Fake It 'Til You Make It

Fake It 'Til You Make It

We choose to invest in college as a means for investing in our future. Although we spend what feels like four trillion dollars on course materials, the things we end up learning in the process aren’t all textbook.

Sure, we may gain a few bullet points to decorate the space under headings on our CV and we may learn how to seamlessly pull all-nighters, but did all those economics courses teach me how to keep myself from spending too much money on shoes? Did my senior capstone course end with an “ah ha!” moment? 

During my four years of college, did I receive a how-to guide titled “Falling for a Swedish Boy and Moving to Sweden”?

Not quite.

Now ten months after it was confirmed that my really expensive brain had earned me a nice family dinner and a shiny document signed by my university’s president, I’m finally realizing that college really just readied our greatest assets to brave the storm of the real world.

We are creative. We are flexible. We have energy.

And we now more than ever, we have the green light to fake it ‘til we make it.  

When I moved to Sweden last June, I had to find some sort of job where I could use my skills as a native English speaker until I could learn enough Swedish to become marketable. When that position didn’t immediately exist, I decided to create my own. I didn’t study anything like education, and I honestly didn’t pay much attention in my Entrepreneurship class, but it was pretty vital that I improvise, so I started a small English tutoring company. I registered with the tax office, created a Facebook page, threw up some flyers around town and subsequently landed my first set of students.

I thought that as a tutor I would help some kids with their English homework and revise some papers, but when all three of my first students came to me looking for individual lesson plans and additional teaching, I thought, “Well, here we go.”

The first phone call I received was from a father of a 12 year-old girl whose Swedish school had just merged with an English school, and all of her courses had basically changed teaching languages over night. The family was thrown for a loop, and in times of change, people tend to take a chance, so they took a chance on me.

Before the first session, I had crippling thoughts about feeling ill-prepared. I speak English, but how do I possibly keep this girl interested beyond weekly vocabulary words and makeshift worksheets? So I got creative and challenged her to do the same. She’s now written an impressive Christmas story that we’ve self-published and gifted to her family for the holidays. She’s ten times more confident than when we started in October; just last week, her younger sister started joining our sessions too.

Talk about making it.

My students have ranged from ages nine to 28, hailing from a mix of countries including Russia, Kenya, Sweden and Georgia. With the randomness of the operation, I’ve learned that transparency and flexibility go a long way. Every “homemade” lesson plan, every teaching session and every confusing document I receive from the Swedish Tax office, I’m still figuring it out as I go.  It’s kind of been like the best metaphor for adulthood.

This piece of life is new. These jobs we are trying to land are new. I ask myself every day what that degree in economics really prepared me for. I happen to be trying to figure it all out thousands of miles across the Atlantic, but as a fellow member of the post-grad trenches, I can say that we are all more capable than we give ourselves credit for. My degree prepared me to believe in that.

Don’t stress about the specifics. When questioning your capabilities, I’m learning it’s best to jump in and imitate confidence until we begin to believe in our successes. Some of the best things are initially unplanned. The tutoring company definitely isn’t forever, but the mantra just might be. Be creative. Be flexible.

And even if you don’t really know what you’re doing, you can still give a performance that people will never forget.

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