I was in Austin, Texas recently. I attended a National Assembly for the Public Relations Student Society of America. I ran for a national officer position, the Vice President of Member Services. In my speech, I didn't sell my expertise, my "love" of PR or my desire to grow my professional network.
I sold my love of service.
By the end of the second day of the conference, a student who attends the Univerisity of Houston told me I was the "realest" person she's ever met. I took that very seriously. I try to be straight-forward and blunt. Sometimes that comes off in a negative manner, but it is in my best intentions.
In my speech, I conceded something some people would argue is key to a position in PRSSA: "I do not have a lot of experience in PR. I've never had an impressive internship with Ketchum. I don't even want a job in PR. But I do have a desire to serve my fellow PRSSA members."
I went on to lose my bid for this position to someone who is ecstatic about PRSSA, more so than anyone I've ever met. I congratulate him. He encompassed the enthusiasm necessary for this specific position. A number of people came up to me after the break and throughout the rest of the conference. They congratulated me and told me they appreciated everything I said. Some even called my speech "unique" and "genuine."
Some people see my bid as a loss. In some sense, it is. However, I have no desire to work somewhere or to be a part of something where I can't be myself entirely. I don't like the idea of separating personal and professional. I want my work to be personal, significant and important. The fact is, I don't have a lot of PR experience and I don't even want a job in PR. I do have management experience and a love of service. I could have spun my lack of experience (or straight up ignored it, as plenty of voters don't even read the applications). However, I wanted to be straightforward with what I was offering and what I stood for. In hindsight, I stand by that.
This can be applied to politics, as well. If I were to run for political office, I would likely do very poorly. I'm not a Josh Kasich supporter, but he recently said something that earned him a 26-second standing ovation: "I will not take the low road to the highest office in this country." Referring to the nonsensical mudslinging of the other candidates, Kasich has consistently pitched himself as the sane candidate. I'd likely follow a similar path. I'd want to be upfront with my successes and my shortcomings and work across the aisle to come to find "truth."
Perhaps more relevant to PR, I apply this to personal branding and social media. I have never supported the idea that professionals should have two separate accounts (a personal and professional presence) on every relevant platform. No, thank you but no, never. I tweet about business, politics, pop culture, technology, religion and so much more. All of that encompasses who I am. And if a future employer doesn't like any of that, they don't need to hire me. I don't want to work for them.
What does one do when being genuine costs something? Pay it or move on. You may lose friends and opportunities may pass you by, but it'll be worth it in the end. Never be someone else and never fail to be yourself entirely. Follow your convictions and ethics. Whether it is over being "yourself" on social media, arguing with a fellow professional over the ethics of retweeting your own client's material just to raise the statistics or balancing work and family life. You needn't sell your soul for the sake of something so insignificant.