If you studied business in college, chances are you knew this guy or girl. They were the life of the party, goofy, maybe they even had a knack for getting into trouble. But when it came time to interview for internships, head to a career fair, or present in class they completely shifted gears. They became a stiff robot of carefully recited words and political correctness. What happened? This, my friends, may have been your first dose of the dual persona.

It happens in much more than just business situations. Maybe your buddy acts completely different when he’s with the boys compared to when girls are around? Sound familiar?

Even more uncomfortably, maybe YOU are that person. Don’t scoff at me. Step back, and take a real look at yourself. How do you act around your best friends? Just hanging out, what type of person are you? Then take a look at how you’ve acted in interviews, or in professional situations. Where are the differences?

As strongly as I feel about this, there is one disconnect I want to cover. This is the idea of “turning it on.” 

When you have to turn it on

In any setting where some level of performance is required, turning it on is a must. It’s the point where you block out your distractions, and fully focus on what you are doing. For athletes it’s getting in the zone, for musicians it’s finding their groove, for writers it’s when it seems like the words start putting themselves on the page. When I used to warm up for a lacrosse game, when I was introduced at a speaking gig last week, or when I’m about to give a sales demo I make sure to pause and flip the switch. It can mean a lot of different things, but at it’s core it is focus.

To me, there is a huge difference between turning it on and being a different person. When you become a robot in a job interview you aren’t turning it on, you are becoming a shell of yourself. This is something to avoid. In business, as in life in general, you will attract people by how you act. If you don’t act like yourself, then you’ll attract the wrong people. I know it’s more complicated to act on, but in essence it’s a fairly simple concept.

I understand toning it down. If you are the guy who loves to cuss, toning that down around others isn’t a bad thing. The point is there are things that actually matter about who you are, and things which are just habits or unimportant aspects of you. I wouldn’t consider cussing an extremely important part of you as a person, but hey if it is then all the power to you. Find the place where that works for you, and stick with it. This is just one example.

One person, not two

If you have to become a shell of yourself to get a job, is that really a job you want? Shouldn’t you want to be accepted for who you are, and what you bring to the table? Make a conscious effort to watch how you act in different situations, socially and professionally. Then identify where specifically you are acting different, and ask yourself why? The answer you find in that question may just be something fascinating. It might suck, to be honest. It might reveal something extremely uncomfortable about yourself.

But it’s worth it.

This topic revolves around the idea of being yourself. A whole nother rabbit hole in itself. We’ll cover different facets of this idea soon.