As a woman in her 20s, on the generational cusp between Millennials and Gen Z, I’ve been developing my professional work ethic since applying for a work permit at the age of 15. I’ve been fortunate that my older, wiser (and sometimes stubborn family members) taught me the key to a sustainable career is to always remain professional.
But in recent years, thanks largely to social media, there has been a shift in what being a “professional” means. Business professionals are no longer expected to check their personal life at the door. Instead, we’re encouraged to develop and reveal our authenticity, channeling personal qualities, passions, and interests into our work. When we take this approach, an infinite range of questions appears and helps us tackle issues in novel ways. For example: Can dealing with personal loss make us more aware of marketing family holidays to consumers? How might having a sibling with a learning disability deepen our advocacy for a particular community? Sharing these personal details and experiences with colleagues strengthens our work performance and problem-solving ability.
A variety of thought, experience and communication styles bring richer results, allowing for more innovative solutions to challenges that might be missed without differing perspectives. Lisa Rosh and Lynn Offermann suggest in Harvard Business Review: “We each have a rich kaleidoscope of experiences, perspectives and styles that makes each of us whole,” says Rosch and Offermann.”Each of us has many things that make up our authentic selves. Did we grow up in an urban environment, or maybe in another country or culture? Did we serve in the military, or maybe do humanitarian work? Were we adopted? From a large family? A single-parent family? All of these things, and many others, help form who we are—our authenticity.”
As young professionals enter their career with passion and drive, but are unsure of how to remain authentic, it would be smart keep in mind these words from Lorraine Martin, “The ability to bring your full self is empowering and freeing. You will be at your best and get the best from the teams you are leading.”