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The Day I Decided to Stop Being Myself

Posted on March 16, 2016 at 2:20 PM

Child-like optimism. Bright-eyed zeal. Disarming wit. Sarcastic sense of humor. None of these things appear on my resume, and yet, each has played a significant role in my ability to achieve career success. These non-academic, non career-specific qualities--though critical--are often the least credited when it comes to professional accomplishment.


But why?


Why are many professionals more likely to play-up attendance, writing skills and degrees, than niceness, humor, or overall likeability?


To answer this question, I looked within. What I found was that the decision to stop being myself was not a conscious one. I--like so many other professionals both entry level and experienced--succumbed. When immersed day-after-day in a culture counter to my own, I succumbed.


But why?


The following, excerpted from Dr. Duff Watkins' article on why top performers get axed, may help to explain.


According to Dr. Watkins, "anything that distances you from your peers can negate you." He also states that one must "get on the bus or get thrown under it." In my experience, it is the overwhelming belief in the validity of these and similar corporate culture norms which causes many professionals to conform.


And while Dr. Watkins' article does a good job of outlining the corporate bottom line, and the importance of aligning oneself with organizational mission, it is also problematic in its oversimplification. There is more to achieving career success than simply becoming a carbon copy of your management and peers.


In challenging myself to explore my decision--however unconscious--to fit in, I've developed the following list of tips:


1. If you don't want to get on the bus, you must learn to drive it. Equip yourself with the tools necessary to inform public opinion within your organization. If you don't like what's being said, you must position yourself to gain enough influence to change the conversation.


2. If you can't beat 'em, and you won't join 'em, make them want to join you. Distance yourself from your peers in the most fantastic way possible. Everyone wants to play for the winning team. Set the golden standard, and your peers will follow.


3. Your organization may own your position, but you own your career. The way you brand yourself at every stage will impact your capacity to excel. So unless you plan to spend your career being someone else, I'd recommend embracing those quirks--sarcastic sense of humor and all.


I look forward to continuing to share my experiences as a Millennial and Thought Leader in the field of Corporate Strategy.

Please feel free to share your feedback by adding a comment.

Rayna Moore is a Chief Consultant, Non-Profit Administrator and Corporate Strategist. She currently resides in Chicago Illinois.

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