Just this past week, I had three people tell me that they want to be more like themselves but they worry about losing their jobs and their clients. They won’t swear, won’t get political, and won’t stop talking about engagement — especially since employee engagement pays the bills, right now.
Okay, I get it. You gotta work. I am pro-work, especially in this economy. If you think you need to talk about employee branding and engagement — even if it hurts your soul — go for it.
But here’s my story.
I spent twelve years in the chumpiest, most down-trodden Corporate Human Resources and Recruiting departments. During my career, I have reported to men & women who were demoted from sales, marketing, and R&D and sent to lead my HR department. It was pathetic. I facilitated stuff. I leveraged a whole bunch of shit. I focused on productizing. I even talked about engagement.
When I ended my career in 2007 and outed myself as a Human Resources blogger, I had no idea what would happen next. I did what came naturally, though. I spoke my mind. I infused political ideas, pop culture, and life with Human Resources. I tried to make people think about big issues — the economy, politics, money — by talking about other things beyond the economy, politics, and money.
And amazing things happened in my life.
- People offered me money to speak.
- People offered me money to write.
- Companies offered me money to consult.
Since leaving my official job, I’ve turned down more business and more opportunities to work than I ever imagined. During the worst recession of a lifetime, I walked away from cash. To be fair, I mostly walked away from easy money because I knew I couldn’t deliver. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said, “I know you think I can help you, but I really can’t. I don’t have the skills.”
Instead of grabbing easy money and faking my way through consulting assignments, I stuck to my plan and recommend friends. People you know. People who write blogs that you read. And I’m proud to say that this flippy little blogger with a foul mouth and a crappy attitude has a great career AND has helped pay to pay the mortgages and electricity bills of friends, colleagues, and fellow consultants.
Listen, I’m not saying that everyone can be like me. And being me has its ups & downs. Maybe you can’t write a blog and cuss out George Bush and Dick Cheney. Maybe you think it’s dumb to link bacon and cats to Human Resources. Maybe you can’t stick a fork in the eye of the status quo while invoicing the status quo for your thoughts on how they can improve their internal HR processes.
But you can grow your business — and improve your career — by being more like yourself.
Take risks. Have integrity. Learn to say no.
Make better choices.
And stop telling yourself that you can’t.
You can. I know you can do it.