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Authenticity: 360 Degrees of You

By Sima Dahl
President of Parlay Communications

If you could be anyone, who would you be? If you could jump into your Back to The Future flux capacitor, alter your past, and reinvent your future, how would you re-emerge today? In this age of personal branding, social networking and digital communications, you can be anyone you want to be. What I'd like you to consider is simply being yourself.

Whenever I write an article, I start by asking myself what I want you (the reader) to consider, believe, or do differently when you have finished reading it. Today, I want you to consider your personal story and why sharing it—all of it—might make sense.

Many of us are quite uncomfortable telling our story. We have been conditioned to hide outside interests unless they support a singular personal brand position. We have been warned that recruiters frown upon candidates with too many diversions, and that managers only promote those loyal soldiers who tow the company line without distraction. And arguably this used to be true. But in the past few years, there has been a shift in the way we work and find fulfillment.

Many of us have a hobby, pursuit, or passion unrelated to work that is woven into our life tapestry. For example, one of my clients is an attorney by day and a baseball blogger by night. Another, a software industry executive, dabbles in residential real estate in his free time. And my friend Lynn is a financial planner who writes poetry. Yes, she is the original bean counter poet. Heck, even the publishers of this magazine are "doing it on the side!"

The question is no longer about whether we have outside interests, but rather if we do or don't let people know about them. We fear that by sharing our whole story, we might somehow create personal brand confusion.

The questions I'm most often asked sound something like this:

  • Should I create separate profiles on LinkedIn?
  • Is it okay to include my Etsy Web site on my social profile?
  • Facebook is for fun, so why would I talk about work there?

And I always bring the answer back to the golden rule: people buy from, hire, and refer people they know, like, and trust.

Social networks afford us an unprecedented opportunity to tell all 360 degrees of our story—to paint in vivid colors the rich tapestry of our lives, and in so doing, in being authentic and transparent and whole, we are able to cement relationships faster than ever before.

I think back to my days working in a local field office for a global software company. While I enjoyed collaborating with peers around the world, I found much greater satisfaction once the telephone voices became real people. This happened in one of two ways: we either spent hours together at a pricey off-site company meeting, or we connected online. Marketing and HR managers: think about the cost savings of increased retention and employee satisfaction by facilitating online interaction rather than trying to prevent it!

The richer your story and the more of you that you're willing to share, the more likely it is we'll find we have something in common. The odds of making a true connection increase. So forget the flux capacitor. We are all reinventing ourselves in one way or another. Invite your network in on the journey and see where the dots connect.

Sima Dahl

Sima Dahl is a social media strategist and personal branding expert with 20 years experience working for both mature enterprises and early-stage startups. She is well known for her "Sway Factor" approach to social networking and has coached rainmakers, ladder climbers, and job seekers on the art of networking in the digital age. Sima is the President of Parlay Communications, founder and Chief Connector of Marketing Job Wire, serves on the Board of Directors for the Chicago AMA, and blogs about various social media and marketing topics at ExpertBusinessSource.com.