Big shoes to fill? Be Yourself. Bring your OWN shoes!

Got a New Job? Have “Big Shoes to Fill”? Bring Your OWN Shoes!

In my previous roles as an HR Director for both a nonprofit and a bank, and as a past board chair of a nonprofit, I’ve had the opportunity to hire people for various positions at all levels. I have conducted interviews on my own but usually go through the process with a team of people. During those interviews, almost every candidate hears the words, “You have big shoes to fill.” After a while I thought those words could be discouraging to the interviewees. So I started encouraging the candidates to instead “Bring your OWN shoes!”

When we first start a new job, most of us fear being compared to the person who occupied that position previously and especially if it’s a leadership position. For some reason, it is common to compare the previous person to the new one and also to compare ourselves when we are the ones replacing that person. We not only compare ourselves in personality and leadership styles, but also in what kind of legacy we will leave when it is our turn to move on.

We are each unique, with our own set of skills, experiences, and talents that we bring to a job. Every person is a unique and different package. So here are some things to keep in mind if you are in transition right now and looking to “fill someone else’s shoes:”

Be authentic. Bring yourself to the interview. Even when you’re meeting with strangers, people you just met at the interview, they can notice and feel if you are not authentic. Being authentic means being reliable, true, dependable, and trustworthy. These character traits show up when employers follow up on references prior to hiring.

Be genuine. Don’t try to be somebody else or act as if you have a second personality when you’re trying to impress somebody. Being genuine means being honest, sincere, open, and candid. During the interview you will have plenty of opportunities to exaggerate your previous experiences, not being honest and sincere about a previous experience, and sometimes you may even be tempted to lie. Don’t. People know and can sense it because, naturally, your body language changes when not telling the truth. In addition, these days information can be verified easily.

Be yourself. As I mentioned above, bring yourself to the meeting. It’s ok to be yourself. The more you know yourself, the better it will be for you to embrace who you are and accept yourself. Discover your weaknesses and strengths and maximize your strengths. Develop your talents so they become strengths. Then, make sure you look for a job that suits your personality, ability, experience, and talents. That’s where you will have the best chances for success. Be ok being YOU!

Be proud of who you are. When you are authentic, genuine, know yourself, and act as yourself wherever you go, people will like you more because you won’t be under any stress to be someone else. List all the things you have accomplished in your life. Remember your previous successes and celebrate. Remember your failures as well and what you learned from them. Be proud that you survived your failures and were able to move on to today.

Avoid comparing yourself to others. The number one way you can make yourself feel bad about yourself is to compare yourself to others. Why? Because you will never be anyone else other than you! And that is okay.

Be confident. When you don’t compare yourself to others, you become more confident in who you are. Self-confidence comes from knowing yourself well, knowing your shortcomings and your abilities. You become more self-confident when you embrace the person you are—physically, emotionally, and professionally.

If you are the person interviewing others, avoid comparing candidates to the previous leader. Instead, focus on the attributes you want the new leader to have in order to take the organization to the next level and continue to fulfill the vision and mission of the company.

If you are the one chosen to fill someone else’s shoes, don’t be afraid. You can do it! That company, committee, HR person, or manager chose you because they saw something in you. They saw potential and want to have you as part of their team. And remember, “Bring Your OWN Shoes!”