Why Authenticity Is the Key Ingredient for Career Success
Leaving the world of finance to pursue an entrepreneurial path was a pivotal, exciting and scary moment in my life. Finance was mostly what I knew; however, while working as a finance professional, I felt that something was missing. There is no doubt that crunching numbers, analyzing financial statements and developing financial models honed my quantitative skillset, but over time, these key aspects of my role became monotonous. Moreover, while finance was monetarily rewarding, it was not personally rewarding -- was I really impacting people’s lives? As I did some soul searching, I realized that working in finance wasn’t enabling me to tap into my creative side and directly help others, which were both authentic aspects of who I am. Therefore, I knew that something had to change.
As I immersed myself in my entrepreneurial endeavors, I knew in my heart that I had made the right decision. As all entrepreneurs know, there will always be bumps along the way, but embracing who I am has pushed me to keep going. Most importantly, my non-linear career path has helped me to realize the importance of authenticity with respect to achieving career success. Here are four reasons why being authentic can help you to succeed in your career.
1. Being authentic can help you to stand out.
In an increasingly interconnected world, it’s easy to get caught up in the herd and try to emulate what others are doing. But almost every single time, that doesn’t work. Why? Because it’s increasingly difficult to copy someone’s else’s branding, value proposition, positioning and strategies. All of those factors are ultimately derived from that person’s or organization’s experiences and value systems; no two people or organizations are alike. By focusing on what makes you unique, you will be memorable and stand out, which in turn will draw people and assignments to you and help you succeed. I stress this same principle with my clients; by being themselves and crafting authentic applications, they have been successful with respect to separating themselves from the competition and achieving their educational goals.
2. Being authentic allows you to build genuine relationships.
It is very difficult to achieve career success in a vacuum; we all need people in our corner helping us to expand our reach and cheering us on. This is only truly possible by forming genuine relationships -- after all, why will someone be inspired to help you, and you to help someone else, based upon a superficial relationship? Authentic relationships, in which both parties are genuinely vested in each other’s success can, for example, help increase sales and provide you with valuable opportunities that otherwise may have not been available. Moreover, I have found that by being authentic, people see you as more human, approachable and trustworthy, which pays dividends when it comes to your personal branding and career success.
3. Being authentic motivates you.
By being authentic, you will be drawn to roles and opportunities that you are truly passionate about, and you will proactively seek out work that is meaningful to you. Therefore, if you are faced with challenges and obstacles, they will not deter you; on the contrary, you will be driven to overcome them and find solutions. This in turn will drive career success. For me, being authentic spurred me to pivot my career in a direction that felt more rewarding and that was better aligned with my passions and values. Moreover, because I love what I do, challenges actually excite me since they push me outside of my comfort zone and are learning opportunities.
4. Being authentic enables you to be self-aware.
By tapping into who you really are, you will become more self-aware; this self-awareness will help you to discover your true passions as well as understand your strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, not only will you be able to leverage your strengths in order to excel, but you will also be more likely to take action to mitigate your weaknesses. This could come in the form of either outsourcing work that is not a core competency or engaging in both personal and professional development to improve. This focus will help you to fire on all cylinders and set you up for career success.
Getting to the core of who you are to unveil your authentic self is not easy -- it takes time and deep self-reflection. But heeding your inner compass and unique attributes is well worth it as it can take your career to new heights.
(By Shaifali Aggarwal. Aggrawal is an MBA admissions expert, a graduate of Harvard Business School and the founder of Ivy Groupe, a boutique MBA admissions consulting company. Shaifali’s philosophy focuses on authenticity and storytelling to help clients craft compelling and differentiated applications that stand out. With this approach, Shaifali has successfully helped hundreds of applicants gain admission to top-tier MBA programs.)