This article was contributed by Intellect’s behavioural health coach Dr Jordan Alexander. She is an international best-selling author, the CEO of Love Assist Associates, and an ICF-accredited practitioner with decades of experience in workplace strategy and leadership.
If your new year’s resolution is to find a partner or get a new job, you’re in good company. Dating and job hunting sites report huge spikes in traffic during January, and new employment prospects abound as company budgets hit the reset button.
But hang on eager beaver. Before you focus on what’s out there and how you can get it, it pays to first reflect on your needs and wants. Like in dating, you’ll need to get real to find a good fit. If we wouldn’t bring an engagement ring to a first date, why would we assume that the first job opportunity that comes our way is an authentic match? What is “authentic” anyway?
What does authenticity mean?
Authenticity is rapidly becoming another buzzword, but what does it actually mean? Oscar Wilde’s quote often comes to my mind: “Be yourself. Everybody else is already taken.”
You are authentic when…
- You are honest and true to yourself.
- You say what you mean and don’t compromise what you value.
- You respect your unique point of view and are willing to bring your individuality into the workplace.
That being said, authenticity isn’t a get-out-jail-free card to justify bad behaviour or obnoxiously push your own opinions under the guise of ‘being yourself’. You still need to be a good human.
It’s useful to think about authenticity as a continuum as Mike Robbins does in Bring Your Whole Self to Work. On one end he places “phoney”, like when you have no idea what someone is talking about but pretend you do. In the middle is being honest, like telling your bestie her boyfriend hit on someone else when she was in the loo (tricky I know!). Then there is “authentic”, where you reveal who you really are under the masks we often wear to “fit in” rather than “belong”. When we “belong” to our role and workplace, we perform better and are more engaged. What employer doesn’t want that?
These three steps will help you navigate job hunting authentically this year.
Step 1. Clarify your current situation
In Real Me, Better We, The Guide to Finding Authentic Love Online, finding a genuine connection begins way before dating. Similarly, job hunting starts with getting real with yourself. You’ll need to accurately assess what’s in front of you – both in the mirror and when you interact with others at work – and take off the rose-tinted glasses to discern reality from fiction.
Ask yourself the following questions to clarify your current situation.
a) Why do I want a new job?
Be clear about your honest motive to move. Do you want more money or responsibility?
b) Can you resolve the issues at hand?
What would make you stay? If you’re having trouble with a colleague or manager, would ironing things out help? Are you willing to seek support to stay where you are? Coaching, for instance, is a neutral resource that could help you rectify it.
c) Are your values aligned with your workplace?
If your job salary, conditions, and responsibilities are fair, but you still don’t feel satisfied at work, there could be a misalignment of values. These could relate to professional development, work-life balance, and the flexibility of workplace policies. Or, your individual purpose, like caring for the planet, may not match the organisation.
d) What are your non-negotiables for a new job?
To those who are reporting to a micromanager, is autonomy essential for your next role? Would you take a lower-paying role if it meant greater alignment with your values? Do you seek a global company that offers travel opportunities?
By sharpening your focus and setting realistic expectations, you will make decisions more easily and cut through the noise to land a good match.
Step 2: Be truthful in your application
It’s frustrating when your date’s photos on Tinder don’t match the person standing in front of you at the cafe. This discrepancy occurs in job hunting, too, but you can avoid it by being authentic in how you present yourself.
a) Be upfront about your superpowers
Take stock of your work history and identify at least one outcome that only you could have delivered. Be clear on what you achieved and why it could only have been you. This exercise allows you to comfortably communicate your strengths and unique characteristics.
b) Be upfront about where you’re a work in progress
Areas for improvement need not be viewed as weaknesses – I guarantee Tiger Woods is working on ways to improve his golf game and Elon Musk is inventing new ways to explore the galaxy. Would you consider a leader who says “managing people is easy” to be authentic?
c) Convey both who you are and what you offer.
To stand out in a sea of applications, reflect on the “real you” in both personal and professional contexts. Why are you different from ten other candidates with a computer science degree? Consult your friends if you’re having trouble with this one – your creativity might be off-the-charts and just what a start-up needs.
d) Don’t simply take what’s available
Accentuating your strengths is important, but so is taking responsibility for your needs and being clear on what you don’t enjoy. Remember your answers in step one? Return to them when you’re in a dilemma to ensure that you’re moving in the right direction.
Being authentic means going in with eyes wide open. Sometimes the reality of a job is not as glamorous as we imagine it to be, and people in a similar role or company will reflect the experience more accurately. If you’re doing a mid-career switch, reach out to others in the industry first. Do your due diligence and look before you leap.
Step 3: Treat an interview as a “first date”
So you’ve secured an interview at a company that floats your boat, but there’s more. To navigate your “first date” with a potential employer with poise and charm, you’ll need a calmer state of mind. The following mindset shifts can help:
a) You’re also interviewing the employer
You have prepared for the interview, and it’s time to showcase your personal and professional strengths confidently but humbly. If you feel anxious, remind yourself that your relationship with a new employer isn’t unlike that with a dating prospect. It takes two hands to clap, and the ball is in your court as much as it is in theirs.
b) Sharing your non-negotiables benefits both parties
You don’t get married before asking whether your partner wants children. Now that you are aware of what you need to thrive in a workplace, you will need to explore areas that could be a mismatch.
No job is perfect, but if you’re avoiding a specific aspect of your current job, you’ll want to understand the role accurately and prevent history from repeating itself. If your voice of authenticity pops up when something doesn’t sound right, speak up (or face the consequences of a short-lived relationship.) That being said, avoid oversharing or going on a spiel.
c) It’s not an opportunity if your values will be compromised
Values are often hidden below the waterline, reflected in organisational behaviours and company culture. If you don’t make it to the next round of interviews because you were honest about who you are, consider it a natural process of elimination that occurred sooner than later. Conversely, if you willingly accept a job or workplace that isn’t aligned with your values, ensure you are clear about what that means for you.
Career changes are important and to those who’ve read this far, good on you for putting in the effort to find the job you’re looking for. If you are successful, congratulations! We hope it’s a match made in heaven. But if you lost an opportunity by acting authentically or chose not to take a position because it’s not a good match, it may be a good time to talk with an Intellect coach. You might need a little help with your job hunting strategies and hey, that’s why we’re here.