Monday, February 14, 2011

corporate personas and other stories we tell people about ourselves

I read a bunch of business books and interviewing books before taking my first corporate job last year, and they were fascinating.  One in particular talked about creating a corporate persona.  When you start working at a company, it doesn't matter what your work reputation was before; now you have the chance to remake yourself and control people's initial perceptions about you!

I laughed because it reminded me of junior high and then college.  Whenever you start some place new, you get the chance to reinvent yourself.  You have baggage, but the new people you meet don't know about it, and when you're with them, you can, to some extent, create a new you with them.  (You just can't ever let them see you interacting with your family. :)

Maybe you were a slob who was always late, but in your new job, you can dress neatly and be on time, and everyone will assume you have always been so.  Sometimes, that baggage gives you so much drag that you can't stop it and change how people perceive you where you are.  Sometimes you have to go where nobody knows your name, so you can become a you more like the you you aspire to be rather than the you who's dragging you down. Eventually, you may grow into that person.  Yeah, deep.

I was pretty deliberate about my corporate persona, in that I didn't really build one.  I tried to do the opposite, actually, and bring my non-businesslike qualities to the fore.  I played the book-nerdy, slightly goofy, plushie-loving, non-threatening, a tad spacey, non-ambitious role I created, and it has served me well so far.  I have avoided the pitfall of appearing driven, dedicated, and focused because that's not who I am able to be anymore.  I could play it for a time, but I don't have the energy to keep that mask on for long.  I wouldn't want to set false expectations at the beginning.  Better to be more who I am; less weight on the mask, that way.  Competent but hardly exceptional.  That's what I aimed for.

How about you?  Have you ever reinvented yourself (corporate persona or new school or anything)?  What did you change about how people perceived you and why?

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