Being able to be authentic at work is not only one of the keys to good leadership, but bringing your genuine self to the workplace is something that resonates especially with millennials.
At the recent TransformHER Conference, LinkedIn’s first-ever summit for women of color in technology, two millennial powerhouses sat down to share their stories of staying true to themselves while seeking success, and their tips for how you can do the same.
Brittney Oliver, a marketing communications professional, is the founder of Lemons 2 Lemonade, which brings together millennials through networking mixers and panel discussions to collectively tackle their career and life challenges. She shared her journey alongside Lindsey Day, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of CRWN Magazine, a publication that explores black womanhood through the lens of hair.
Here’s what they had to say about the sometimes difficult reality of being authentic at work:
Get to know yourself.
“It starts with self. It’s the one thing you can control—how you react to things, how you maneuver, how you show up to work,” Day says. It’s impossible to be authentic at work if you haven’t yet figured out who you are. She says to ask yourself, “Why am I here? What do I want to do? If you haven’t clarified that, it’s going to be a lot harder because then you show up with insecurities.”
Getting to know yourself is also the first step to creating opportunities for yourself. “Your personal brand is key. Start there first,” Oliver says. Then you have to be vocal about what you want. “You have to let your network know what is your expertise. Does your neighbor know what you do? You have to put yourself out there so people know what you offer.”
Don’t struggle alone.
When Oliver first moved to New York, she was getting a lot of “lemons” as she was trying to get her career off the ground. But once she started talking about her challenges, “it really changed my trajectory,” she says. “And I noticed that I was really being impactful and helpful to other people.”
Day agrees that a support system is essential. “Find yourself in places where people are growing along with you and remove yourself from toxic places,” she says.
And so is self-care. Day prays all the time. But maybe for you, it’s meditation or journaling. She suggests you find one thing that works for you and stick with it: “Sometimes we get into a self-help spiral. All it really takes is a practice or two or day that can really shift your thinking—how mindful you’re being, what you let into your space.”
Recognize you can do it yourself.
Maybe it’s not working out at your job for a reason, and that reason is because you’re supposed to be creating your own lane. That’s how Oliver became an entrepreneur. “I was hearing no all the time from companies,” she says, “But I realized I had the skill set. And I was like why don’t I just do it myself. Create those opportunities for yourself.”
“Setbacks are just a part of life. Rejection is a part of life. There’s no getting around [it],” Day says. “The best way to overcome is to create value, in whatever way you can in that given space. The petty things will fall to the side if [employers] know they need you.” But if all else fails, “you have to put yourself in a position where you’re able to walk away.”
And if it doesn’t work out, that’s OK.
If you find yourself in a job you hate, it isn’t the end of the world. “Even if you don’t like the job, master it. Do it for yourself. Do it for your sense of integrity, to be able to say I showed up and I did this,” Day says. “That energy that you put out, I promise things will come your way. Even if you hate it today, that’s circumstance. And circumstances change.”
Oliver says you also have to give yourself the freedom to fail sometimes. “Stop being embarrassed by your failure and start being empowered by your now. Holding on to that past failure was blocking me from having what I wanted. Being bitter, being angry. It’s stressful, it’s trauma. You have to let it go.”
“Don’t be afraid,” she encourages. “Shoot your shot because you’ll never know when that next opportunity will come.”