Showing up authentically at work can be a challenging or even daunting prospect. Analyses of workplaces are demonstrating that younger generations are – more and more – bringing with them the values of authenticity, transparency, and holistic wellbeing into the workforce. When you feel intimidated or overwhelmed by the idea of bringing YOU to the workplace, keep in mind the following ideas, and know that you are worthy and your ideas and identity are important to the success of the team.
Remember to be yourself 🙌
“Fitting in” at a new workplace may be what feels most comfortable and psychologically safe to begin, and that’s ok. Understanding the culture at a new workplace takes time. Meeting new people and making connections takes time (and courage). As you work through that process, keep in mind that you were hired based on the expertise, experience, perspectives, and identities that you bring to the table and you are valued for all of those many layers.
You are the person who skills align the most with the position, team, and company. When you work from a place of confidence you are able to produce the best quality of work as a true reflection of who you are as a professional. All the volunteer opportunities, classes, prior work experience prepared you for this moment.
Keep that in mind and breathe. Give yourself grace. As you feel safe and able, let your authentic self shine through. Do you like to crack jokes to start a meeting? Do you have a favorite mug? Are you someone who isn’t ready to have a conversation before your first cup of coffee? Are you someone who speaks up often at meetings or likes to be asked questions to express thoughts? Whatever is YOU, let it be known.
Don’t shrink or minimize yourself 😎
Confidence is a vital trait to possess throughout your career journey. When you are confident in yourself it signifies to others that you are firm in who you are and understand your worth.
Here are a few inspiring TED Talks to help boost your confidence:
- Brittany Packnett Cunningham: How to build your confidence — and spark it in others
- Nada Nasserdeen: The Key to Building Self Confidence and What We’re Doing Wrong
- Mike Kinney: A pro wrestler’s guide to confidence
- And more
Keep this in mind when negotiating your salary. Asking for what you’re worth while being able to support the ‘ask’ with notes about your qualifications will help to secure the deal with a desirable salary.
Set and Respect Your Boundaries 🆘
As an emerging and/or young professional you may be eager to demonstrate your commitment to the workplace. You may take on additional tasks, work longer hours, or do work outside of your scope. It is important to establish boundaries early in your career. Clear boundaries are healthy and an important way to protect your mental health and values. In order to set the boundaries you have to understand what is important to you in the workplace. Take notes on how you like to function at work by asking yourself a series of questions. Here are a few to help spark your thinking.
- When am I most productive?
- What tools and support do I need to do my best work?
- How do I appreciate receiving feedback?
- How do I make sure my time and productivity are respected?
- What is my most effective way of managing due dates?
- How do I appreciate being communicated with?
Thinking through your boundaries and workstyles is a productive exercise for you, and the people around you. You may be interested in learning your “workstyle” – there are many assessments for this available. Try this one, or another, to spark conversation and a shared understanding among your team.
Positionality, Identity, and YOU ✨
No matter where you sit in the hierarchy of the organization, your voice matters. (At least it should.) In the United States, positions of leadership and power are still predominantly held by people who are white, and predominantly people who are men. No matter where you “rank” in the workplace, your perspective and ideas are of value, and the more that the workplace truly understands and embraces that, the better off all will be.
All that said, speaking up and showing up authentically may require psychological safety, which may be challenging for some, particularly those who have identities that have been historically and systematically excluded. To the extent that you are willing, safe, and able, a good starting point is to find someone who you can share your thoughts and opinions with candidly. When the goal truly is betterment of the mission, methods, and/or culture, a meaningful conversation about your experiences holds value.