You should maintain your identity, especially as employers want to manage your behaviors. Let me be clear, I am a proponent of a company culture that defines how you must act while working for a company. A strong culture impacts a company’s success: better ideas, more engagement, and improved retention. It also has the potential to make you (as an employee) smarter, happier, and more productive.
Still, you do not want to lose track of who you are – your essence. Adopt the expectations of an employer for as long as you are required, yet always keep in mind what expectations are a true reflection of you. Keep a perspective. Later you might choose to stay or go based on these self-reflections; moreover, it becomes an important maturation process.
Respect is viewed as an entity that is hard won but easily lost so must constantly be guarded.[i]
I come from both angles: a leader defining a company culture and a professional projecting a personal brand (which I argue has a critical identity element).
I created a ‘standing constitution’ defining values and behaviors everyone should follow.[ii] For many companies, it gets much deeper than simply writing down expectations. New applications monitor and collect data based on behaviors and competencies of all workers. Management has desired outcomes. They monitor behaviors, analyze the results, and then make decisions. They encourage employees to adopt their behaviors, usually with contingencies. They train employees to modify their behaviors.
I created a model for professionals to project their personal brand onto networks; it includes a critical identity element. (The book is Online Personal Brand: Skill Set, Aura, and Identity.) A central premise is professionals become their own advocates. A professional has desired outcomes. A professional communicates how he or she wants to be perceived, has internal beliefs, and is prepared to respond and negotiate based on his or her own convictions.
Having an identity should not be casually overlooked. A professional needs to be self-aware. Here are some suggestions:
- Show career vision. Understand short-term and long-term goals. Think of how a company culture coincides with your personal brand. (In the above mentioned book, I dedicate a chapter discussing this concept.)
- Be prepared and proactive. Pull feedback to you.[iii] Find ways to advance your career goals.
- Constant learning. Find ways to build and validate skills necessary not only for a current job, but also future jobs (with or without the company).[iv]
- Listen to all suggestions. A company has invested to correctly measure your competencies; management has data and analysis to back up their assertions.
- Not always a matter of right and wrong. You are who you are. Some things are worth changing, some things are not worth changing. Some things cannot be changed.
- Keep a diary. Take note of your observations of a company culture as it evolves. Maybe it is simply an acknowledgement of how you feel; maybe it inspires you to make changes or decide to leave.
- Separate identity in social. Social media makes it more difficult to have an identity. Separate how you represent yourself versus your company. Moreover, make sure your self-representation is not detrimental to your company representation.
I am a firm believer in the potential of a company culture. So my advice to you, as a professional, is to consider a company culture from the start – while applying and interviewing for the job. Recently, I saw a job posting where a company listed behaviors the company likes and dislikes. I went through the list checking what fits me. Right away I knew whether I wanted to be part of the company.
Once employed, observe how a company culture is evolving. Do you stand behind what the company is trying to accomplish? Do you agree with the expectations? Are you willing to suggest changing the culture? Are you in for the short or long term?
“Last year, the median job tenure for workers aged 20 to 24 was shorter than 16 months. For those aged 25 to 34, it was three years, according to the BLS”.[v] LinkedIn managers call this period: ‘tours of duty’. This means, if you are an early career professional, you have a mutual understanding with an employer that after the period has completed you will renegotiate your terms of employment. Take full advantage of this period to determine if your personal brand coincides with the company culture. Keep your identity, part of an online personal brand and more importantly who you are as a person.
[iii] Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen. Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well. Penguin (2014, New York).