Should I pretend to know more than I do at work?


I am a junior architect with 2 years of experience. As a young professional, there are many work-related things I do not know. Is it better to ask questions whenever I have them? Or just pretend I know things? I always do my research before asking questions, but there are still many things I do not know or do not understand..... Would it picture me stupid by asking questions? I know some senior levels who assumes those things are "common sense"...which makes no sense....

Oct 10, 16 11:43 am

always ask questions -" fake until you make it" doesn't work in this profession - you will get fired -

Oct 10, 16 11:45 am

Always ask. It paints you as taking the initiative, not stupid.

Unless you're not asking the right questions, but I'm guessing that isn't the case with a couple years experience.

Oct 10, 16 12:01 pm

I went the old apprenticeship / work experience equivalency route. As Xenakis stated above, "fake it til you make it" will catch up to you. Ask questions, you'll find that experienced co-workers have no issues sharing information. Just remember as years progress, do the same for the youngsters you are leading. There is simply way too much information to possibly know in one lifetime. How many senior staff do you see going around asking questions? All of them. Learning never ends.

Oct 10, 16 12:06 pm
Wood Guy

Definitely ask question, but there is an art to it. Try to consolidate your questions into a list and ask them all at once, instead of bugging your manager every time something comes up. Whenever possible, have a proposed solution, even if you think that your solution is probably wrong.

Oct 10, 16 12:13 pm

^ Agreed! Great answer

Oct 10, 16 12:46 pm

Always ask questions. I pretend I know less than i (think) I do, just so I can get other people's thoughts and ideas.

There is usually more than 3 ways to skin a cat in this profession so it's good to hear how others would do it.


If there is a specific problem with a project or building, I like to go to my supervisor and say "I have a couple solutions to this problem i noticed - what do you want to do?"

Oct 10, 16 12:51 pm

Just make sure the people you ask questions to aren't the fake-it-til-you-make-its.... 

Oct 11, 16 10:28 am
Non Sequitur

Why ask questions to your boss when you can just get it for free and without repercussion by using Yahoo Answers or Archinect (if you get us on a good day)?

Oct 11, 16 10:36 am
x intern
Couple of things
Don't ask the same questions over and over.
And don't run to the top all the time. Ask the people around you.
Difficult in a small firm but if midsize you probably don't need to bother the partners unless you've asked around and no one else knows.
Oct 11, 16 10:40 am

You should always ask.  But not until you've exhausted other outlets.  When you do ask, explain that you've not encountered the situation.  Have a proposed answer.  That way it is known that you, at least, tried. 

I run into a lot of situations where people don't know the questions to ask.  Then they just give up and do something else, leaving the work for another person.  Don't be that person.  Ask.  But when you do ask, retain the answer and learn from it.  Repeatedly asking similar questions isn't going to look good. 

Oct 11, 16 10:43 am

Part of asking questions is knowing when to ask the questions, what questions to ask, and who to ask. My assumption is that those who don't ask anymore did at one time, but weren't able to figure out one of those aspects very well and didn't get good answers ... so they've stopped asking.

What percentage of the profession do you estimate is the fake-it-until-you-make-it type?

I'd put it at around 30-40%. Then there is another 20-30% that just do what was done last time. Which leaves around 30-50% of people willing to ask the questions and figure stuff out.

Oct 11, 16 11:30 am

at least 70% faking it.

asking good questions is a good point.  it's worth spending time thinking about how you want to present the question you have.  also, depending on the question, think about how to use few words to say a lot.  keep it simple, even if it's a complicated problem.  if your question becomes a rambling conversation, not much will come of it.

Oct 11, 16 1:18 pm

Humility isn't a bad thing.  I'm pushing 25 years of experience and do a lot of quality control in our firm.  Yet I don't know everything and continue to learn.  I've even gone to young PA's whom I know researched a similar condition on other projects and asked them to show me what they learned and how they solved the problem.  I also routinely soundboard 'grey matter' solutions to others on the team to discuss various interpretation perspectives before deciding the coarse of direction.

