The Bermuda Triangle of Being Authentic in Your Work

This post was inspired by VidCon’s 2015 conference, specifically a panel on race & representation on Youtube. For some of the vloggers, their race and culture is as inherent to their “work” as their personalities are. For others, it’s a little hazier than that. There’s no question though that race has played some part in the content these creatives put out, whether it’s putting out content that defies what people expect of them or breaking or using their platform to advocate around the issues they feel are important. Here’s the video for it.

The video got me thinking about how hard it is for me to break out of the thinking that I can or should only write about certain topics and that I should stay away from others. I have so many interests, beliefs, opinions, ect. On the one hand, I want to plaster my linkedIn profile with the fact that I babysit and volunteer at an animal shelter but it’s not like my future employers would care too much about my interest in all things cutesy. In fact letting on that I have an interest in babies could actually hurt my chances of getting hired. (Also see)

I think back to all the different places I’ve worked – from retail to HR – and the 2 distinct things that make work worthwhile: work environment and the benefits. People work their whole lives to get and stay in a job with great perks/flexibility, that they can live decently on. But people will also give up a lot of those perks if they find a job that fills their internal drive. Finding a team or co-workers that you click with is not only ironically hard to do but actually has a very close affect on whether you feel like the job is a good fit or not.

Think about all the ways we describe people in certain fields; we tend to associate personality types with different jobs. I’ve had times where if I didn’t fit into those personality types I started to question whether or not it was the field for me.

Usually, the best work environments, where we click without trying, are lacking in the benefits department, and the places with the best benefits don’t usually leave us feeling cozy inside. There’s always something that has to give. So how do you find a gig that’ll help you build the life you want and surround you with the people you really want to be around?

First thing that comes to mind is social networking because that’s supposed to be how that works, but honestly I hate that term. It’s built up this reputation in my mind as cold and impersonal. You go out of your way to seem interesting and worthwhile to the people you want to become without any real sense of who they actually are – you just know their brand. I’m like 75% introvert, I don’t do impersonal.

When I started blogging, I heard a lot about “joining a community” of like-minded people who support and encourage you and it was awesome! “Community building” I can do. Connecting with people won a human level instead of a product one is a piece of cake. It reminded me a lot of the time I spent working in community outreach, where there are people who have done what you’re trying to do and are willing to offer advice as well as people who are waiting to hear from you about something they want to try that you’re doing first. It’s more of a co-mentorship instead of an apprenticeship.

Community building is the type of relationship building I can see myself being authentic in. I’m at the point in my life where being authentic is what’s important to me. I want to be able to vibe with my co-workers. I want to be able to get excited about something the way I’m used to showing excitement and not have to worry about toning myself down and being “appropriate”.

I also want the flexibility of being able to be myself and wanting the things I want both related too and unrelated to work (work undeniably has an effect on your non-work life and in the world of social media & accountability, vice versa is true as well). Sp forgive me for drawing attention to the obvious that I want it all! I want the awesome co-workers but also want the benefits and I don’t want to have to sacrifice one for the other which is ultimately always what being authentic comes down too. “Are you ‘too’ authentic for this 401(k)? Are you too authentic for this promotion? Are people going to see you for what you are instead of what we want you to be?” It seems like that’s what it always comes down too. At this point, the only way I can feel completely authentic is by knowing that my livelihood isn’t dependent on how well I fit into someone else’s vision.

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