Have you ever tried ”fitting in”?
It’s hard work isn’t it?! It takes a lot of effort and energy to try and act, behave and talk like the others in the group.
You entered the group as you, but by trying to fit in, you’ve become one of them. Which means you don’t stand out any more.
You’ve become invisible when actually you want to be the one person that is seen and chosen for all the great things you know and can do.
So why is it important to be true to ourselves and be an individual?
Let me give you a few real-life examples that bring this to life.
It’s ‘I’ not ‘we’
I’ve worked with clients to produce a killer CV and get them ready for interviews, and the one thing that is important throughout is to remember that a potential recruiter wants to read, see and hear about you.
Your CV needs to talk about your skills, your career achievements and your qualifications.
When you are in an interview, you need to be saying things like “I lead this activity” or “I took responsibility”, rather than “We worked on this project” or “We made sure it was successful”.
The person asking you the questions is looking to recruit you, not the group of people you happened to be working with when you did all those great things.
There was an occasion when I was leading a team and had a vacancy for a post-graduate. I received several CVs and as you can imagine they weren’t able to demonstrate a depth of career as most candidates had recently finished university.
Some of them had been in part time jobs during holidays or whilst at university, but essentially there wasn’t enough for me to work with in order to identify a stand-out recruit. I needed to meet them.
Interviews took place, and a procession of eager candidates gave me pretty standard responses to my questions, saying what they thought I wanted to hear, and not really giving me a feel for their personality.
Apart from one. One candidate was trying to say all the right things, but in quite a unique way.
He had talked about how he spent a year between A levels and university in a retail job that he realised he didn’t like because he came to understand what motivated him (and this job didn’t). He told me about the six months he spent abroad helping build and provide accommodation for the homeless.
He was already starting to stand out, because he demonstrated he was a human being that was self-aware and self-less.
But the best bit came when he told me I should recruit him because he would give me “150% effort”. I asked how he proposed to give me something that wasn’t actually possible. He smiled and said “OK, so I can give you 100%, but if you need more I’ll find it”.
I couldn’t help but like the guy. The job was his.
And you know what? He joined, he flourished, he got to explore so much about the company and explore where his passions and natural strengths lay.
Know when it’s not working
Towards the end of 2012 I took on a role that I truly believed I would excel at.
It required me to be organised, structured, analytical with data and totally passionate about customers – things I’m naturally good at.
But after a few months I realised that I was getting more and more frustrated, but couldn’t understand why!
I needed to step back and consider everything going on – the role, the team, the wider organisation, the culture, the balance of working from home versus office, etc.
Stepping back helped me realise two things.
Firstly, whilst I had to put customers at the heart of everything I did, I actually had zero influence over the experiences that they went through, no matter what angle I tried. And that started to make my role feel less valuable to me and to my career prospects.
Secondly, because my team were so geographically spread out, I was able to work from home a lot, but that meant I missed out on the energy I build when I’m around people. I really do focus more and work harder when I’m surrounded by other people – I don’t even have to be talking to them, it’s just the right environment for me to be at my best!
It wasn’t working, so I needed to do something about it.
I looked for a new role, and soon moved to a different team, and became the energised happy me again. But there’s an irony…
…I was now in a team that was EVEN MORE geographically spread, not just across UK but now across Europe! However – my new role meant I needed to be in the office more, and not just one office. I got to travel across different locations across Europe and meet with lots of different teams, so whilst my ‘team’ situation was in fact harder, my role more than made up for it.
Take time regularly throughout your career to step back and reflect on when you are at your best, and when you’re not. And determine what factors are influencing those situations – that way you’ll know what needs tweaking or changing to be in a great job, being true to yourself and able to perform at your best.
Be different to the competition
I now work in a crowded industry. What do I mean by that? Well, what I do – coaching, training, developing people – is also something that a lot of other people do.
And when I’m attending networking events or business functions, I’m along side those other people. My competition and I are in the same room, trying to pitch ourselves to the same audience.
The key thing is to be yourself. People will understand what you do. So, give them a feel for who you are and how you do it, because that’s what makes you different to the next person.
In order to do good business, people need to trust you. They can’t trust you until they like you, and they can’t like you until they know you. Know, like, trust – in that order.
Help your prospective clients or employers get to know you by turning up and being consistent. Offer them advice. Answer their questions. Be helpful.
The more you do that, in your own style, with your personality and brand, the more people will get to like you. They’ll start talking to other people about you too.
And as that builds, the trust will come and then they’ll be coming to you for business. And they’ll be recommending you to other people.
It takes time, but I’ve seen it work for myself and there’s no better feeling than someone contacting you out of the blue due to a recommendation from someone.
I’ve run workshops, with my competition paying to attend, and subsequently giving me public recognition on independent review sites such as TrustPilot, and recommending that other people attend.
And I do the same for them. I’ll learn from them, and it will help me be better, but I’ll only do what I do in my way. If I try and behave like someone else, I’ll appear false and people will stop trusting me, and eventually stop liking me.
So, my summary is this – think about when you are at your best and create that environment for yourself through what you do, how you do it and who you have around you.
Be proud of who you are and confident in your personality and your own unique style. It’s your brand. It’s what people will buy once they know you, like you and trust you.
James Perryman is a resident of the North West but loves travelling anywhere and everywhere to work with his clients. Owner of 2 grown up children. Partner to the actual boss of the house. Captain of local rugby team.
James had a successful career in all things consultancy before going solo in 2016 and creating Momentus.
He works with lots of different and exciting clients, delivering training and development programmes, providing 1:1 coaching and generally helping people and organisations grow and become better for themselves and their customers.
You can find out more about him and how to get in contact via LinkedIn.