Hey, you know that blogger extraordinaire Hurricane Mikey is posting again, and on his original site, right? One of the reasons Mikey took a hiatus was because he was conducting a job search and wanted to shield his personal life from prospective employers. Fortunately, as he’s recently reported, his current employer “doesn’t give a rat’s ass” about what he does outside of work.
As it should be.
Recently I told you that the contract on my job will be over at the end of the month. Weh. It’s been a wonderful gig, especially the telecommuting part. And now that I’m on the prowl myself, I’ve been thinking about Mikey and what employers need—and don’t need—to know about you.
I’ve never been big on editing out parts of myself in order to comply with corporate expectations; I’ve learned that it’s better for employers to know who you really are right from the beginning. Years ago, back when I was still following the rules, I got hired for a position no doubt because I performed so beautifully during an interview. And it really was a performance; I totally convinced them that I was a straight and narrow, by-the-book professional.
Of course, I couldn’t keep that boring persona up for too long and my true, fun, personality seeped through. I did a great job as far as my work went, but joked around with my staff a lot. They loved me. Yep, everybody under me loved me, but those above me on the food chain couldn’t stomach me at all. I wasn’t a fit for their culture; I was nothing like what they thought they were getting. That turned out to be the worst place I ever worked, just a miserable experience.
Ever since, when presenting myself to prospective employers or consulting firms, I’ve been my true crazy self. They can take me or leave me, and fortunately, I seem to be what they’re looking for. But I do have a very strong resume and an impressive portfolio of work. That’s the key—the more skilled you are, the more you can get away with being your authentic self on the job. If you’re really, really good, you don’t have to spend so much energy creating a professional persona. And you can direct all that energy toward doing a good job, which, after all, is why you're there in the first place.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not too relaxed. It's not like I throw the F word around on interviews… or at all in the workplace. Well, I try not to.
This is funny. A few years ago, I had just started a new job—I was there maybe three weeks. About twelve people from my department were sitting around the conference table; each person had to give a brief report on what they’d been doing the past week. When it came to be my turn, I excitedly told my coworkers—and boss—of the progress I’d make on a task that was particularly challenging. I was feeling great about it all and at the end gushed, “And this a huge fuckin’ project!”
Immediately, I realized what I’d said and covered my mouth with a big “Oops!” but it was too late. Everyone in the room cracked up. For the rest of that day, people were high-fiving me and saying things like, “That was the greatest moment of my worklife!” and told me how much they liked me and wanted to work on projects with me. I was like a folk hero. Even my boss thought it was an awesome slip. (He was a nut himself, believe me.)
Anyway, in the words of Popeye, “I am what I am.” For some reason, it seems to be working.
How about you? Can you be your true self at work? On a scale of 1 to 10, how surprised would your coworkers be to know the “real” you?