on following your heart and the value of authenticity
I already knew who Erin was before I met her. She was on a short list of people that I wanted to seek out and connect with at a networking event I had planned on attending toward the beginning of my MBA experience. She had a strong reputation as a successful brand marketer in the consumer packaged goods space. While we initially connected through networking, she has gone on to become one of the most valuable people in my network.
In the year and a half that I have known her, she has generously given me advice, made recommendations and endorsements on my behalf, and kept me in mind as she has come across resources and opportunities. I have been incredibly grateful for her generous sponsorship.
Since she’s given me such a wealth of valuable input during this time, I asked her to lunch so that I could pump her for more wisdom to share with you.
1. FOLLOW YOUR HEART
Many of us find ourselves overthinking our career advancement strategies. It’s easy to try and plan and perfect our future career trajectory. Particularly in the MBA world, there is a lot of pressure to find the right job post-graduation. You know, the one that will set you on the right path for the career of your dreams…
I asked Erin for her thoughts on the job search because she’s been killing it in the time since she graduated with her MBA.
Her advice for me wasn’t tactical. She told me to follow my heart.
I know it seems obvious, but there is so much conflicting advice out there. It’s easy for all the “shoulds” that people throw our way to drown out our internal voice.
I’d like to say that as soon as she told me to follow my heart, clarity struck me about what I needed to be doing and where I needed to work, but that’s not the case. In truth, I’ve been reencountering my internal guide in the weeks since our conversation.
I recently realized that I have been pursuing a particular job simply because it was pretty much a sure thing. I have a handful of contacts at the hiring company and have all the requisite skills they were asking for. The trouble is that as I’ve gotten more honest with myself, I have discovered that I am pretty sure that I would not enjoy the work or the company culture. Just because it’s a good job doesn’t mean that it’s a good job for me.
Coming to terms with this hasn’t been easy. It would have been so nice if this “sure thing” were something that I wanted. Since it’s not, I have to open myself up to the uncertainty of not knowing what my next step is again.
Erin told me, “You have to believe your own why.”
I have had to do the internal work to reconnect with my confidence in my own skills and abilities. I have had to muster the mojo I need to put myself out there for jobs that I would thrive in. I have had to dig in to job postings and spend the time to adapt my resume and craft new cover letters for each position.
For me, that has meant reminding myself that my work experience and education have prepared me to do amazing work in the industry and field I want to work in. It has meant taking stock of my values and work ethic and recognizing how valuable those traits are to an employer.
Following my heart right now is effortful. Even though pursuing “sure things” feels safer at the moment, I’m making a choice to believe that the career that I want – and that I know I’m capable of achieving – is within my reach.
The good news is that the more time I spend in this space, the more certain it feels. I’m looking forward to amending this post to let you all know that I’ve found a job that is both challenging and incredibly fulfilling. Stay tuned…
2. AUTHENTICITY IS IMPORTANT
Erin’s second piece of advice fits with the theme of following one’s heart. You need to be real with people. It’s important to be yourself.
She told me, “I’ve gotten where I am and have had the success I’ve had because of my realness and authenticity.”
I believe it. Erin has authenticity on lock down. You know exactly what you’ve got with her. She is open and transparent. She speaks her mind and doesn’t dance around difficult subjects. She is an active participant in conversations and makes people feel seen and heard. She is not protective of herself or her image and shares her experiences readily.
The thing about authenticity is that it breaks down walls. Erin’s authenticity makes her likable and trustworthy. It puts others at ease. It makes people want to work with and for her.
Authenticity has another powerful benefit: when you’re truly yourself, you attract opportunities that are a good fit for you. For example, my outgoing nature would be wasted doing solitary work. And while I love a good Excel spreadsheet, my creativity would be squandered if my role were limited to crunching numbers all day every day. I think we all want to work somewhere where our skills, abilities, and personality are seen as assets. When we show who we truly are, it helps people to see where we will shine.
So, be authentically you. The right company (or friendships or relationships) will find you.