Five years ago, I started my own business after getting fed up with playing a part as an executive within a large organization.
As a young businesswoman, I analyzed my target market and then squished myself into a very specific box to meet perceived client expectations.
From my logo to my shoes, I made all of my business decisions to send a message of competence – to a predominantly older male decision maker.
Early on, I closed nearly every virtual consultation, but lost nearly every face-to-face client introduction. It took two years of hitting that ceiling to finally evaluate my situation and consider a hard truth.
I had brought precisely what I disliked about my corporate job into my business: a disconnect.
At the next face-to-face consultation, I took what felt like a huge risk: I left the pinstripe slacks and button up shirt in the closet, curled my hair, and slipped on my favorite bright red flats, fully anticipating that I would be judged young and inexperienced.
The actual result? I closed the deal.
And then I continued to close these once ominous in-person consultations over and over, which was convincing evidence of the power of being genuine.
Lida Citroen, a personal branding strategist, confirms, “If you strip away who you are, you lose all sense of self. Companies aren’t looking for generic people, they are looking for people who have a sense of authenticity.”
After 20 years in corporate branding, Lida started her own firm to apply proven marketing strategies to professionals, establishing their unique value proposition and influence.
“I grew up in Hollywood. It was not uncommon for people in that environment to understand that you play someone else when you go to work and when you come home you get to be yourself. I found myself really good at fitting in, until I got to my last job. It wasn’t just the wardrobe, it was a fundamental shift in how they saw the world. I found myself playing the part to the point that my husband stopped and asked, ‘Since when do you wear Birkenstocks?’”
“Taking that costume off was one of the most liberating things I did in my entire life.”
If your outcome is to get the best possible opportunity for you, you have to bring you to the table, but as Lida points out, we sometimes get conflicting direction.
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