he's finding his way through.  He doesn't seem to get pushed around by the clients either.  

It certainly re-frames the concept of an imposter for me.

What do you think?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 59
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Posted Images

Reminds me of my baby brother. Was a carpenter building window displays for Nordstroms. Someone heard a rumor that he knew computers, He was asked, "can you troubleshoot my cash register?" "Sure", he lied. His previous experience was hacking and vandalizing network equipment.  He went on to become a bonified IT executive in the corporation.  I think your client could be a top gear operator.  Let the pudding prove itself by long lasting consistently fine flavor. You have good taste, methinks...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I dunno, i get fake it types that come by the shop asking for work occasionally,

they all show up telling some cockamamie story about their experience, knowledge and capabilities, 

I give them an interview, then I ask basic mechanic questions to feel them out, it doesn’t take long to realize when someone is blowing smoke with generic answers, 

im usually short handed around here, so I’ll usually take em on wether I think there lying or not, 

i then have a series of (tests) that I put them through, they don’t realize it but some of the most menial tasks I ask them to perform tells me everything I need to know

its ridiculous to see how far some people will try an bluff, thinking I’m not watching or timing them, wasting my dime, 

those types don’t usually last long, I don’t ever fire them they just give up an quit, 

personelly I prefer the ones that show up an say I know absolutely nothing about this but I need a paycheck an am willing to learn, their easier to work with an they don’t have a chip on their shoulder keeping them from asking for help

im not saying bluffing your way into a bid is a bad thing,

I’d be a hypocrite though if I said I’d never told someone (sure I can fix it!) even though I didn’t have experience with their particular problem, lol :ph34r: 

That being said, I’m honest with my customers and I do tell them it might take me a bit of time to figure it out because I haven’t seen that particular issue before

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think there are degrees of faking it.  If I was asked by a County Commissioner "Do we have the authority to do X?" I might be able to say yes or no right then and there but I might have to say, "I'm not sure and be able to quickly research the issue because I am familiar with that body of law."  On the other hand, if I was asked something about patent law I'd have to say that we needed to ask someone who specializes in that area, like Slag (BTW has anyone heard from Slag lately?  I hope he is OK.  I don't think he has posted in several months.) who is a patent attorney.  There are other areas where I might give an answer that is an educated guess (kind of faking it) and go back later and double check my answer.  I've been doing things in my area of experise long enough that my educated guesses are usually correct but occasionally I have to revise what I said.

I think real "faking it" is giving an air of confidence when you don't have the knowledge or abilities to actually back it up.  Works better at cocktail parties or when you are trying to impress someone of the opposite gender but not so well in a situation where you will eventually have to deliver.

Where it can go really bad is in internet dating.  If you lie about something, age, education, financial status you can bet you will be eventually found out.  One lie will be inconsistent with other facts and you can't keep all the balls in the air all the time.  When I met Madelynn on eHarmony I could have probably gotten away with knocking 10-15 years off my age but then it would have appeared that I had gone to Viet Nam when I was 12.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, George N. M. said:

(BTW has anyone heard from Slag lately?  I hope he is OK.

Me too. Perhaps a pm is in order.  Works for me...

Served in Vietnam at age 12 ought to be a bust, but let us quickly U-turn as regards online dating...

Robert

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sounds to me like what I call a "knack" for the work. I've met guys with a natural talent even ability to do something they've never done. I've k nown a lot more who have acreditation or and degrees in a field with virtually no ability to perform. Sometimes a person just sees a logic to a task that isn't apparent to most. 

It sounds like our example is a personable fellow who had a natural knack for putting clients together with arguments that make sense to them. When he confesses to you it's probably because he's feeling trapped by the role he's made for himself. He's no doubt able to do higher level work with a little coaching. 

Often folk with real confidence they know what they're doing are untrainable one trick ponies. On the other hand some are convinced they're no good at (X) and live the self fulfilling prophecy without trying to get better.

Faking it till you make it is a tool, like any tool isn't good or bad in and of itself, it's how it's used that's good or bad. 

Some crafts faking it till you make it is a legitimate practice, dog training in particular. You may have to deal with a strange dog, a scary or unruly one yu don't k now how to deal with. What do you do? You present yourself to the dog like you ARE THE one. YOU assume ownership of the area the dog is in. No matter how you feel, I've had to pretend not to be pants wetting scared a couple times. It works so long as you keep up the act until the dog accepts it as fact. 

That it works on people isn't really surprising and as long as the "faker" is honest enough to seek help or pass the problem to someone who can handle it, they're not bad guys.

