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Why Being Your (Super) Self is Better Than Being Professional

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You probably hear the phrase “just be yourself” more often than you like.

But being yourself is hard, right? In a competitive world where people seem to work their way up the ladder by being professional and perfect for the job, is it really smart to be your goofy or sarcastic self? Didn’t all those other successful people drop those characteristics to get ahead?

When it comes to succeeding in the digital age, being yourself is what it’s all about. It’s not about who you think you should be to impress others, it’s about being your – buzzword alert – authentic self. You may not be perfect, but no one actually is. In fact, that’s what’s so great about personal branding: you’re better off being yourself than being perfect.

Figure out who you are

Yet to be yourself, you have to figure out who you actually are. It may not be easy, but it’s critical for establishing your personal brand.

There’s obviously a fine line between being rude and being honest with what you think and how you feel. Tread that line carefully, but at the end of the day, voice your opinions without worrying about what other people think of them – that’s the type of confidence that’s missing these days.

Don’t be afraid to speak your mind, no matter how crazy it might be. Don’t be ashamed to admit at the next dinner party that you think all of the pomp and circumstance is a bit unnecessary, or that you think the food could be better.

Pride yourself on being different

When a potential employer is sifting through a pile of resumes on his desk, which one is he going to remember the most? The one with the green cover letter that has your name and credentials in big silver font, or the one that’s printed in standard Times New Roman on an expensive piece of cardstock like all of the other resumes?

Now, if you’re not the type of person who would get enjoyment out of sending a green resume to someone, then don’t do it! Do things because you want to, not because you think you need to.

By being yourself, you stand out from the crowd and become more memorable. That offensive joke you told at a party may have upset a few folks, but others may have loved it and thought you to be truly creative and worth keeping around, simply because you speak your mind.

By trying to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. Stick to your guns and do things a little differently from time to time. Remember, what will help people remember you is just that: you.

Don’t rehearse your next speech

If you’ve ever had to go into an interview or give a speech, I can almost guarantee you practiced a little bit beforehand (read: a LOT). Stop that right now. Stop practicing your interview techniques. Stop practicing your speeches. Stop trying to prepare for how you think you should sound when giving a presentation.

If you don’t feel ready for the presentation, you shouldn’t try and memorize what you’re going to say. Instead, learn more about what you’re presenting. By understanding who you are and what you’re speaking about, you’ll have a lot more confidence to go into an interview or conference room and simply talk. Talking about what you’re an expert in shouldn’t be difficult, so long as you let your authentic self shine through.

Rethink that dress code

Finally, how should you dress when you go out to meet people? A suit may give off an air of professionalism, but it doesn’t always communicate who you are as a person. Since whether you’re likeable is what really matters when you meet someone, don’t wear something or be something that you’re not.

Wear the clothes that you feel the most comfortable in, and ignore anyone who says you should dress “nicer.” If nice clothes don’t help you achieve anything other than feeling nervous and antsy, then don’t wear them. The trick is to just be you. That means that if you’re a jeans and polo shirt kind of guy, then by all means, go for it.

Althaf Ahmed is an S.E.O. Consultant and the co-founder of Social Hacks, a blog containing eight distinct yet related topics that affect our everyday lives as social beings.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • Michael O’Mahony

    Hi Althaf, I agree with you. We all have our own unique identity and it is the differences between people that makes life interesting. If we were all clones of each other, how boring life would be. We should be ourselves, enjoy what we do and be comfortable within ourselves. Regards, Michael.

    • Althaf Ahmed

      Hello Michael,

      Thank you for your thoughts. Yes indeed, being unique pays off big. It may cause hurdles on the way, but the outcome will surely be positive.

      Althaf

  • Beth aka/ The Career Stylist

    I agree with the essence of this article- it is so important to discover who we are + create fulfilling work from the ‘inside out’ as opposed to chasing the dream job we ‘think’ we should have which is all about an ‘outside-in’ approach. When we follow our passions + create work that engages us, we light up + get into our unique ‘groove’- our experience of work transforms + we experience the joy of really LOVE WHAT WE DO!

  • http://twitter.com/SandraWorldwide Sandra Worldwide101

    Like the post! In a world where everyone always seems to be trying to be someone else – it’s refreshing. I believe there is so much more that comes through than what we say or how we dress. Social intelligence? Human rapport and kindness? all that comes through when we are true to ourselves. Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/edsiusa EDSI

    Being yourself at work can be hard, especially when you are trying to balance it with being professional as well. If you can find a way to express your true personality while maintaining good relationships at work, it seems like the ideal balance.

  • http://twitter.com/Debra_Feldman Debra Feldman

    If you try to please everyone, you don’t please anyone 100%. Specialization today is highly valued more than being a jack of all trades, master of nothing. Find where you are a good fit rather than aiming to conquer strong resistance. You will further your cause more by finding multitudes to support you than trying to convert one individual at a time. Once you have enough momentum, it will be easier to instill the changes you want to make. Get traction, then proceed forward.

    In career parlance, if you try to please everyone some of the time, you end up not pleasing anyone most of the time OR trying to be something for everyone ends up being nothing to anyone. Determine your strengths and priorities then POSITION your personal brand accordingly. There is no branding without strategy that targets a specific market.

