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Make it your own

I recently had an opportunity to take a private piano lesson from the jazz pianist and professor, Gary Hemenway. As he and I discussed my approach to the piece I played, he gave this advice: “Make it your own. Make it your unique creative expression. Let your own ideas, feelings and voice be expressed as you play this piece.” This idea resonated with me deeply. I realized that too often, I approached music from what I thought others wanted to hear; not from what I wanted to express. In a blog titled, Musings of an Anonymous Geek, the author calls out the importance of “accidents”, in making it your own. “Learning things note-for-note is great (and is part of education) – but at some point, you have to morph things and let your beautiful accidents fall into the piece. Making it your own is done from *inspiration* (sic)…”

This notion translates into our careers, as well. Many of us follow rules and confine ourselves to strictly limited expressions, cutting ourselves off from inspiration and beautiful accidents. Often, I’ve worked with clients who are not doing what they want, but rather what others expect from them. Or, they are following the “rules”, rather than letting their own authentic voice guide their choices. One client grew frustrated with her job search, feeling confined by her daily round of internet job boards. In her frustration, she was inspired to go to a lecture about topic that was a passion of hers, but utterly unrelated to her search. While at the lecture, she struck up a conversation with a fellow participant, which developed into a business connection, and eventually, her new job. A beautiful accident was achieved thereby making it her own and letting her own passion guide her actions. Here are some ways to make your job search your own:

  1. Are you letting the demands of outside influences confine and control your career decisions? Are you doing the work you truly want to do? A client was told by her grade school teacher that she could never be a nurse, even though she dreamed of it. Now, 25 years later, she still yearns to be a nurse and regrets that she believed this teacher. What do you still yearn to do or express? What inspires you? How can you explore that inspiration, perhaps having your own beautiful accident?

  2. When you are in a job search, do you worry about confining yourself to formal rules and procedures, rather than expressing yourself? Now, this is not to say that we should flaunt business etiquette or be rude or insensitive. In the same way that in music we understand the structure and rules of a musical category, in business, we understand the way that business is conducted. That said, however, are you holding yourself back from learning about a new discipline? During a job interview, are you holding yourself back from describing yourself fully, out of fear? Or, can you disrupt the automatic, rote interview by asking questions, or making additions to the conversation. Stating something like, “What’s not on my resume, but what I want you to know is...” is a disruptive, authentic way to make the interview your own.

  3. When you consider your professional brand, is it your own? Have you written a LinkedIn profile that reflects your own unique voice? One of the great aspects of LinkedIn is that your profile can be in your own voice, and can reflect your own interests, career path and life-long aspirations. You can make your LinkedIn profile you own in a way that formal resume cannot match. Make it your own by telling your own story, using your own distinctive and unique life story to describe the value you bring to your profession.

  4. When you network, do people hear your authentic ideas and inspirations? Networking conversations are so effective because they step outside the proscribed rule of an interview, and allow you to talk about what inspires your, what interests and values your bring, and – most importantly – how you can solve problems. Networking with like-minded people creates a unique connection and gives us the ideal opportunity to step outside strict protocols and make it our own.

Making it your own means living an authentic life that reflects your best self. And letting that self be known to those around you hopefully creates a beautiful accident on the path to your next job.

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