The Power of Being Authentic

Authenticity is one of those words that gets used so much it’s easy for it to lose meaning. It’s also really easy to think of authenticity in superficial ways, like “I’m being authentic if I can talk to my coworkers the way I talk to my friends” or “I can wear whatever I want to work and that makes me feel comfortable.” That may be part of it, but there’s more to the authenticity conversation, and, for me at least, it’s sometimes been difficult to catch myself being inauthentic with myself in bigger ways, which in turn impacts my ability to connect with others.

For me, the biggest way this manifested was in my career transition and subsequent career search. By the time I was interviewing for recruiting jobs, I had already left a legal career and one in entertainment, and if I’m being honest was being borderline preachy to friends about “being true to myself” and “not pursuing a career that wasn’t right for me” and how everyone else should do the same. I sort of thought I had authenticity on lock.

But a couple of months into interviewing, I wasn’t feeling authentic, and I couldn’t figure out why. Despite preparing and having what I thought were good answers to questions, I still felt like I was having fake and awkward conversations every time I interviewed. It wasn’t until I had a great conversation with a company I knew I didn’t want to join (let’s call them Company X) that I figured out what was missing. In talking with Company X’s interviewers, I didn’t feel the need to present my experience in a way that I thought fit into the “interview rubric.” For me, that meant speaking openly about not knowing what I was doing during certain parts of my career journey, rather than trying to convince them that everything I’d done had all been part of my grand career plan, which is what I had been doing—without even realizing it—in prior interviews.

Despite having what I felt like were constant conversations with myself and others about being real with myself, it took that interview for it to really sink in that I was doing myself a disservice by trying to fit into a box I didn’t even realize I had created. I did change my approach after this interview and stopped glossing over the periods during my career journey when I wasn’t sure what my next step would be, and started incorporating these experiences into my narrative. The more I started being honest with myself and my interviewers, the more I was able to have real conversations about what was driving me, and to better connect with interviewers on a human level. Openly discussing my non-traditional job path opened me up to questions about commitment and “jumping around,” but because I had clear reasons for making the career changes I made, I was able to field these questions and answer them honestly and confidently, which resulted in a more positive response from interviewers than pretending these changes were always part of my career plan.

My interview experience reminded me of the power of being authentic, but it also reminded me of how easy it can be to lose sight of authenticity, especially when operating in an environment that comes with certain rules (e.g. interviewing). My point is not to disregard these rules or to not think about how you come across in an interview, but to remember that authenticity is an ongoing conversation with yourself, rather than a static state of being, and that the reward of checking in with yourself about what feels authentic to you will result in better interactions with yourself and others.

Hannah Shtein