Career Advice: Be Authentic

When it comes to career advice, some of the best advice we’ve received is to be yourself.  While this may seem like simple, obvious advice, it is critically important.  Being yourself means something different to each individual.  From CSU’s standpoint, being yourself means being authentic and not wavering from who you are.  It also means communicating to others in a genuine manner.  How you act and how you communicate is everything in the workplace and if you have to choose one way to do so, do it authentically.

What does it mean to act authentically? 

Acting authentically means you are behaving in an organic manner.  You are not forcing yourself to act a certain way because you think that is how you should act.  Just because someone else is successful and acts one way does not mean you should act that exact same way.  The beautiful thing about people and, in turn, Corporate America is the presence of different types of people and personalities.  If everyone acted like someone else who was successful, we’d all be the same.  You can emulate other people and incorporate certain traits into your behaviors, but they will only stick if they are authentic.

What you do and how you do it all play into the way you act on a daily basis.  If you are someone who wants to take on a lot of side projects, great.  If you are someone who prefers to only focus on the work they have for their team, that’s great too.  Both of these styles are successful for the given individual because they are authentic to them.  

What does it mean to communicate authentically?

Authentic communication means you are speaking with a tone of voice that is undoubtedly you.  Like him or not, Kanye West has a tone that is authentically him.  He owns that and it comes across as completely Kanye each time he speaks.  If Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, were to speak with the same communication style as Kanye West his communication would hold no value.  Why?  Because it would not be authentic to who he really is.

When people do not communicate in an authentic manner, it is blatantly obvious.  I recall sitting across from someone at work and they were using a record amount of corporate buzz words (I counted 10 in a two minute phone call).  He sounded like a phony.  Had he not forced himself into using this vocabulary, and instead used language that came naturally to him, he would have had a much more authentic and productive conversation.

Ways to check if you’re being authentic

Knowing if you are being authentic can be tricky and takes practice to get a better feel for it.  Here are a few ways to check yourself for authenticity:

  • Does it feel weird?  If it feels weird, that may mean you’re pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, which isn’t a bad thing.  If that weird feeling persists for a long period of time, you are probably not acting authentic
  • Lack of trust from others.  If others do not feel they can trust you, it may be due to a lack of authenticity.  The more true to yourself you are, the more true to others you will be
  • Ask other people.  The easiest way to understand if you’re being authentic is to ask trusted colleagues: “do you feel I’m authentic in my communications?”  While a little odd to ask at first, it will get you direct results

We’ve implored you to be your version of Corporate Trill (true + real).  Keep that in mind as part of your drive towards authenticity.  And, don’t forget to always be yourself!

Thought Starters

  • How did you notice someone was acting inauthentic?
  • What can you do today to be more authentic in the way you act or communicate at work?
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