Make sense?

Frosty The Lucky.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lots of very thoughtful replies here, thank you all!

Anachronist, your brother reminds me of so many people in my past.  They had a willingness to make themselves useful, which tended to make them irreplaceable.

Twisted, I can appreciate your "trust but verify" approach with people.  A lot of rookies don't present themselves too well.  It's rewarding to have that trust pay off with a good worker/client/colleague.

George, I can't begin to express how often I gauge the abilities of an expert by their willingness to check what they think they know.  It has to be said that all too many experts upset their clients with a tendency to answer according to their specialist interests rather than providing a useful answer to their client.  

Frosty,  I appreciate how you fleshed out the acceptable "faking it" against the "Knack" for seeing what matters.  I harp on about "clarity of purpose" because I see a ton of situations where people insist on bureaucratic best practices in lieu of thinking things through.  

JHCC, that's an exceptionally elegant summation.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No, an "expert" is some SOB with a brief case who lives at least 50 miles away.

As opposed to Irondragon's definition there is also the generalist who studies less and less about more and more until they know nothing about everything. ;-) 

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand."

PS Rockstar, that reminds me of a joke about the guy in a hot air balloon who gets disoriented and goes down low to ask someone on the ground for directions.  When he sees a guy on the ground the calls down, "Where am i?"  The groundling replies, "You're in a balloon."  The baloonist answers, "You must be a lawyer."  Says the guy on the ground, "Why, yes.  How did you know?"  "Because you gave me an answer which was absolutely correct but also absolutely useless."

:D GNM

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not quite, the really dangerous ones know just enough to be dangerous. What they don't know is how dangerous they are.

I'm sure my numbers are off but close. For the first 3 years after earing their license pilots are very safe from 3-7 is the age when most pilot error wrecks happen after 7 pilots have matured and aren't so confident so they double check everything just like new pilots. 

Frosty The Lucky.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

13 hours ago, Frosty said:

Not quite, the really dangerous ones know just enough to be dangerous

  We called them loose cannons in one of the shops I worked at.  You know within 5 minutes of talking to one.  Either going to get hurt or destroy something no matter what you do or say.  Management or shop floor, they broadcast it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I forget where I read this, but there was an article some years back where the author identified phases of career development as it pertains to cooperation in the workplace. The first phase isn't very productive for the firm because both the new hire and their superior spend more time finding and fixing mistakes than other phases.  The second phase was the "sweet spot" where the apprentice and the master are constantly building on their stride to where they get incredible amounts done.  The third phase marked a turning point where the apprentice becomes skillful enough that they want to "make their own mark" on the work.  This leads to conflict, as well as an increase in mistake largely over who does what, when, and why.  Getting through the third phase is tough because the newly minted journeyman needs opportunities to advance, right when they're prone to making costly mistakes.  The fourth phase is when they've learned enough from their costly mistakes that they can take on their own apprentice.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

  Has anyone ever had their talent's abused or been taken advantage of and been helpless to do anything about it?  For some people there may be no "sweet spot".  

Edited by Nodebt
Fix a thing
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 4/27/2022 at 7:18 PM, George N. M. said:

No, an "expert" is some SOB with a brief case who lives at least 50 miles away.

I always thought "X" was the algebraic expression of the unknown and a "spurt" is a drip under pressure. Ergo an X spurt is an unknown drip under pressure.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 5/5/2022 at 1:50 PM, Nodebt said:

For some people there may be no "sweet spot". 

First 11 years of my career were like that. I was always free to walk away and find work elsewhere - which I eventually did - the next job was much worse.  Short of 12 months, and I was gone. 

I have met many people who felt trapped in their jobs, but the need to pay the bills and feed the family are strong incentives to remain in an 'intolerable' job...

Robert Taylor

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, a paycheck and benefits can become a set of "golden handcuffs" which make it difficult to break out of a situation which has become unpleasant.  I have known plenty of folk, myself included, who have stayed or tolerated bad situations because the alternative looked worse.  Sometimes it is other folks' expectations that send people into situations they would not choose for themselves.  I knew people in law school who were there because of their parents expected them to be there.  Or partners/spouses who expect/demand certain things.  Or a feeling that you must provide for your children at a certain level (usually the maximum possible).

That said, exploitation, like abuse, takes two people.  A person may decide to tolerate it because the alternative seems worse.  This is not an uncommon dynamic is careers or relationships.

"By hammer and hand all arts do stand." 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...