The words sort of shouted to me from the bookshelf at the FedEx/Kinko’s print shop.
Now, I have bought a few of these “business self-help” books over the past few years – thinking that this I can learn from, this will make me professional. And to be honest, I haven’t read a single one of them. It’s odd, in spite of a range of problems with body image and self-esteem, I have never bought a single self-help book for that – but Marketing 101, Speaking like a professional, Succeeding in the Negotiations…. You know, not the kind of renowned super-books by authors that know what they are speaking of – just some random person’s opinions of some random topic without much credibility. I stopped doing this a couple of years ago.
So, I saw this book and got curious. What will this author’s answer be? I opened it, skimmed through but was unfortunately not able to find the Answer to the big Question.
They did ask me that question, though, when I applied to the Norwegian Entrepreneurship Program, coming out of theatre school back in 2009. Was I heavily attached to my nose ring and would I be willing to remove it for the job interview with the internship providers? My answer was that I was principally against it and would prefer not to, but would if it was a prerequisite. Turned out, the startup team I ended up working with really didn’t care.
I have had my nose ring since I was 15. That’s soon coming up on half my life. I’ve had a slowly increasing number of tattoos since I was 16. I love my leather jackets and (very)semi-punk clothes. At times – yes, the very same times when I started buying-but-not-reading my business self-help books – I questioned my decision. Should I remove the piercing? Hide my tattoos? Could I really succeed in the business world with these oh-so-edgy symbols of who I am?
Fast forward a few years. Earlier this month I was heading off for an internship matchmaking event, where I was to talk to a group of students to see if anyone was awesome enough to recruit for our venture. The invitation said business casual, so I thought I’d at least throw a checkered shirt over the sleeveless+jeans. The founder of our company, serial entrepreneur and angel investor and my boss, saw that from the couch he and his computer was slumped on, and said “Screw the shirt, show off your tattoo and you’ll attract the right people”.
Fact is, if people don’t like who you are, maybe you’re in the wrong place. Acceptance and respect is awesome and should be the basis of any relationship, work or otherwise. If they don’t like who you are, should you really be working for them?
Of course you should wear your nose ring to the job interview, if you have one and want to wear it. Or your leather jacket. Or your tattoos. Or your Gucci suit, your wedding dress or only a fig leaf, if that’s your style and what your heart tells you.
Don’t sell out or compromise who you are – but be accepting, respectful and awesome.