There are almost 8 billion people on Earth. That’s 8 billion individuals. 8 billion sets of unique DNA. And in personal life, we’re encouraged to celebrate our individuality. The things that make us different from everyone else – that make people fall in love with us, become our friends, listen to us, dislike us. It’s in to be you. On a personal level, we’ve kind of all accepted that it’s impossible to be liked by everyone, so we try to be comfortable with who we are.
The workplace is miles – years – behind this notion. It’s getting there, but it really has a long, long way to go. That’s why LinkedIn is riddled with faceless, impersonal posts. Why resumes have a tendency to look almost exactly the same. And why business after business uses the same wording, the same structure, the same core values for their content.
Finally, it’s the reason why many entrepreneurs and self-employed workers – like myself – have a hard time owning their personalities in a professional context.
Now, I’m an immensely quirky human. I ask too many questions. I have an incessant need to understand why (in any and every context). I absolutely love emojis and use them excessively. I am awkwardly direct. I make up strange metaphors that no one understands. I laugh loudly when no one else does. And the idea that all of these attributes would seep out and into my professional communications terrified me for a long, long time.
Problem is, if you try to hide your real personality from your work, you’ll end up with something much worse: becoming less and less distinctive and more and more generic.
It wasn’t until very recently, when Covid-19 hit and forced me to sharpen my business message, that I discovered my own impersonality. The total lack of any real, quirky aspect of my person in any part of my business – and how that made me completely forgettable, uninteresting and unreliable. (Special thanks to John Espirian and his book Content DNA for helping me realise this).
But it’s a scary thing, the idea of actually showcasing yourself to a professional community. Even deciding to write this post so prominently in first person narration was scary for me. What if the audience’ll think of you as unprofessional? Or incompetent? Or too quirky? The risk is definitely there.
Here’s the brilliant thing about owning your quirks, though: By showing who you are, you’ll attract people (that means clients or contacts) that your personality actually appeals to.
So instead of having to spend energy on forcing an awkward relationship while keeping yourself to, well, yourself, you essentially ensure that only the people who feel a sense of connection to either you or what you’re saying will approach you.
In addition to that, you’ll contribute to a more honest, diverse and enjoyable professional community – and that’s something to be proud of. So be quirky. Be weird. Be you. Seriously, the global workplace needs it.
Here are some things you can do (that I did and am doing) to actively own your quirks:
- Identify the brand values, voice and message for your business (and make sure they’re consistent overall with your own beliefs and values).
- Run through this ‘checklist’ each time you write anything in a professional context.
- Whenever you feel awkward or insecure about a comment or post (on your own platform or on social media), recheck your list – and if it corresponds to your brand identity, publish it.
- Actively use your quirks when you engage with others on social media (apologies for all the emojis, people!).
Do you have a story about your quirks in a professional context that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you! Drop me a comment below – or write me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.