“Be yourself” was one of the most important pieces of advice that I gave to students when I spoke at Fordham University School of Law about how to build a strong professional brand. 

I told the students that I’ll never be someone who wears conservative black suits to work every day (or panty hose) and that’s okay (notice the French bulldog shirt that I’m wearing). You want to fit in a professional environment while still being able to be yourself. And it’s not just how you dress. It’s your approach to your work. Your personality. That’s how you’ll truly thrive.

Maybe you love bow ties or have pink hair or wear something signature that speaks to you. It’s important to find ways to express yourself, inject your personality and be unique while also being professional and showcasing your strengths. You CAN do both and still be successful in corporate America. 

Always be very observant of the people around you and the culture when interviewing for a job so you can make sure it’s the right place for you too.

On the personal front, find a partner that loves you for you and doesn’t try to change or fix you – take it from me.

I dated someone who had been a good friend for some time before we became a couple. I thought this was a smart idea as he knew the real me. I felt that I could truly be myself around him and it was such a great feeling. When we started dating, he loved my fun, outgoing personality, but that quickly changed. He wanted to be with someone less independent and less outgoing and brash.  It was very hard to be with someone who repeatedly told me I was embarrassing and disrespectful, and it ended because he tried to change me.

Find the type of professional environment and personal relationships that let you be YOU. Never make apologies for who you are or try to be someone you’re not. Also, it’s never too early (or late) to build your brand or reinvent yourself. Now lean in!