By Dara Goldberg, Founder & President of Métier Consulting
Ever heard of the TV show Bewitched? If you're 35 or younger and are not an avid fan of old-school television shows, chances are you have no clue what I'm talking about. Bewitched was a popular sitcom in the 1960s-'70s that had as its main character a witch named Samantha who had the power to transform herself and other people (particularly her husband, a mortal) into someone else with just a crinkle of her nose. When a situation wasn't going well for Samantha or her husband, she swooped in (no broomstick needed), crinkled her nose a bit and, poof, everything, including her husband's entire identity was transformed. Out with the old, in with the new.
To tell you more about the show would dilute its relevance here, so I'll cut to the chase: While you do need to cultivate and continually hone a strong professional identity to maximize your career success and satisfaction, achieving this goal does not require you to let go of who you are, to toss your core self and values to the wayside and assume the identity of someone else. Leave that type of complete transformation to the fictitious witch on Bewitched.
The Internet is chock full of advice on how to become the consummate professional:
Learn to read non-verbal cues.
Be an active, fully engaged listener.
Learn how to 'brag' in a way that garners respect, not looks of disdain.
Speak with confidence.
Learn to handle conflict with grace and empathy, not anger.
Be authentic in your relationships.
Maintain clear personal/professional boundaries at work.
And the list goes on...
While much of the advice you find on the Internet is valuable, and you are well-advised to heed it, I also hope you are not getting the impression that cultivating a strong professional persona, one that sets you on a course to career success, means bidding farewell to the identity that makes you, you. Please don't fall victim to the "The Bewitched Fallacy" and take as your charge to erase everything and cultivate a whole new person with a set of skills, behaviors, qualities, etc. that mirror a ready-made, generally accepted template for the ideal professional.
On the contrary, the advice should simply help you become your best you. The goal is for you to refine and integrate the advice in a way that is right for you, that positions you to be true to your core values, to capitalize on your best unique traits, qualities and inherent skills and to improve upon those qualities that don't serve you well. You need to do this in your own way, according to your own timeline and with the type and level of support and guidance that specifically works for you. Strong communication, listening, interpersonal, stress management, conflict negotiation and many other skills are essential, but it is how you cultivate, combine, put into practice and continually hone them in a professional context that constitutes your unique professional identity and distinguishes you from others.
Here are some suggestions to help you become your best you throughout your career:
- Clarify and stay true to your professional values. Your values reflect what is most important to you and enable you to work in service of how you want to be perceived and experienced by others. They help you develop and maintain a strong and accurate sense of yourself. Staying true to your values will enable you to take the skills and knowledge you gain, the experiences you have, the guidance you receive and the qualities of other people who you admire most, and shape and make them an intrinsic part of you.
Dara Goldberg is Founder & President of Métier Consulting, a leadership development firm that helps companies and individual professionals excel in cultivating, stewarding and continually capitalizing on positive, rewarding, productive professional relationships that will drive their success. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article previously appeared on www.projecteve.com
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