You are unique. Act like it!

Career Opportunities podcast logoYou are unique. Act like it!
By Douglas E. Welch



Here is a little experiment. If you work in an office with cubicles, stand up on your desk and look out over the office. What do you see? If you work in an building with individual offices, walk down a line of offices and notice what is happening within. What are people doing? How are they dressed? What sort of decoration do you see?

Now that you have done this experiment, let me give you a way of evaluating what you see. When you did your observations, did everything look the same from cube to cube or office to office?

Were there oddities scattered among the sameness? Was everyone doing something unique? Now, here is what all this means.

The more conformity, the more sameness, the more blah your office, the less innovative it is likely to be and the less likely you will find a way to express your true talents and skills. The fact is, we know all of this intuitively, but we force ourselves to ignore it by becoming buried in the day-to-day mundanity of our work. It is only when we stop and take a moment to really look at where we work that we can make the fog clear and see the truth.

Why should you care about how your place of business looks? As I have often said in the past, you can only do your best work when you are passionate. Sure, you might do good work, but nothing approaching what you might achieve, given half a chance. If you are burying your uniqueness under the same clothes, the same interests, the same way of working as everyone else, you are bound to suffer.

You might still get your paycheck every week, but you won’t change the world. You might like some of your co-workers and your office, but you will avoid them whenever you can. You might work, but you might not live.

You are unique. Act like it. Look inside yourself — deep inside. What clothes would you prefer to wear? What work do you love to do? Where would you like to do it? Is your current job fulfilling your needs beyond a simple paycheck? If not, there is a way you can change things for the better — and a big reason why.

First the why. Being true to yourself, your passions and your sensibilities is the first path to the career you deserve. If you are constantly corralling your true self and hiding it behind a facade of sameness you are killing yourself every day. You don’t have to “go crazy” in public, but you need to express how unique you are.

Start small. Wear odd socks, a neat tie, a new hat. I know it sounds a bit silly, but it is a start and it leads the way to more dramatic changes. If there seems to be only one way to complete a task, find another. You don’t need to stand on your desk and announce to the world how you will do it differently, but do it in a way that makes the most sense to you. Once you have something worked out, introduce it to others and see how it received. You may soon find yourself rising above your co-workers who don’t make any attempt to mix things up.

The next steps take a bit more courage. Take every opportunity to explore who you are. Don’t like the hours you work? Ask for different ones. Don’t like your location? Ask to work from home on a regular basis.

Obviously, all this works much better after you have established a good — no, great — track record in your work. If you hope to make such large changes, you need to make sure that everyone believes you can complete your work — even be more productive — after these changes.

If you look around and see only sameness, it is time to make a change. Don’t let your job turn you into merely another worker bee, just like all the rest. Find ways to explore and express your uniqueness. Find ways to make your job into the career you deserve.

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