It is also through these discussions that I can pass on my experiences and learn from theirs.

Oct 11, 16 1:18 pm
First, great question.

Second, I too was a junior architect, and I sat in a meeting with a vendor and one of our principals, and the principal asked what I thought was a fairly obvious question. I was perplexed as to why, when the answer seemed so obvious. I thought about the question, trying to understand, for a couple of days, I didn't ask the principal, I wanted to work it out on my own, as to the why. It finally came to me, he asked, because he didn't want to assume anything, that I had the answer, that the vendor had the answer, he wanted to make sure that there was clarity in the expectations. Because of the answer he'd heard, didn't align with the expectations, that would offer the opportunity to review and clarify.

Ask, don't assume.

I've worked in environments where people expected you to know, and they made you feel stupid if you didn't. That feeling is debilitating.
Oct 11, 16 1:39 pm

I think asking an open ended question that is flattering to the one being asked works. Like, "Can you show me how this works?" It also helps you find out who is helpful and on top of stuff and who is not.

Do not ask questions that point out others errors, like "Have you been using the wrong code this whole time?"

I'm a teacher too. There are no such things as wrong questions. There are less good questions, and annoying questions, and you only get a few of those...

Oct 11, 16 2:10 pm

curtkram, that's about what my initial thought was, 70%. However, I think there is a distinction with "faking it" and that is that you know you don't know something, but make it up anyway. That's why I separated out those who just blindly do what they did last time ... they may not know they are "faking it" because it worked last time. They may not even know that what was done last time was being faked to begin with.

The question then is, what happens when what they did last time doesn't work? If the majority of the time they will just fake a new answer rather than figuring it out, then my numbers end up being about 50-70% people are just faking it.

Oct 11, 16 2:27 pm
Erik Evens (EKE)

The worst thing you can do as a young architect is to pretend you know things.  I learn something new and valuable every single day. 

Oct 12, 16 8:15 pm

You should be asking questions. Having said that, biting off more than you can chew, and having to deal with the repercussions, will force you to think differently to get yourself out of the predicament. Live dangerously, I guess. (Don't take my advice, I don't think).

Oct 13, 16 1:41 am
Olaf Design Ninja_

i just annoyed every employer i had. like 20 questions every few hours....but after 5-7 years experience I pretty much knew as much as someone with 20. i was thrown into the fire - still my favorite story - after only 9 months experience and 6 months unemployment - got a job. boss goes "hey did the draftsman show up?" i go "i thought I was the draftsman." boss "no, project manager." i go "but i do not even have a year experience." boss "project manager." me "ok". came in an hour early and left 2 hours later for like 2 years......nearly all young firms that fail fake it and they usually do not make it beyond say conceptual collab bullshit

Oct 13, 16 7:26 am

My favorite question asked of me, with about two weeks experience: 

"Do you listen to Rush Limbaugh?"

Me: "Who?" (I think for a bit, make a face when I conjure up who that is, then add, "No, of course not. Why?"

Response: middle aged man giggles and "never mind." Implied response - you maybe should if you know what the boss likes -? (IDK, just guessing). First indication I was in the wrong place, shoulda left town right then.

Does Rush Limbaugh still exist? I live outside that vacuum now!

Oct 13, 16 8:49 am
Olaf Design Ninja_

google Rush Limbaughs Bedroom. quite the interior design.

Oct 13, 16 9:01 pm

A contractor called me today about a wall assembly I'd designed. A contractor with 40 years experience, calling me (5 years experience) to better understand it. He didn't have to call, but he did, and that's why he's one of the best - open to new ideas even after decades of experience, and not assuming he knows better than anybody else. That goes a long way to building good reputations.

Oct 13, 16 11:10 pm
Non Sequitur
I wish I had your problem bowling. I had a contractor core a 4" diameter hole in a precast panel earlier this week when a perfectly good block wall was 8" away.
Oct 13, 16 11:16 pm
Thank you all for your great answers! Thank you for sharing your own stories!
Feb 5, 17 9:25 pm

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