There was a time when people thought that the idea of Donald Trump running for president of the United States was pretty funny. Whenever primary season would roll around, he’d muse out loud about the possibility of injecting himself into the plodding parade of candidates seeking endorsements, and the pundits would just eat it up. A little bit of comic relief. Nobody really expected anything to come of it.

Then one day, Trump declared that he was running to become the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. The pundits smirked. Obviously this was just another way to drum up some free advertising for whatever pet project he had on the go – a line of menswear, a golf course or two, maybe another brand of steaks. Some called it a form of “performance art.Satire come to life. By the time the primaries were well under way, they argued, he’d take his free publicity and start another season of The Apprentice, and that would be that.

Which seemed like a perfectly reasonable assumption, since everything about Donald Trump and his run for the presidency seemed fake.

Fake audiences

When, for instance, he announced his candidacy for president on June 16, 2015, Trump was greeted by a crowd of enthusiastic supporters – most of whom turned out to be actors he had hired for $50 each. Not that he was the first politician to do this. As Dan Schneider noted in The Atlantic, hiring audiences is quite common among political wannabes: “Phony support can generate buzz and media coverage of their campaign—which in turn could theoretically morph into real support, as voters start to hear more about the candidate.”

It worked.


Fake populist

As the primaries progressed, Trump presented himself as the champion of the working class, a straight-talking every-man disgusted with American companies outsourcing jobs and importing foreign workers – despite the fact that he himself ensured that his lines of apparel, home, and hotel items were produced overseas, while his luxurious private club in south Florida, Mar-a-Lago, was staffed “almost exclusively with imported foreign workers.” It wasn’t even a secret. The New York Times, Washington Post, and CNN – among many others – were always more than happy to point out how fake his concern for the working class really was.

And yet, again, it worked. By the end of the primaries he had decimated his sixteen competitors. According to Politifact, Trump, with almost 14 million votes, “set the record for the most GOP primary votes ever.” Somehow he had managed to convince a stunningly large amount of poor, dispossessed Americans that he – a bombastic, narcissistic billionaire with an enigmatic helmet of fake orange hair – was the key to their salvation.

The art of the fake

Then, as the general election got underway, reports of Trump’s fakery continued to make the news: he had fronted a fake university; he had called into radio shows and faked being his own agent; he had faked being a philanthropist, and in fact hadn’t put a cent into his charitable organization since 2008.

But by mid-August his raucous rallies were reportedly drawing in tens of thousands of people. And they weren’t actors anymore. Through sheer force of will Trump had catapulted himself into a position where he was one of only two people with the opportunity to rule over the most powerful country in the world.

Clearly, if there’s one thing Donald Trump has proven to us all, it’s that FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT is the strategy of winners.

Donald Trump victory speech

Not so fast!

But before you start making hyperbolic assertions to potential employers about how you and only you can fix their businesses – while simultaneously attempting to insult them into giving you a job – there are a few things you should keep in mind.

The fact that you’re on Workopolis right now looking for employment (or career advice) indicates that you’re probably not among the 1%, unlike Donald Trump. You probably haven’t inherited an already thriving multi-million dollar business from your father, nor are you able to afford the best accountants money can buy – thereby using bankruptcy laws to avoid paying taxes while still raking in millions.

When it comes to the 99% of us stuck living in the REAL world, “faking it” is often a guaranteed path to unemployment. Sure, sometimes a little role-playing can go a long way. As acting coach Susan J. Burych points out, timid or self-doubting people often find that assuming a confident exterior – “and I hate to say this, but they need to have an exterior like Donald Trump” – can be a great way to diminish shyness and increase confidence. But when it comes to asserting that you’re capable of doing something that you’re absolutely NOT capable of doing – whether writing code, performing heart bypass surgery, or defusing a bomb – that’s just not a good idea. Sooner or later that sort of thing is going to catch up with you.

As for Donald Trump: a lot of people still assert that his ultimate goal has always been to lose the election and use the unprecedented amount of free press he’s received to land himself a massively lucrative deal – maybe even start his own television network. If so, it wouldn’t be the first time that someone fakes it to make a killing off of the American people.

For the rest of us, our success might just have to get down to a little bit of courage, a whole lot of skill, and a great big dose of integrity – although it also doesn’t hurt to have a couple really good connections.