What Professional Authenticity Really Looks Like
Recently on Being Brown at Work Live, I had the pleasure of talking to Amelia Mimi Brown, a motivational speaker, professional coach, and senior consultant. We had a great conversation about authenticity, and these are some of the things we talked about, summarized here in blog form. Check out the podcast for the full conversation.
Lately, authenticity is a hot subject for working professionals, and especially Black and Brown women. So often, our authentic selves are policed and silenced in an effort to get us to conform to corporate "ideals" that haven't included us. Ongoing cultural conversations have started to loosen some of those restrictive norms, but even so, I assure you that even before 2020, we were all still "acceptable." It's the culture that's changing.
So how do we show up authentically in a culture that still has work to do when it comes to supporting us? Here are some tips to help you bring your whole self to work.
Choose your job carefully.
If you have the luxury of being choosy about your position, choose that job carefully. You need to gel with the culture you'll be working in, so do your due diligence before you sign that job offer.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
Is the work meaningful?
Do you like the energy of the people you'd be working directly with?
Do you feel like you could make a contribution that matters and is meaningful in your organization?
Making an informed choice about where you work is the first step to a happy, authentic career. Now, of course not everyone reading this is at a point where they’re considering a job offer, so if you’re already working someplace, read on.
Know what makes you unique.
Every single person is different, and we all bring different skills and talents to our workplaces. A huge key to authenticity at work is being confident in what makes you special. This isn't an ego trip, what I'm talking about is being sure of what you're bringing to the table.
What are the traits you consistently get positive feedback for?
What makes people bring you onto a project?
Knowing your worth like this will remind you why your authenticity is important; without it, you wouldn't be as successful as you are.
Keep a regular inventory.
We keep track of our money and our calendars, so why don’t we keep track of our successes and feedback? In every project and task, note what works and what doesn’t work, then keep a running list of what went well and why. If you got any direct feedback from people you worked with, jot that down as well.
Over time, you’ll be able to discover patterns and trends that highlight what people value about you and your work. This is you shining through in your workplace, and those details are wins that will help you show up authentically in your day-to-day work, as well as give you a leg up the next time you’re working on a promotion.
Demonstrate your worth.
Knowing your value and cataloguing your wins is fantastic, but you also need to go into your workplace and demonstrate that worth you’ve identified. When you know what you’re doing that really moves the needle for your team, you can show up and be authentic and real with those gifts you have.
If you know you’re a powerhouse at bringing the energy to training, for example, then you can authentically go out there and make waves in that area. Take the risks you want to take, shake things up, be the kind of professional you want to be, because you have strong evidence that you know what you’re talking about. You can be confident and strong in your sense of identity.
For something that’s supposed to be “natural,” authenticity is a practice that requires a bit of grit and a bit of determination. We make decisions every day about how we dress, when and where we talk, how we use our voices and take up space. The world is crowded with feedback that wants to box us into a corner. When you know your worth and show up in the power of that certainty, it becomes much easier to express your truth clearly. You just have to start.
If this topic is interesting to you, you might like my free guide, “Workplace Confidence for Black and Brown Women.” This guide will show you how to replace nervousness and discomfort and instead step into confidence during these situations so you can keep moving forward towards your goals! Click here to get your copy.