Standing Out from the Inside Out

You stand out when you stay true to who you are.
You stand out when you stay true to who you are.

Hi dear readers! I’m in the process of moving homes in Portland (yay!/yikes!) and need a little more time to get settled before offering you a new blog post. So I’m re-sharing one that I love from last year. I hope it inspires you!

When I was looking for a job in Portland, everything I read and everyone I talked to told me how important it was that I “stand out.”

People who are heavily involved in the world of recruiting or career coaching will often pepper you with questions like “What makes you different?,” “What unique set of skills will you bring?,” or “How would you summarize who you are in 3 sentences?” They tell you to make sure your social media pages are up to snuff and show others that you’re totally “out there” and “engaged” in your field.

It’s not necessarily their fault for asking questions like these; we’re all involved in this crazed attempt to be the one person who gets noticed – the one person who stands out among all the rest.

There is so much pressure in the United States to be charming, to bubble over with energy, to have the perfect response to every question. Whether we like it or not, we’re living in a culture and a job market that puts a premium on charisma and extroversion.

Even when it’s hard, we “network,” we put ourselves “out there,” and we make small talk, most of which is predicated on the illusion of connection because it doesn’t actually fit with who we are.

How do those of us who want to live more authentically succeed in this type of environment?

To start with, many recruiters and career mentors need to let go of this idea that the only people worth hiring are those who can work a room. I would rather have someone on my team with depth than someone who is vacant inside but can talk about anything.

I encourage all of us who have a hand in hiring or promoting people to open our minds a bit more to the possibility that there are wonderful candidates out there who are too busy pursuing what they enjoy to spend hours tweaking their LinkedIn profiles.

For the rest of us, we need to become charming from the inside out.

In my networking experience, I almost always remember the people with whom I resonated. I remember the people who are standing in their truth, whatever that is, who have empathy for others, and who have done enough self-care that they can actually make those around them feel good.

I resonate with those people because they exhibit traits that I want for myself. Those people aren’t usually the loudest ones, but if we’re each being true to who we are, we’ll often find one another at a back table or, let’s be honest, near the snacks.

“Selling yourself” in the job market will go so much easier – and be more fun – when you nurture your soul first.

Sure, you might get a job without caring for yourself, but if in doing so you sold an illusion of who you are, you’ll probably end up back where you started – dissonant, uncomfortable, and feeling the urge to move on again.

If you’re looking for a job, do not spend all of your time looking for a job. Spend maybe 50 – 75% of the workday actively looking for work, whether it’s by networking, strengthening your skills, or updating your written application materials.

The rest of your time should be spent on activities that truly light you up and make you interesting from the inside out.

If you’re in a job and are feeling the pressure to be the outgoing, motivational leader in order to get promoted, ask yourself whether you want to be that way for the rest of your career. There are many kinds of effective leaders, and if your organization can’t see that, it would behoove you to keep nurturing your leadership style and trust that a better use of your gifts will come along later.

The point of this humbly-offered rant is this: None of us will become more interesting or more charming by sitting at a computer refreshing our LinkedIn (or Facebook, or Twitter) feed.

None of us will stand out more by writing resumes based on some boilerplate that a career counselor gave us.

We become magnetic when we pursue the things that make us feel good, even if they are totally unrelated to our work.

Doing the work is necessary, sure – when I’ve recruited for positions, it’s pretty annoying to have to wade through spelling and grammatical errors on resumes and cover letters. After a certain point, though, you’ve done enough, and then it’s time to focus on what makes you feel like the best version of you, because that version is really interesting.

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