I recently wrote an article for my Career Flight Plan and Student Launch Pad sites about what the adaptability vs. authenticity debate means for your career. I thought it might just be a nerdy topic that only I found interesting because it aligns with my doctoral research. Surprisingly, I received a lot of comments and emails from people who found a connection with the topic.
I’ve included a summary of the article below, but you can read the entire post on my Career Flight Plan blog.
Before I post the summary, I want to explore what authenticity vs. adaptability means to me. In my line of work, I’m all about helping others understand who they were created to be and helping them live into this individuality. So naturally, I explore this understanding for myself as well. I recognize patterns of when I’m most alive (i.e. coaching others, writing, spending time with John and with friends).
Yet I’ve also noticed that I understand how to best live authentically when I am stretched. When there’s a new opportunity to partner with someone at work or a challenge through my doctoral studies, these times often clarify who I am and what I am doing. They allow me to try out different versions of myself or my company, whether it’s different versions of my coaching programs, different approaches to my leadership, or different thinking than I’d normally prescribe to. This doesn’t make me inauthentic. Instead, it allows my true authenticity – the core to who I am, what I believe, how I lead or coach – to shine through everything else.
“When you tell me that it would be authentic for you to do x, y or z, my first reaction is that nothing you do is truly authentic, it’s all part of a long-term strategy for how you’ll make an impact in the world… The question, then, is what’s the impact you seek to make, what are the changes you are working for? And how can you achieve that and still do work you’re proud of?” -Seth Godin
I suppose in writing about this topic, I want to encourage you to not be afraid to try new things, new ventures, new outlets for creativity. Just because one thing may not end up fitting who you are does not mean you are inauthentic. Instead, stretching ourselves as we seek to apply our talents and passions in new ways to make a positive impact in the world allows us to understand our authenticity.
As promised, here’s the summary:
What the Adaptability Vs. Authenticity Debate Means For Your Career
In broad terms I want to understand how college students make decisions to find meaningful careers. In looking into this topic, I’ve already seen two ideas emerge… and I promise not to throw jargon-filled research articles at you.
Instead I want to take a few minutes to discuss adaptability versus authenticity and what they mean for your career.
Research defines career adaptability as preparing to make career decisions while also staying open to things changing. There’s some good news in that the number one StrengthsFinder strength in the students that I coach is adaptability. According to the StrengthsFinder definition: “People exceptionally talented in the Adaptability theme prefer to go with the flow. They tend to be “now” people who take things as they come and discover the future one day at a time.”
The main process of career adaptability includes:
- exploring (looking at the available opportunities)
- planning (looking ahead to the future)
- deciding (making practical choices), and
- managing the changing interpersonal and environmental factors that influence career goals.
I’m currently reading researcher Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, and I really like how she’s defined authenticity from her research: “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are. Choosing authenticity means… exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle…”
In coaching high schoolers, college students and recent graduates, I see a common theme among those who struggle to make decisions for their future: They are afraid of this struggle. They want to know who they are, but they oftentimes haven’t had opportunities to figure this out.
Even their StrengthsFinder results confirm this trend. 27% of my students have Deliberative as a top 5 strength, which is “best described by the serious care they take in making decisions or choices. They anticipate obstacles.”
How can we practice authenticity if we’re afraid to test our limits and find out who we are?
So it’s really not an adaptability versus authenticity debate. As in most of life, it’s a both/and solution. We need adaptability to be open to career opportunities and to be willing to try new things, even if we find out they’re not for us. While we exercise this adaptability, we are shaping who we are and developing authenticity.
- To read more about this research, read the entire article here, on the Career Flight Plan blog.