What does it mean to be a consummate professional? A colleague once called me this – consummate professional – in a farewell email after resigning from my first “real” job six years ago. It sticks out so well in my memory because, at the time, I felt like anything but professional – a fraud, too big for my britches, maybe, but certainly not professional. I could hardly make it through a work dinner without talking ballots or boyfriends, going against any advice I’d been given by more seasoned professionals.
A recruiter’s promise of “work-life balance” is certainly admirable in its intention, but it’s also an absurdity, as if work were somehow the business of the non-living! Constantly connected, constantly reachable, modern life is both our privilege and our burden. Work is interwoven into the very fabric of our lives, and because of this, compartmentalizing – often a euphemism for constantly switching between our “work selves” and “real selves” – is all but impossible. Whitewashing our values or personality might seem easier than the cognitive dissonance that comes from compartmentalizing. Without the neat segregation between office and home that existed when Henry Ford conjured up the 40-hour work week, being able to “be ourselves” at work may be more important than ever.
Of course, this has some obvious caveats. For starters, the quality of our work and the integrity of our business dealings cannot be clouded or diminished by a need to express ourselves. On the other hand, it’s incumbent upon each one of us – as colleagues, supervisors, and direct reports – to remain respectful of the beliefs of others, even and especially when they do not necessarily align with our own. Showing up authentically can break down barriers and increase trust between parties who are unfamiliar or, even, in conflict with one another. If we’re really evolved, we may even be able to engage in some so-called “positive conflict” – exchanges in which we can broaden perspectives while maintaining mutual respect. It’s a tall order, but, as I’ve learned from personal experience, not impossible.
Right after starting at Advoco, I heard my first Jimbo-ism, and it, much like the professionalism comment, stuck out for me because it so neatly crystallized the reason I’d decided to join Advoco in the first place. He said, “If you can’t be yourself at work, you might as well not bother showing up at all.” Work can often be a place where we feel like we need to hide, but among a group with true integrity and respect, and a shared purpose, it might just be a place where life doesn’t have to stop existing for eight or more hours a day.
Until next time…we are Advoco, make every minute count.
Natalie Kent is an Account Executive for Advoco based in New York City. Natalie began her career at Infor as a Project and Account Manager, moving onto a consulting role at Accenture before joining the Advoco team in 2019. She is a staunch customer advocate and loves working through challenges to help make our clients as efficient and effective as possible. Send Natalie an email!