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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

8 True Stories That Prove Being Yourself Really Does Get You Ahead

There are certain things you’re supposed to do as part of the job search. The tailored resume is bound to get you much further than a generic one. And if your cover letter expresses enthusiasm for the job you’re applying to, it’s more likely to get the attention of the hiring manager—more than say one that could work for any job in any old engineering department.

But what if you could do more to grab someone’s attention? What if you could speed that process up by being honest about who you are? Read on to learn how eight professionals braved being themselves to advance their career.

1. Going Off-Script

I mentioned I was an innovative thinker and the interviewer asked me to explain. Instead of giving an answer by the book, I let her know that I had an example that was a bit weird. “Go on,” she prodded. I then recounted a story when I lost a Frisbee in the middle of a duck-filled lake. After trying fruitlessly to reach it with a stick, I gathered bread and threw it in a direction that led the ducks to naturally push the disc closer and closer. Within a few minutes, the Frisbee was mine and the lake ducks were well-fed. It may've been a good story to showcase my resourcefulness too, but at any rate, it was memorable and I got the gig.

Dan, Account Executive

2. Being Multi-Dimensional

So I have a black belt in Taekwondo, which I used to leave at the bottom of my resume, under skills. It was the last thing that I threw on there just to add something different and not entirely engineering related. On two separate occasions, it ended up being the main talking point for interviews. For my first internship in college, and my first full-time job out of college, my interviewer also had a black belt—in Taekwondo. I’m not saying that it’s the reason I got the job, but it 100% helped me hit it off with my interviewers. I think having something quirky on my resume definitely helped me have much better interviews.

Jimmy, Data Scientist

3. Demonstrating Passion

When I first came out, everyone in my family told me not to bring it up at work because (in most cases) I would get discriminated against. But during an interview, I was asked what I was passionate about and my response was the activism I was doing for the LGBT community. I went on to tell him about the work I was doing and how it was impacting LGBT homeless youth, giving more people the courage to come out and creating more safe (LGBT friendly) spaces. The guy interviewing me proceeded to come out to me and tell me how this company was super LGBT-friendly and they even had a committee for employees to do LGBT activism! He was also the hiring manager and offered me the position on the spot!

Ariana, Account Executive

4. Being Unafraid

Back in 2008, hardly any guys watched The Bachelor (not sure that’s changed too much). I loved it, and started a Bachelor pool at our company. Only a few people signed up and most people mocked me during the course of the season, especially when they could hear me talking about the previous episode on Tuesday morning with my fellow pool members. Then on the Friday before the last episode of the season, our CEO, who I’d never officially met with, called me into his office. Scared out of my mind that I was being called into his office on a Friday afternoon, he immediately put my fears to ease by saying, “Who do you think will get the final rose?” He apparently was also a fan and not only wanted to talk about the season, but felt that as a company we should do a promotion around the finale. Finally, he asked me to lead the project. I would’ve never gotten that face-time or opportunity if I hadn’t been so open about loving such a terrible, trashy show.

Elliott, Senior Director, Brand + Marketing

5. Coming Clean

I had a sales manager ask me ‘If you had all the money in the world, what would you do?’ I originally responded with a professional answer, of ‘I would probably still have a job and work somewhere.’ He didn’t buy it and asked if that was really how I felt—clearly I hadn’t done a great job convincing him. Then I said, no, I would probably be a Real Housewife or be on a reality TV show. He thought that was a great answer and really showed my personality, and I ended up getting the job!

Yanina, Account Executive

6. Forcing a Laugh

In my final interview for The Muse I was asked if I could have any super power what would it be. For as long as I can remember I have wanted the power to pee out of my finger tips, and this was the only answer I could think of so I just blurted it out. Thankfully it got a laugh and I ended up with a job offer a few hours later!

Nealy, Sales Development Representative

7. Displaying Originality

In college I was interviewing for a position in the entertainment PR field that was pretty competitive. After making it to the second round of interviews, I was offered the job and accepted it. I later found out that the manager had had the current employees look up the potential new hires on Facebook to see if there was anything incriminating or interesting on there that would sway his decisions. Although mine was set to private, he was able to see my cover photo (which is a collage of Kim Kardashian crying), and he apparently thought it was funny enough to seal the deal.

Jimmy, Content Associate

8. Getting it Just Right

When I was looking for a new job, I was reading articles about how to stand out in the job application process. I found this great company that filled its team page with funny videos of each employee. I decided if I made one, the company would have to interview me. I sat in my apartment all day filming myself on my cell phone. I must have had over 100 takes to get it ‘just right’— including the part when I tried to beatbox like the CEO did in his. Long story short, I sent it directly to the CEO, got an interview, and although the job didn't pan out, it taught me being unique really does get you noticed. I took the same mindset to get my job here at The Muse.

Dara, Team Lead Sales East

The next time you find yourself deciding between the textbook answer and the response or behavior that more accurately displays the real you, consider the latter. It could be powerful enough to give you the edge you need to succeed in this competitive world.

Photo of woman working on floor courtesy of Hero Images/Getty Images.