Somewhere along the way in our careers, we decided to silo off our professional identities from our personal ones. Because somehow we picked up the impression that this is in our best interest, or maybe we’re afraid that our natural personalities won’t be accepted in a work environment. After all, if you’re too funny at work, who will take your professional opinion seriously? So there’s the 9-to-5 you and then there’s the afterhours you. And the two haven’t crossed paths in months, maybe years.
But compartmentalizing our identities at work can actually make us less appealing to co-workers, clients, customers—pretty much everyone. I’m not suggesting that your Saturday-at-2 a.m. self should show up to the office during weekday work hours, but blending work and play can and does have its benefits.
Whether you’re a one-person company or part of a larger organization, it’s worth paying attention to how your colleagues, industry peers and others perceive you. If you think these people would utter any of the following phrases or questions, it might be time to let your personality shine.
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OK, don’t panic, but you’ve got some work to do. If you hear this within the first few weeks or even months of your new job, then you’re off the hook—otherwise it’s time to put yourself out there more.
With larger corporations, it can be easy to go from being a name to a number, but many of these companies implement programs to ensure you’re not lost in the crowd. Seek out resources your company provides but also actively get to know the people around you, even if they’re in different departments.
2. “Why didn’t they say that earlier?”
Let yourself be heard! Fear of public speaking can cripple your confidence and creativity. With some professions, good communication might not be as necessary, but it will always be a valuable skill. In brainstorm sessions, it can feel daunting to offer an original thought that could be met with indifference or even criticism.
Typically, brainstorms are led by the same outspoken few and others don’t feel confident enough to voice their opinion. Throw out your off-the-wall ideas because you never know when you might be on to something. Trust that everyone will appreciate your contribution, and even if they don’t, you’re building that self-confidence muscle to continue speaking up in the future.
3. “I never knew they were so funny!”
You might not necessarily have a knack for humor, but core aspects of your personality shouldn’t come as a surprise to others. We devote so much of our time to work that it can be easy to form a more one-dimensional persona and even lose focus on our other passions. Think about your dynamic with a friend or within social circles; those comfortable environments allow you to be yourself, so consider those contexts to better understand you. Are you the witty one of your friends? The goofy one? A combination of both?
Although we can obviously be sillier and more laid back with our friends than in a work setting, our personality among friends gives us some of the clearest indication of our true selves. You already know who you are, so make sure people at work know it, too.
4. “They keep to themselves a lot.”
In any job, work can get busy quickly. But just because you are measured by your performance doesn’t mean you can’t be sociable as well. Simple gestures such as asking about weekend plans allows you to quickly learn about other people and shows that you care about those you work with. It can be easy to develop a “clock in, clock out” mentality, but make the effort to interact with people regularly if possible.
You have a lot to offer at work and your unique personality is important to share. Be aware of the vibes you’re giving off in the office and if they’re an accurate reflection of yourself. You’ll soon find the more “play you” and “work you” combine, the more successful and natural everything else will feel.
What is your work personality?