A business consultant, who happens to be a good friend, shared with me her frustration that so many people starting out in business try to be something they’re not.
She constantly reminds clients to be themselves if they want to build a big portfolio and find success.
Having a person who acts naturally in conversation, then spouts corporate mumbo-jumbo-speak as the meeting wraps up leaves her — and likely any potential client — feeling confused about who they were just talking with. Was it the easy-going person with whom she built a strong bond or the way-too-contrived official who closed the meeting?
This back-and-forth from authentic to manufactured persona when interacting with people can backfire and lead to a lack of trust.
Earning a reputation as a phoney won’t get you very far on the networking scene or in business. Granted, these aren’t the kind of people who stick around the networking or business scene long, but they’re usually the people who struggle to build a strong network or wonder why people aren’t doing business with them.
In my book, Business Cards to Business Relationships: How to Build the Ultimate Network, I devote a chapter to authenticity. It seems simple and yet, it’s one of those things that really can make or break a professional as they grow their careers.
Trying to figure out who people want you to be in any given situation is way too consuming. It’s just easier to be yourself and frankly, it will earn you more connections in the long run — even if there are people who don’t “click” with the authentic you.
Why try to be something you’re not? Surround yourself with people who like you for who you are, rather than who they expect you to be.
It’s often a lack of confidence or a feeling of inadequacy that causes professionals to pretend to be something they’re not. We all have people who make us feel like we’re not good enough for them, but adjusting ourselves to accommodate them or to box our actions into other people’s expectations is setting ourselves up for unhappiness at work, or in life. Not being true to yourself will hinder your ability to connect with others and grow your network.
Another challenge to being truly authentic is the constant quest for information and the huge overload of business books and professional development courses that say “do this” and “do that.” It’s almost as if there’s such a relentless pursuit to figure out who we should be that people have forgotten to just “be.”
Consistency in character is essential to projecting an authentic image. If you treat everyone equally and stay true to your personal values and beliefs, this shouldn’t be a challenge. Depending on the environment, your behaviour will change, but your personality and core character should not.
When it comes to building your professional network, the best person you can be is you —authentically you.