The Job

Yesterday was one of those days – what should have taken three hours took seven. A huge chunk of that time was spent in crazy traffic and maneuvering road blocks (thankfully none of it due to any tragic accidents). By the time I got home last night I was ready to just veg in front of the TV.

As I flipped through the stations I landed on a show called The Job. The Job is a reality show (big surprise there right?) where contestants compete against each other in various assignments then answer a series of questions relevant to the industry. All this in hopes of landing their Dream Job. Last night five contestants were competing for a job as assistant editor at Cosmopolitan.

I only caught the last twenty minutes of the show. When I turned it on contestants were being judged on their ability to interact with people on the street, snap their picture and write a caption for the photo. I was stunned at the typos made by  a couple of the editorial assistant hopefuls. Yep, I make lots of writing errors and my blog writing is not all that it should be, but I’m not applying for an assistant editor job at one of the world’s top-selling magazines either. I know my limits.

Towards the end of the show each applicant was asked three different questions. I can imagine how nerve-wracking such an interview would be. On national television  AND under the scrutiny of your competitors? I’d be nervous and might forget answers to simple questions too.

Aside from the blatant misspellings in the simple photo captions (a huge bomb for an applicant of such a position if you ask me) contestants were unable to answer all three of their questions correctly. Now, no one knows everything but these questions seemed to be pretty basic for someone applying for the job of assistant editor at Cosmo. I would think these contestants would be the type to read Cosmo cover to cover every month and definitely be up on all the latest celebrity news, fashion trends and sex positions.  I’d also think they would have a basic understanding of what editors do, so for them not to be able to answer these questions or correct a couple of sentences in their captions was pretty surprising to me.

But this isn’t  about the contestants and their lack of editing skills or knowledge of fashion terms.  It’s about what Joanna Coles told one of the contestants who answered a question with “I don’t know”.

Joanna Coles is Editor in Chief of Cosmopolitan. Obviously she is a highly intelligent, hard-working, extremely successful, fierce woman who knows her stuff. I would love an opportunity to pick her brain, but the advice she gave to a contestant last night blew me away:

“Fake it till you make it.”

When the contestant, Rachel, answered “I don’t know” to this pressing question: What actor divorced Scarlett Johansson in 2011 only to marry Blake Lively one year later? I thought – good for you. I liked that she admitted she didn’t know. I especially liked it because the previous contestant, Kristina, gave an answer to “Chignon is a style of what?” that was so wrong it could have only been a random guess  – she answered India and the correct answer was hair style. Now I would think France would have been a better guess, but perhaps she was thinking back to her AP World History classes and quickly recalled the French colonialism of India – I get that, but by the look on her face, she really had no idea what it was and just gave any old answer. Well, apparently giving a wrong answer is much better than confessing your ignorance on a topic.

During an elimination round of the show, contestants were judged on their answers.  I thought for sure Joanna would have told Rachel something like “Rachel, I liked that you stated you didn’t know the answer to the question. It isn’t necessary for someone to know everything, it is important to be able to admit when you don’t know something but to always be willing and able to find the correct answer, so kudos to you for not throwing out a random answer.” Well, okay -Joanna probably would have said it more eloquently than that.

Was I surprised when this professional, regal like woman slightly reprimanded Rachel and told her:

“Rachel,  I was disappointed that you didn’t even guess – fake it till you make it.”

I’m all for exuding confidence under stressful circumstances, practicing positive affirmations, promoting your best skills and dressing the part of whatever it is you want to be when you grow up.  I’m a believer in the “fake it till you make it” philosophy in an “if you dream it you can be it” kind of way.  But in this particular case I found the advice to be troublesome.

There are plenty of fakes in this world already. What we are more people who won’t tell you what you want to hear just to make a few bucks, someone who is confident enough to admit they don’t know the answer. And by the way –  would you really want someone working for you who might be willing to mislead a client, or millions of readers in this case, simply to look good? I mean can you imagine the devastating impact on journalism as a whole if it were reported in the pages of Cosmo that Kim Kardashian was seen gallivanting through NYC in a pair of Manolo Blahniks only to find out they were last seasons Jimmy Choos?

Second, I worry about the message this might have sent the teen-aged to twenty something girls (or guys) with their own hopes of landing their dream job someday. I havent done my research on the demographics for this show, but I know plenty of young girls who might have tuned in to that particular episode. Regardless of  who the target audience is, to tell thousands of viewers that it’s far better to fake it and give a wrong answer than admit your lack of knowledge only promotes the idea that lying and cheating is an acceptable way to make it in this world; What you say doesn’t matter as long as you say it like you mean it.

I suppose I’m making way too big of a deal out of this. I might be old-fashioned. Maybe  I need to step into the new way of thinking, get with the program of the new millennium. Is it possible that integrity and honesty doesn’t really matter any more? Could it be true that telling a lie is better than admitting a small, fixable fault? I guess, judging from all the corporate scandals we’ve seen in the last several years, the fall of political personalities, the scandalous behavior that continues to get offenders rewarded with book deals and their own reality TV shows, not to mention the law suits against pharmaceutical companies for misrepresentation of sub par medical products it’s true – far better to cover up your mistakes or lack of knowledge with a lie than to be woman enough to admit when you just aren’t sure about something.

Many years ago faking it till you made it was frowned upon.

Milli Vanilli "In Motion"
Milli Vanilli “In Motion” (Photo credit: Lance McCord) taken from Flicker 

Just a thought…

And by the way, for those of you who don’t follow celebrity news, the answer to the earlier mentioned question was Ryan Reynolds. And no, I didn’t know that, nor did I know a chignon was a hair style. Silly me.


  1. This is a great post. I never heard of that show but it sounds right up my ally, until you said the part about “faking it until you make it.” A good quote when it comes to, say, dealing with family members, but definitely not in journalism. A good writer always presents the truth. It always aggravates me, reading an article that is unprofessional and some times there isn’t even a proper ending and it’s obvious it was written by a young person who was “faking it.”

    That said, I’m so not a fan of Cosmopolitan. It’s one of those magazines my friends and I refer to as the “how to give your boyfriend a blow job magazine” — with zero substance. (That said, it was cool in the 1970s when I was too young to know any better). I think young women today would be much better off reading Bitch or Bust, mags with a more feminist edge. I’m still hoping for a good magazine for women my age (49) because More is the worst.

    But back to you — definitely great point! I loved this, Marie 🙂


    • Thank you so much Maryanne. I think there is a time to “fake it” but definitely not in a job interview and definitely not as a journalist.(true Cosmo isn’t hard hitting journalism – but still) I have been asked question I didn’t know the answer to in a couple of job interviews and I simply said I wasn’t sure, but explained what I would do to find out. And I got both those jobs. Joanna’s “Fake it till you make it” really bothered me. Glad to know someone out there agrees with me.
      Thanks for reading!


  2. Great post – My dad always advised us as kids that if we did not know something it was better to keep quiet and be thought a fool by some rather than prove to everyone that we were.

    You are totally right – there is far too much fake in this world already.


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