On doing more than you’re told

A conversation with Joanna alters the course of a job search and reminds us of the importance of being authentic.

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If you had the time and curiosity, what would you create?

I’m in the middle of a coaching call with a lovely young man from New York. He and I are speaking because he’s preparing to graduate and “wants to get every ounce of help” he can get in tackling his job search.

Spoiler alert – there’s a whole extra super fabulous backstory about how this gentleman got a session with me. Just know that my mind has been blown multiple times in the last week or so, expect an update on this. I have SO much to say.

Back to my new New York friend…

I had just asked Fred (not his real name) some questions about why he thought he was great and why his boss thought he would be great. I then asked him why his chosen trait was important.

Why he thought he was great as an employee –

  • Open Minded – he liked to think about all of the options before answering a question
  • Versatile – he was willing to adapt his style
  • Agile – he was quick at everything

What he thought his boss would say –

  • Resilience – basically he would take anything thrown at him and roll with it. (Apparently, things were a little crazy where he worked.)
  • Goes the extra mile

I asked him then to pick three of the five words he wanted to be known for. What, I asked him, did he want people to say about him when he wasn’t in the room?

He chose open-mindedness, agility, and resilience. I, of course, then started to ask him why these words over the others. Which led me to say “Why wouldn’t you choose the extra mile characteristic?” What I had learned was that while he was great at dealing with the continuous barrages of “OMG! We need this done yesterday!” of his current role, he didn’t love it. He was totally cool with hard work, what he didn’t love was the craziness. Understandable. He, however, believed that this was what a hiring manager would want to hear, rather than who he wanted to be.

When I pressed him about the “extra mile” characteristic – because frankly as a former hiring manager I would have LOVED to hear it – he told me that as a former member of the military and in speaking with his peers, he’d learned that a “good worker” did what he was told to do. “I’m not supposed to do more than I’m told.”

My head exploded.

Fabulous Fred was NOT looking for a job where he’d clock in and out each day. Fred had gone the extra mile to get special training so he could break into the wild and wonderful world of technology as a Salesforce admin.


Fred and I then altered our conversation to how he needed to shift where and how he was networking himself to companies thrilled to have someone who pushed the boundaries, thrilled to have someone who thought beyond the expectations.

Fred and I had an amazing conversation. He ended with, “I have a lot to think about.”

I share this story with you not to share my surprise on the narrative. I share this story because it’s a lesson I find myself sharing with lots of people. It’s a lesson it took me a while to learn.

If you tell people you are what you think they want to to be if they engage you / hire you / promote you they will expect you to be that person. A person who’s not really you. And what happens? You’re usually miserable, you’re frequently seen as inauthentic. No one ends up happy.


And what happens? You get to be you. You in a way that is effortless and authentic. Everyone wins.

I know, so simple. I can also hear the “But Joanna….” I struggle with this too. Mostly because I just want you to like me. I want you to hire me. I want you to hear me. I just want to matter.

Sound familiar?

Be you.

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