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Be Yourself – Take off your Mask

by Rob Cross on March 28th, 2010

Putting on a Mask

When we first start working after finishing University it’s very easy to feel like we need to be someone we’re not. Looking around our new environment we see many talented people and we experience all sorts of expectations about how we should behave and what we should do…no wonder it’s so hard to find our feet in the new professional world after University!

This week I was asked to have a chat with a young guy, Jack, who’s been really struggling for the last 4 months.

“How are things going?” I asked Jack as we sat down in a cafe.

“Not good,” he responded with a very dejected tone.

“I just don’t seem to be getting ‘this’ right,” Jack continued after a short silence. “I mean I’m trying really hard to do what everyone expects, but it just doesn’t seem to work.”

As Jack paused I could see he was clearly distressed.

“It’s like, everyday as I walk into the office I have to take a deep breath. Then it’s like I put on a mask to be this confident professional who does everything right, when in reality I’m just scared of getting it wrong again,” he concluded with a big sigh.

“We’ll there’s the issue right there,” I said with a smile. “It seems like all we have to do is help you take off that mask and start to be yourself again.”

“How do we do that?” Jack asked as if pleading for the answer.

In the new professional world after University it’s very easy to feel like you need to put on a mask and be someone you’re not. The pressure and expectations are always great, and I’ve met many people over the years who have stayed wearing a mask for their entire lives – mostly for the wrong reasons! The impact of putting on this mask each day is that it creates enormous stress because you stop you being you! 

Be Yourself – Take off the Mask

One of things many Graduates forget is that their success in life up to this point is the result of them being themselves. If you look back over you’re life you’ve achieved some great things, including getting a University degree and landing a job. And all these things are due to you being you!

So with this in mind, why change who you are just because you’ve started your ‘professional’ career?

Achieving success in the professional world is no different from success in any other part of your life – the secret is to be yourself! If you disagree with this, google the topic authentic leadership.  There is a huge amount of research going into this exact topic; people are realising that the greatest leaders are actually authentic individuals – they are not trying to be someone they’re not, they’re being themselves!

What does being yourself mean?

Being yourself means letting your true personality come out. It means relaxing your ego and engaging with the world around you in the way you naturally would. For example, if your boss asks you to do something that you don’t understand. Instead of immediately saying yes out of fear and then worrying about the fact you don’t understand, you ask them some questions until you get it. Or, if you need to get other people to do things for you, rather than just demanding it or sheepishly asking, you first build a relationship with them to get to know them as people before you ask for their help.

Being yourself also means sometimes ‘borrowing’ behaviours for short and specific tasks when you need to. For example, the natural you may be quite shy, but to get things done at work you must build relationships. Therefore to do this you can ‘borrow’ behaviour to help you engage others more confidently. Borrowing behaviours is different from wearing a mask because it’s temporary and hence you are not forcing yourself to continuously try to be someone you’re not.

A Last Thought…

The secret to success in the professional world after university is to be yourself! Too many people get caught in the belief that to be successful in their careers they need to fundamentally change who they are by pretending to be someone they’re not. Whilst this might result in some short term wins, ultimately it causes enormous stress as every day if feels like you’re putting on a mask. 

The key to being yourself simply requires you to be a human being – to be the person who you naturally are! In being this person you should constantly seek to develop and grow as an individual and you can also seek to temporarily borrow behaviours where required. But ultimately, it’s about you being you!

For more tips like this, CLICK HERE to get your copy of Grad Expectations: the essential guide for all graduates entering the work force.

One Comment
  1. Hello.

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