Ask A Progeek: Being Yourself?

Our question this week is one that’s a bit too common:

When job hunting, you’re supposed to “get out there” and “be yourself.”  How do you balance those things if you’re naturally introverted (and perhaps a little anti-social)?

One of the problems from the whole “be yourself” thing is that people miss the fact that you can never “be” your complete self.  Everyone sees a different side of us, and we’re all so complex it’s hard for anyone to know us completely.  There’s no way you can completely “be all of you” in an interview, on a job, or even in relationships.

After all, if you have kids they don’t need to see you as an accountant, your employer doesn’t want you to be a mother, and your spouse doesn’t really care about your sports interests.

So in an interview it’s the same way – you want to be the real you, but you have to choose what sides of the real you that you show people.  So, pick the ones that most relate to the job, to what you do, and the “side” of you that people will be working with.  Think it over and understand the true “parts-of-you” that are vital to the job, and that will come out as you work there.

Though this may make you a bit uncomfortable, really this helps paint a coherent picture of who you are.  Yes, you may have to admit you’re a bit overfocused or really hate Windows, or you may come off more withdrawn or energetic than the potential employer may life.  But by being the real you, you’re being sincere, honest, and they’ll pick up on that.

In fact, if you try and be false, to squelch the real you and limit yourself or just tell people what they want to here, a potential employer is going to realize that.  You know how you can tell when someone is false or too good to be true?  That’s how many, many people come off in the job search.

Tell me the last time you trusted someone who was too good to be true?

The ultimate secret to this is as I always say – narrative. Make sure the “side” of the real you you’re showing ties into your overall story of who you are, what you do, and why you’re perfect for the job.  If the “real side” of you ties into these stories and shows how you truly are right for the job, it’s very powerful.

Now, if you’re a bit introverted or antisocial? That’s a bit complicated, and an issue that has several sides:

  • First it’s possible your antisocially is something you should deal with.  It may not be a side of you, it may be a problem.
  • Second, if everything else on the job fits you and you’d like it, you may want to expose your “most social side” – while being honest of having those moments you want to get away from people.
  • Third, it might be an advantage – consider that.
  • Fourth, it may be that the job isn’t for you anyway if it truly conflicts with your nature.

I hope that helps, and let me know what you think.

Steven Savage