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Why You Shouldn’t ‘Say Yes and Learn How to Do it Later’

September 3, 2019  |  3 min read

In other words, why you shouldn’t lie in a job application. Our Co-Founder, Emma weighs in.

When it comes to building a business, Sir Richard Branson is always a top example – he started Virgin at just 16 years old and has grown it into the multinational conglomerate we see today. Hats off to you, Rich. 

As a business owner, I’m all for taking advice from one of the most successful entrepreneurs on the planet, but there’s one top tip that I’d advise against…

“If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!”

Sir Richard Branson

Now, at first, I wasn’t sure if this was one of those occasions where someone with a meme generator slapped some words on a celebrity photo (poor Marilyn Monroe, the now meme-queen of misquotes). However, I can confirm, this is a verified Richard Branson quote – it’s on his Twitter, blue tick and everything.

The sentiment of these words is brave and even admirable to a degree – it says that you shouldn’t be held back by what you know right now and instead, you should be confident in your own ability and what you know you can achieve in the future. I think we’re all on board with that sentiment. However, managing BOWER and working with candidates and businesses every day, it’s a strategy that’s almost guaranteed to cause absolute chaos – here’s why…

First of all, it’s dishonest

In interviews, honesty is something that people list as one of their main core values (ironically, just like Virgin), positioning themselves as a trustworthy, all-round good human. Which is great, if they act upon it. If you’re applying for a new role and you’re given that opportunity, you want to get off on the right foot with your conscience still in-tact. 

You only make things harder for yourself

Even if an opportunity looks amazing on paper, will it really be a great opportunity if you can’t live up to it? I can’t think of anything more stressful than saying yes to something I can’t do, lying about it, then spending all my time frantically trying to learn the basics and cover my tracks. Who wants that? 

Not only do you make things harder for yourself, you could potentially be missing out on something great. If you’re honest, you could be put in a role where you could really excel, with a plan to move into a more senior position with training and development. Instead of panicking, you can breathe easy and grow your skills over time. 

Trust me when I say, the best candidates are those who are honest about their skillset but show a positive attitude and present how they can get there with certain steps that they’ve actively considered and researched. That’s impressive. 

Lies are hard work

“Sorry, I can’t come to your third hen-do celebration this year, it’s my Great-Aunt Dorothy’s 80th birthday party” – if you’ve ever told a white lie, you’ll know that over time, it grows arms and legs and somewhere down the line, you respond with ‘who?’ when your friend asks how Great-Aunt Dot’s getting on. Try explaining that photo with the random elderly lady in front of those big 8-0 balloons you brought to the pub. 

When you’re dishonest about your skills, it’s going to come out in one way or another, probably sooner rather than later. If you’re just upfront and honest from the get-go, you can avoid a few very awkward conversations, a bruised reputation and a whole load of stress.

Sometimes, it can feel like a great opportunity only comes once in a lifetime, but if you make the right impression with the right people, that opportunity will come back around when you’re really ready to take it on. Or, they think so highly of you that they want you to start anyway (which happens a lot more than you’d think). Patience, time and perseverance are a powerful trio – when a great opportunity that’s a little beyond your current ability comes around, my advice would always be to say yes, and show how you can excel at it later. You never know what could happen. 

What are your thoughts on Richard Branson’s famous quote?

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