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  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/colinclemente Colin Clemente

    Being yourself and standing out from the crowd is key, but aren’t there limits? If I’m interviewing for a new job, along with 4 other candidates, and I show up in jeans + polo, while they all show up in suits, am I going to come off as unique/authentic or uninterested? It’s going to vary by industry but being your authentic self can’t come at the expense of seeming oblivious to social and industry norms.

  • Jrandom42

    I still remember someone yelling, “I gotta be the real ME!”

    And his brother asking him, “What if the real you is a jerk, asshole, and all around unpleasant person?”

    • Althaf Ahmed

      haha, good one J

  • Amanda

    “Don’t be ashamed to admit at the next dinner party that you think all of the pomp and circumstance is a bit unnecessary, or that you think the food could be better.”

    ….And if you say things like that, don’t expect to be invited back to anyone’s dinner parties. I understand the advice to be authentic, but let’s not forget to be grateful and tactful.

    • http://twitter.com/captwasabi captwasabi

      I could not agree more! I was reading this thinking that the title should be “How to ruin your professional and personal life without really trying.”

  • http://www.nohelphere.com Sarah Goshman

    Love this… you’ve beautifully expressed what I’ve been trying to define for myself this year. All the positive relationships I’ve developed for my non-profit with our donors come from me being me… not from me using the passive-agressive professional corporate speak to sound exactly like every other organization out there. It makes me happy when I can add something personal and real to day-to-day interactions. So many organizations don’t understand this, but this is truly the age of personality, and it’s only going to become more-so in the next few years. Corporate, however, might be slow in catching up…. especially on the dress code part.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bradridler Brad Ridler

    “Don’t be afraid to speak your mind, no matter how crazy it might be.” This tip would make the world a better place for everyone. Many folks don’t like sharing their true feelings, but at the end of the day it’s worthwhile, even if in the short term it may seem nuts!

    • Anonymous

      In essence, I agree with the article, but at the end of the day for me, it comes down to, competence, confidence and passion for the job. Finding someone quirky isn’t as important to me as finding someone who relates well to our team and our clients., and understands our business.

      Being oneself in an interview will really help for people seeking THE perfect job where they can feel comfortable being themself on a daily basis. If your quirky, zany self is the right fit, then it’s a match made in heaven, but it might mean some rejection until the right employer comes along. So it would depend on the priorities, whether is’s getting A job, or finding THE job. :)

      In an interview situation, I always assume that what I’m seeing is a polished version of a person, and their resumes have been carefully crafted. So if someone comes in a little “rough around the edges”, I have to wonder what they’re like on a “normal” day if this is best foot forward.

      Great food for thought, thanks for sharing, Brad!

  • KWilliams

    I’m happy to put this down as something that varies from industry to industry, but for anyone working in media, this article gives advice that is the exact opposite to that given to me by the people who were actually doing the hiring. I knew one assistant whose job it was to sort through the resumes and throw away any that were printed on coloured paper, or used fonts like Comic Sans.
    Employers (or at least the ones I’ve come to know well enough to have a frank discussion about this sort of thing) think creativity and being yourself is important. But they also need to know that you can present a professional front for their company. Their first impression of you is going to be their clients’ first impressions of their business, after all.
    So yes, I wholeheartedly agree – it’s important to be yourself in the workplace, but I think this article takes the advice just a touch too far. In terms of clothes, if you’re not confident that you can find the balance yourself (and if the office you’re interviewing in is central) take a few minutes to stop by in the week ahead of the meeting. Find a cafe for a five minutes, see what people coming in and out of the building are wearing. Jeans and a polo shirt for a first meeting? You won’t need a suit for every person you meet, yes – but too casual reads like you’re too inexperienced to know how to put up a professional front.
    As I say, this may be a standard that varies from one industry to the next. But I’m pretty confident when I say this much – with all the good will in the world, please don’t print your resumes on green paper in a silver font. You may stand out from the crowd. Unfortunately it will be for all the wrong reasons.

  • http://www.liveandlovework.com Chrysta Bairre

    Huzzah to to being your authentic self! I believe it’s possible to be me while still being appropriate at work.

    For me this means I do not share every comment that comes into my head, but I don’t mind letting my personality quirks show.

    I wear bright colors, patterns and have fun with my style, while ensuring my outfit isn’t too short or revealing. It’s important to mention, whatever your style, I do think it’s important to wear clothes that are clean, fit well, and unwrinkled while expressing your authentic style.

    Great article!

    Chrysta

  • Corinna Rogers

    When it comes to figuring out who you are and taking pride in being yourself, I couldn’t agree more. However… being authentic does not have to mean being defiant to all social norms and graces. If a suit makes you feel stifled, try a dress shirt, a blouse or a professional dress. You don’t have to look unprofessional or unpolished to be comfortable. Also, to suggest you shouldn’t prepare for your next presentation, speech or interview should be criminal. Of course you should prepare. Preparing does not have to mean rehearsing your exact words and phrases until you sound stiff and scripted. Rest assured, the job, sale, or promotion will go to the individual who comes across as invested, prepared and professional… and if you are ALSO comfortable, interesting, and memorable then you have stacked the deck in your favor. ~ Corinna Rogers, http://shevelocity.com/blog/

  • http://www.ResuMAYDAY.com/ ResuMAYDAY

    Don’t ever try to make your resume stand out with colored paper or crazy font. Instead, stand out with clear/strong language, solid accomplishments and qualifications that actually fit the job posting. Trust me, this is what employers are praying to see in their candidates, but rarely do.

