Posted by: Joseph S. Lima | August 5, 2009

What is Authentic?

Welcome back fellow readers of this humble blog. My blogging frequency has take a nose dive as of late. I have been taking advantage of career coaching services as part of my severance. Been meeting a LOT of people who have recently left their previous employers, talking about their dreams, goals, and ambitions. The coaching services provided by Lee Hecht Harrison have been great and well worth the time away from my writing. Yet I have felt a bit lost without the structure of writing at least three posts a week so here we go.

When looking for the next career opportunity, we all have heard how important it is to be yourself, to be Authentic. In the world of social media, being Authentic is highly valued.  Social Media will break down the walls of corporate/marketing speak and allow individuals and organizations to speak naturally, perhaps even Authentically.  But do we want people to be Authentic?

Merriam Webster has several definitions including, “not false or imitation” and “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character”.  Those definitions make sense.   Yet I have found that when networking or deciding to start a Twitter account for your organization being Authentic is not actually valued.  Here are a couple of examples to illustrate this point.

During one of my recent outplacement seminars, the instructor went around the room asking the attendees how many people they could call for the purpose of networking.  Most of us provided some number ranging from 20 to 100.  The correct answer is that we should speak to an infinite amount of people.  So why the hesitation around Networking? I think it is due to the feeling that we can not be ourselves, that we can not be Authentic.  We stiffen up and forget what we were suppose to say instead of being ourselves and relaxed.  Maybe we should look for networks, friends and organizations that embrace our unique qualities.

Another example is a recent marketing discussion thread on LinkedIn about whether or not to use professional voice over talent in web marketing videos.  The initial set of comments centered around the merits of using voice over talent. I raised the question of authenticity and social media.  If the premise of social media is speaking in your own voice then should all organizations write and record their own material without outside assistance?   Most of the subsequent responses did not address the question of authenticity, focusing instead on getting the messaging correct and voice over talent pros and cons.  Were these marketing professional afraid of being made irrelevant in a user generated content world and thus unable to answer the question of authenticity? Or maybe it was our respective definitions of authenticity that was clouding the conversation.

What we have is a contradiction.  On the one hand, we want to network with people and interact with organizations that are Authentic. On the other hand, we really don’t want to hear about someone’s problems or the reality of an organization’s products, service or internal politics.  So which is it?  Do we Authenticity or not?



  1. Great post! Dressing for success is also crucial in networking events. It means being authentic in who we are and allowing ourselves to feel the energy of the people around us. We should learn a few tactics that will change the way we bring ourselves into the meetings.

    • Hi Sharon,
      Thanks for comment. I agree with your post. You will receive much more if you approach networking from the perspective of giving. The conversations should be, “how can I help you achieve your goals?”, “who can I connect you with to answer your questions?” and so on.

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