“This above all: to thine own self be true.” – Shakespeare
How long does it take to tell a “brand” apart from an authentic person? From the first word out of his or her mouth, right? “Brands” tend to be a little too perfect — packaged, programmed, plastic. They push what they think we want to buy, not their real selves. It’s like the difference between processed food and the fresh, “real” food you can get at farmers markets.
I want authenticity when I hire, and even when I’m not. Catching my drift? I do not want some amalgam of what the applicant thinks the employer is looking for. I want to know you for the real you. I want to celebrate your personality – every nook and cranny. Real success has always been about knowing ourselves and staying true to that core. People who know themselves enrich an organization’s culture, and add to the workplace community with their spontaneity and honesty.
Branding isn’t without value, but it can’t be the ultimate measure. That has to go deeper.
Here are five ways to find your authentic self:
1) Take Shakespeare’s advice and be true to yourself. Know your values and never compromise them, even if doing so might lead to short-term gain. Integrity and authenticity go hand in hand.
2) Be good to yourself. We all have to take care of ourselves. And this means doing things that enrich us, body, mind and soul. Go fly fishing, tutor ex-cons, learn a new language, discover a cool new rock band, start a new business venture, bake cupcakes, read Trollope, hike the Andes. Find things that nurture you and make you feel good about yourself. This will deepen yourself of sense of self, and your self-confidence.
3) Have fun. Life is short and often hard. Fun and a sense of humor help us all get through. They also happen to be amazing productivity and community-building tools. I can’t tell you how many tough meetings I’ve been in where the mood is turned around by some genuine humor. Exercise your funny bone.
4) Don’t hide your so-called flaws. No one is perfect and no one is expected to be perfect. You may be cranky at times, pessimistic, even antisocial or a little weird. Well, guess what? Steve Jobs was a freak. Understand yourself — talents and “flaws” — and bring it all to the table.
5) Know what you want. Career trajectories are impossible to predict. But if you know who you are and what you want, you’ll save a lot of time and energy. To the greatest extent possible, only go after opportunities that ignite your passion and stir your soul.
Authentic people are exciting, original and refreshing, the essential element of an exciting, vibrant workplace culture that leads to knockout performance. Exciting companies are hungry for authenticity. Find your true self and run with it. Please let me know how it goes.
This post was adapted from Rethink Brand ‘You’: Find Your Authentic Self, which was published on Forbes.com.
About the Author: Meghan M. Biro is a globally-recognized leader, talent management and career strategist, and social community catalyst. As founder and CEO of TalentCulture Consulting Group, she has worked with hundreds of companies, from early-stage ventures to global brands like Microsoft and Google, helping them recruit and empower stellar talent.