December 16, 2019
A lot of career advice boils down to various ways to fit in with whatever professional group you aspire to join. That’s why mentors will suggest that you “dress for the job you want, not the job you have,” when you go out to network, and that you police your tone to sound more “competent,” Inc. magazine reports.
But at least two incredibly successful women have exactly the opposite take, says the news outlet for entrepreneurs. Sure, being mindful of others and the norms of your industry is always a good idea. But, according to these two titans, the real secret to career advancement (especially for women) isn’t fitting in. It’s being more truly yourself.
The latest superstar to offer this take is Melinda Gates, who joined an incredible roster of flourishing females in sharing their memories and insights for National Geographic‘s new special issue focusing on the lives of women around the world. The issue was produced exclusively by women writers and photographers.
When the magazine asked Gates for her number-one piece of advice for young women, she was blunt in her recommendation.
“Fitting in is overrated,” she replied. “I spent my first few years at my first job out of college doing everything I could to make myself more like the people around me. It didn’t bring out the best in me—and it didn’t position me to bring out the best in others. The best advice I have to offer is: Seek out people and environments that empower you to be nothing but yourself.”
While superficial changes like trading in your hoodie for a suit might make sense,., Gates insists that when it comes to your fundamental character and values, letting your inner light shine beats adapting to your surroundings every time, Inc. reports. She’s far from alone in thinking that.
No less than TV superstar Oprah Winfrey backs her up. As the talk show mogul explained in a recent Hollywood Reporter interview, her stint at storied news program 60 Minutes ended abruptly when she realized the show didn’t line up with her true self.
“It was not the best format for me,” she explained. “I think I did seven takes on just my name because [my way of speaking] was ‘too emotional.’ I go, ‘Is the too much emotion in the ‘Oprah’ part or the ‘Winfrey’ part?’ … They would say, ‘All right, you need to flatten out your voice, there’s too much emotion in your voice.’ So I was working on pulling myself down and flattening out my personality—which, for me, is actually not such a good thing.”
Oprah, who is certainly not short of other opportunities, up and quit to search for projects that lined up more closely with her personality and approach, Inc. notes. That sort of abrupt departure probably isn’t possible for most of us, but we can still put the central point made by both super-achievers to work.
Indeed, according to Inc., research out of both Columbia and Deloitte shows that “covering” your true identity at work (whether that’s your sexual orientation, your introverted nature, or your emotional soul) has a negative impact on your professional performance and psychological well-being. When fitting in comes at the cost of authenticity, the research is clear: It’s not worth it.
Research contact: @Inc