9 Ways to Show Your Authentic Self Throughout the Job Search Process — And Why It Matters

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Becca Carnahan1.11k
Career Coach & Mom of 2
July 21, 2024 at 12:42PM UTC

Authentic. Genuine. Real. True to YOU!

Thinking about having the space to be yourself feels good, right? But being your authentic self can also feel scary, especially during a job search. You might ask yourself: What if they don’t like the real me? What if the real me isn’t “professional” enough? What if this company is going to discriminate against the real me?

That’s nerve-racking, and there is an understandable urge to “fake it until you make it” during a job search. I get it! But if you’re feeling that instinct, that’s where I’m going to ask you to hit pause because this job search process, needs YOU in it. Here’s why.

Why Authenticity Matters in the Job Search

Your authentic self matters in the job search process because of what we want this job search to lead to - a fulfilling job in an environment you love!

So what happens if you are not your authentic self in the job search and then accept a new role? Now you’ll be walking into your new job on day one knowing your manager and coworkers don’t have a true sense of who you are. This leads to a choice, continue to disguise parts of you, or bring your authentic self out into the open. 

If you choose option A, sooner rather than later you will be exhausted from the effort of separating your authentic self from the self who shows up at work daily. Furthermore, you may miss out on opportunities to truly connect with coworkers, build community, add value from your unique perspective, and be tapped for opportunities well aligned with your goals and interests.

If you chose option B, great! You are allowing yourself to be yourself. But what if the environment and the people within it are not supportive? Now you may feel stuck in a psychologically unsafe environment ready to go back to a job search. We don’t want that!

Option C would be bringing your authentic self from day one of the job search process, and that’s the option I encourage you to grab hold of. Here’s how.

Show Your Authentic Self in Networking

Around 80% of new jobs are found through networking referrals, so yes, this part is important! 

You can bring your authentic self to networking in a few ways.

1. Network within, or just a touch outside of, your comfort zone.

If you’re extroverted, go to that big event and shake hands. If you’re introverted, focus on 1:1 connections over Zoom calls. When you build relationships in a way that is naturally aligned with your style, you’ll feel more comfortable being authentic.

2. Focus on connection. 

When identifying people to connect with outside of your existing network, look for folks you share something in common with based on the authentic you. Maybe you share an alma mater that is close to your heart, you are both parents, or you share a cultural background. There’s always value in getting to know people who have different lived experiences than you do, but if a similarity provides a good inroad or a safe space that’s a wonderful thing.

3. Ask questions. 

A networking conversation is a great place to ask questions about a career path or company, so make sure you’re asking questions you care about. For example, if a company says it champions diversity, equity, and inclusion, ask a current team member how that value is modeled by leadership or how they have seen that value integrated into their day-to-day work.

Show Your Authentic Self in Your Marketing

Your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile are all marketing materials in your job search. With these documents, you are crafting a marketing campaign to sell the unique and amazing professional that is YOU to your ideal employer.

To make sure that your marketing documents truly tell your story, try this:

1. Share accomplishments, not responsibilities.

You are not your old job descriptions. You are so much more than that! In your marketing materials share the specific skills YOU bring to the table and show how those skills have made an impact in your previous roles. 

2. Share your passion

A cover letter or LinkedIn profile is a perfect place to explain why you love an industry, function, or type of business. What lights you up? Sharing a narrative instead of simply a list of previous jobs makes you stand out in your search and forge connections before you ever meet a potential employer in person.

3. Share your opinion. 

Your LinkedIn profile should be complete (including authentic photos!) but you can take it a step further by engaging on LinkedIn. Share articles, comment on posts, or write your own. When you engage with topics that are meaningful to you and your work, you attract your ideal audience.

Show Your Authentic Self in Your Interview

As you head into a job interview, arguably the most nerve-racking part of the job search process, it can be tempting to cover up your authenticity in favor of “professionalism.” However, no one style, culture, or personality can claim ownership of the word professionalism, nor should they.

So let’s flip this around. What does professionalism mean to YOU? What are you looking for in a group of colleagues and in an environment? When you come into a job search with clear ideas about where you thrive, you can be selective in what opportunities you apply for, interview for, and ultimately accept.

Here’s how to do this in the interview. 

1. Own your story.

When crafting their pitch, I coach clients to think about the three things they want someone to remember about them, the highlight reel that gives the evidence, and a clear statement on what they are looking for next. Fight the urge to make this generic, the essence and nuance of your skills and talents is much more interesting!

2. Bring a clear list of questions.

Much like we discussed regarding networking, a specific list of questions related to the environment and culture will be important. You’ll ask these questions and then have the opportunity to be true to your authentic self when you evaluate the answers afterward. 

3. Advocate for yourself.

If you need more information during the interview process, ask for it. If you are asked an inappropriate or illegal question, point it out. It’s not always easy, but bringing your authentic self means standing up for yourself along the way

The big takeaway here - the world of work needs an authentic you in order to thrive. Bring YOU and we all win!

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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.
Becca Carnahan is a career coach, author, and mom from Massachusetts. As the founder and CEO of Next Chapter Careers, LLC, she specializes in helping parents land fulfilling jobs they love without giving up the flexibility they need. Signup for her free job search training at beccacarnahan.com/freetraining.

What's your no. 1 piece of advice for showing your authentic self in the job search process? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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