I love this word.
I have friends who tease me about how often I seem to use it these days. Why do I love this word? Apart from the clear definition of being genuine, real and true, it’s a synonym for reliable, dependable, trustworthy, and honest. These are attributes I value in my life, in my interactions and in the people I surround myself with.
The only time I find that these attributes disappear – the biggest challenge to being authentic – is when people care too much about what other people or society think they should do or should be.
Society’s rules for success
We are all given a roadmap for success, the things we should do from our parents, from our teachers, from our mentors. There is a clear definition of what success means and how to be successful. The usual pattern is get good marks > stay out of trouble > graduate > college > university > good job > get married > work > buy a house > work > have kids > work > get a promotion > retire > then your children start the whole cycle over again > get good marks > stay out of trouble… If we veer from this path then there is doubt, fear, and sometimes even ridicule.
So when I quit a job I don’t enjoy, or give up my home to go nomad, or even when I embrace working as a freelancer, there is a lot of judgement and fear heading my way on a constant basis!
Historical context and impact
Baby boomers, our parents, come from a generation that struggled to find gainful employment. So when they think about work they think – steady income, and when they think about marriage they think – security. The aforementioned roadmap and the principles associated with the roadmap really resonate with them; working for a big corporation provides security and stability, and the freedom to start a family.
So when they think about someone quitting a job or starting a business, it can create anxiety as they immediately think of the inherent uncertainty of monetization, the potential for failure or even the inability to start a family.
Succeeding by society’s standards
I have followed the societal should roadmap for a long time. I have gathered the diplomas, I have succeeded whilst working in corporations for over 26 years. Sometimes I was lucky, I had authentic leadership and I sincerely believed in the company and what we were striving to achieve. Other times I was unlucky, working for a corporation that did not value its employees, and promoted leaders who were micro-managing and lacked integrity.
Is this what success looks like? Working for a company I don’t feel aligned to? Working for people I don’t trust? It didn’t take long for me to decide this was not success for me.
The rules are changing
Enduring a corporate career path at a company that doesn’t work for us is no longer the roadmap. People jump ship when they feel they are not valued, but then often end up taking another “good job” and end up in the same rut at another organization…and that’s the new cycle. At least it was for me, until I realized that it was time to stop wasting time trying to fit into corporations that didn’t fit me.
If we ourselves are authentic, true to what motivates us and what we believe in, then we can actually find and/or build a work environment that fits us. So nowadays I am more authentic in interviews, share what really matters to me, and ask the right questions to determine what the company stands for. I figure out right away if there is alignment, and I am more willing to walk away if there is no alignment. It saves, both me and the company, time and energy.
Imagine the possibilities of attracting a job you actually want, at an organization you actually believe in, with people that you actually want to spend time with.
Stay true to you.
“Be your authentic self” means figuring out what that means to you, and then staying true to that no matter what. It means you don’t end up taking jobs you should, but rather that you find jobs you want.
Because if you have to spend 40+ hours at a job, make sure it’s where you want to be, where you feel most valued, and most importantly where you can add value.
Do you feel like your career no longer fits your authentic self? Are you feeling disengaged or a bit stuck? Don’t worry, I know how that feels.
Fill in your email address below and I’ll send you increasingly action oriented information, tactics and tools that I wish I had known when I was struggling to figure out my next career move.