  • Moondollars

    Lol wow this is the way to lose a job!

  • http://www.byjanet.net/purple Purple Panda

    Absolutely agree! I wrote a post earlier about this also… The art of the unprofessional professional. That’s how it feels to me! It’s a huge must if you want to make it as an online entrepreneur and become “famous”. I love that you can dress in your own personal style and still be a professional. Since I’m an “artist”, It’s fun to dress in more creative ways. But to be honest, I don’t put a lot of effort($) into my outfits. I’m more of a minimalist/frugal but I do wish I was more artsy/creative with my clothing.. Maybe a 2012 goal?

  • Eric

    From another more global perspective, growing up in Europe, I was used to be myself more often than not (although norms are fairly strict there sometimes…). However, I was aware of the somewhat “bad” reputation that Americans had there in terms of how they often faked interaction in business and tourism for instance – such as fake smiles (ie. “say cheese”), complaints behind your back, and generally not being forthright and upfront with people. That is why for example, Americans will complain about Germans, Russians and even the French of being outright rude since they are much more upfront with each other than are Americans. who are really not used to it to that extend. Also, if a European doesn’t find something to smile about, he or she generally will give an American the wrong impression that he or she is not happy. However, the European is just being his true self. So in this context, I think that this article is highly refreshing since it really addresses the American individuality that may be at risk of being subdued in exchange of being more diplomatic and conforming in this “politically correct” country.

  • Anonymous

    I think being yourself gives you street cred that being ‘polished’ or atypically professional just does not give you. One of my favorite bloggers, has been listed fairly recently as one of the top 50 most influential people of the Internet.

    ELI form BluehatSEO, has his own unabashed style, and flavor. He is unapologetic and reaps HUGE followings for it.

  • Anonymous

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  • Anonymous

    I am always myself, online and offline, is there any other way to be?

  • Me

    The very best way to be authentic at work is to create your own authentic business and attract your own ideal clients. I did this, and then I went to work for a very open and modern and authentic start up but even there I feel like I can’t be as « me » as I’d like. Before long, all I wanted was to be free and create authentically in my own business again.

    When, like the author, being authentic is THAT important to you, it’s hard not to feel like you don’t belong to your work environment. I feel authentic when I am around other people who believe being authentic is important, and they are often entrepreneur themselves.

    Most people don’t feel the need to be different or themselves, they’d rather be part of the pack and therefore like people who share their own values. Traditional workplaces are full of people like this who are not unhappy with conformity. So unless one finds a company whose leader values authenticity, trying to be authentic might just be helpless.

  • Steven A. Simmons

    If you work for me being professional doesn’t mean being a clone of everyone else in the office, but it does mean working to the standards the organization expects and that can mean that you have to dress in a certain way, be respectful of others, and get the work you are paid to do done. Going out of your way to show me that you are unique individual isn’t going to get you hired, going out of your way to show that you are a competent person who can get the job I am hiring for done and that you can add some additional value to the organization will. Its effective employees who can provide the requred results that “professional” managers look for and are paid to hire and manage.

  • http://www.mactonweb.com/ web design melbourne

    Most people don’t feel the need to be different or themselves, they’d rather be part of the pack and therefore like people who share their own values. Traditional workplaces are full of people like this who are not unhappy with conformity. So unless one finds a company whose leader values authenticity, trying to be authentic might just be helpless.

  • Puzzled

    Did anyone else notice the discrepancy between the title and the content? The article simply encourages you to “be yourself” but does not actually present any evidence as to why/how that will help your career.

  • http://www.behappyanddowhatyoulove.com/blog Mary Eve

    “By trying to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one.” This sentence tells a lot. I love the idea of branding ourselves. Thanks for the post!

  • Realistic Anon

    I did many of these things in my last job and…got fired. Being “yourself” is actively discouraged in most US work environments unless you happen to work in an extremely media-savvy or forward thinking organization. In a traditional workplace anything that is seen as different is regarded as “rocking the boat.” I was told I was “not a good fit” and fired although I worked my butt off in my job. So, my advice would be to…fit in with the culture if you want to keep your job.

  • Emily

    I don’t think it’s unrealistic to say that one’s professional life is just a facet of who they are. That doesn’t mean you have to completely suppress your “self” (if so, you need to find another job). But telling off-colored jokes and using obnoxious colored paper for a resume sounds much more to me like the pathetic attemps of a 14-year old to be noticed by a love-interest. It sounds more like a naughty little kid in school who would rather get negative attention than no attention at all.

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  • Ks_zaman

    I also like to be a self dependent and now working on that way by developing some websites like WordPress shortcode plugin.
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