Are you for real?

Posted on September 19, 2012


how to be authenticIt took me until my 40’s to be real. Up until then, I was following what I thought I “should” be doing. Now I follow my heart. And you know what? I’m happier and more successful.

It’s also about being authentic. We keep hearing that for social media to be effective, you must be authentic. I believe that is true in real life and career as well.

A recent example brought this point home for me. Here’s my story:

For the second year now, I’ve signed up for the Harvard Community Action Partners. The Community Action Partners is a volunteer organization of Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School alumni helping Boston-area non-profits apply management skills to their business challenges. (Mission statement is taken directly from the Harvard Community Action Partners website.)

When choosing my top 3 choices, I looked at the projects and the location. My top choice was an organization very close to where I live, called the The Boston Foundation for Sight.

The team leader called me to discuss my interest in the project. Since it had been several weeks since I signed up, I took another look at the project. The phrase: “looking to assess strategic opportunities for international growth,” jumped out at me. Oops, I have no experience with international stuff.

So, the conversation could have gone one of two ways.

1. Tell me about your experience on last year’s project:

MBA speak:

“The project was a success. We analyzed the strategic growth initiatives for the client. The client was very happy with our findings.”

Nancy “being real” speak:

“I had a blast. It was really interesting to work with such a diverse team. The members were all different ages, with lots of different backgrounds. It was also fun to get back to doing project work.”

2. Why did you choose the project you did last year?

MBA speak:

“Because of the opportunity to research new markets and opportunities.”

Nancy “being real” speak:

“I love kayaking and being on the water and since this client was all about rowing, I thought it would be fun.”

3. Why are you interested in this year’s project?

MBA speak:

“Because of the strategy component.”

Nancy “being real” speak:

My aunt and my mother had macular degeneration and I saw first hand their struggles. Even though this client is tackling a different sight problem, it resonates with me.”

4. Do you have any questions or comments for me?

MBA speak:

“What are the current strategic intiatives of this organization?”

Nancy “being real” speak:

“This project sounds very interesting and I’d love to be a part of it. I must admit that I don’t have any international experience.”

The project had more people volunteering than needed, so the Team Leader had to decide who to keep. I like to think that my enthusiasm and authenticity played a major role in why I was chosen.

What about you?  What happened when you decided to be authentic?

Photo is courtesy of Patrick Lanigan’s Flickr Photostream, under Creative Commons Licensing.