I’ve been thinking about courage and vulnerability quite a bit as of late. It seems most of our career in marketing is steered by how well we are able to market ourselves.
“All of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.” – Tom Peters in Fast Company
From the way you dress to the way you talk about your personal life, self-marketing or personal branding is the product managers favourite concept (closely followed by “happy-few”, MOFU, TOFU, infographics, conversion rates and organic coffee).
I’m all about dressing for the job and looking your part in the workplace. I’m also a big time believer in having a personal life (shocker I know). I love being able to have real conversations with people, where we’re not just complaining about work and the weather – but know very well that work isn’t a a quaint evening around a campfire, it’s a place of business and money making.
Taking into account that this is probably one of the most interesting times to be entering the workplace as a millennial, where we want to work to live, expect the workplace to be a place of self-fulfilment and are faced with a generation that may see work in a very different light: I want to say live to work, but I’m too young to know.
How can we find that sweet spot, where you truly get to know your co-workers yet are able to keep a grip on your professional identity? Well, you guessed it: there really isn’t one answer to that question. But I’d gladly talk about my own experience as a super-duper mature 22 year old who feels like an 8 year old princess and an 90 year old man all at the same time.
- Startups vs huge companies
Having gone straight from the freshest start-up in St Pete (Big Sea Design aka ThinkTank in the good ol’ days) to one of the world’s biggest company’s International Marketing office in Paris, I got big time culture-shock. As obvious as certain differences were from one to the other (like not bringing your dog to work or not wearing certain clothes), others were a complete shock. A perfectly simple example: not personally knowing my superiors was a foreign concept. We’re not all going to become best buddies in the next 6 months?
It is quite difficult in an environment like “the big company”, where the hours are harsh, the meetings are long and the project deadlines unforgiving, to be emotionally vulnerable. Bearing your soul could deeply wound the self-marketing you’ve worked so hard on (I know, it hurts my 8 year old princess heart – business is business), and to be honest, ain’t nobody got time for dat! Certain emotions expressed at work will not be helpful in any way as you want to show that you are mature, strong and ready to accept any criticism, even when shared poorly.
There is great beauty in both big companies and smaller companies, start-ups and banks: the freedom to work without having to worry about feelings, or on the other hand the freedom of expressing personal feelings in front of a group.
Now, I am not putting startups vs big companies as though they are complete opposites, or as though all start-ups are the same and vice versa. Companies come in all shapes and sizes, where leadership is all over the spectrum: from yoga in the office to no sneezing in front of the boss (#youreweakifyousneezebrah). I am also not saying that there is no place for emotions in big groups, but they must be expressed with precaution, as delicately as possible and around the right people.
2. Cultures must be discovered, learned, and integrated or you’ll be a v sad employee
As for general communication, every workplace is different. A perfectly safe comment that wouldn’t get a second thought in a company can be totally shocking in another. The first few months of a new job are really all about that: learning all the subcultures and counter-cultures that are hiding under what HR thinks the company culture is. Ha – that’s a whole other story. It’s truly a complex part of integrating a new workplace, and should be given the same amount of preparation and active attention as moving to a different country.
3. It takes courage to be vulnerable
The princess in me is tripping out, and hopes to speak a few fairy-dusted covered words of wisdom. Vulnerability is a beautiful part of business. It’s that little voice at the end of a meeting that whispers a different opinion, where absolutely everyone agreed with the idea. It’s that personal story you choose to share with your boss so they understand why you’ve been acting a certain way. It’s that one friend you make because you cried after a meeting and needed a pick-me-up and she was a few offices away with every single foundation “the big company” has ever made, and made the ugly-cry face go away. It’s also that intimate experience in your past that gets an advertisement idea go from okay to amazing and makes it as original as your story. Emotions really have their place in business, but must be used with precaution.
Being vulnerable is powerful, it deserves it’s place. It is also dangerous when used without thought or purpose: a great way to be seen only for your emotions and not your great ideas or hard work.