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Being “authentic” sounds so fake

Recently I overheard a co-worker on her cell phone. She was nearby, spoke loudly and I swear I wasn’t eavesdropping on purpose. She said she walked into an important event where she saw someone with whom she’d had several run-ins — of a hostile nature.

“I decided I would react by just being my authentic self,” I heard her say, and it made me wonder. If you’re choosing intentionally to be your “authentic self,” doesn’t the conscious decision make you inauthentic in the first place?

Being “authentic” or “genuine” seems to be among the key points of advice many of you hear for your college applications and especially if a personal interview is involved. A contradiction to this recommendation, in my mind, is to fill your resume with volunteer activities and leadership roles in those volunteer activities. Volunteering is wise and wonderful but what if you choose something that is “not you” and, therefore, inauthentic.

I also hear from friends in younger generations that they believe “jumping through traditional hoops” of an interview may get them a college placement or a job. My question is: Will that success match with your needs, your happiness or your fulfillment? An interesting evolution of your generation is that many of you may want to please yourselves more than just “get the placement” with interview techniques that have been in place for decades.

I have a close relative who went through much life turmoil on her way to medical school. She didn’t get in when she first graduated, went on to a chemical engineering job and was haunted by her dream. She got into medical school on her second round, went on to become a family physician in a community where she is loved and honored and, yet, is never quite happy with the field, long hours, sadness of losing patients, changing healthcare paperwork, etc.

I think I approve of this evolutionary shift in your generation to be sure you are being true to your own soul’s code – you being you. If you can find your “real” self at your age or any age, then it bodes well for your happiness in the future. You can’t expect an interviewer to know if you’re a fit if you’re merely jumping through the right hoops. And yet, you don’t want to be turned down either. Right?

So, perhaps we need a combination of the two theories – being traditional and being yourself. Be sure you know the appropriate interviewing mandates:

1. Be on time.

2. Dress nicely.

3. Be prepared with another resume, portfolio or whatever you’ve sent ahead of your face-to-face.

4. Be sure you have some questions for the interviewers.

But, also be yourself. Actually interview the interviewer or use interview techniques to determine if this decision is right for you.

1. Try to be comfortable, sincere and honest.

2. Do you “fit in” with the interviewer — similar dress style, same level of formality.

3. Is your interviewer “authentic.” Is he or she reading from a list of “canned” questions. Is there any wiggle room to be yourself or for them to be genuine.

4. What’s in the office? If it’s a personal office, look around. See if family and personal items are allowed or not. See if you can tell anything about your interviewer — family? Do you want to have a family? Sports? Do you like physical activity? Awards, honors and higher degrees? You get the picture, I hope.

5. A huge caveat for me is this: How many are interviewing you at once. Group interviews happen and you may find yourself in a room with a ton of folks interviewing just you — like a detective and you’re the criminal. When this happens, I always, always say something. It breaks the “them” against “you” barrier right away.

6. Finally, do you like the folks you are meeting? This is important if you are going to “fit” and be happy.

In the end, you want to get the offer or the approval or, in general, positive feedback. It builds your confidence for next time and the time after that. Remember, however, this is also your choice. Your life. Don’t be railroaded any more than you have to be. Sure, you may need this college placement — for whatever reason. But wouldn’t it be nice to know you also made the right choice for you, your success and eventually you’re fulfillment and happiness.



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