Your professional vegan vs your personal vegan
Being perceived well by others is incredibly important in business, so it’s important that the persona you present professionally is one that your audience, customers or clients are going to connect with.
That doesn’t mean pretending to be someone you’re not (or if you feel you completely have to, then you’re in the wrong business!), but it does mean that your professional persona and your personal persona must have a degree of separation.
Where they appear to be the same: the vegan cause-led vegan business
There are examples where you don’t appear to need any separation between your personal and professional self. For example, many full time activists appear to have just one persona, and they’re able to do this because the place they’ve carved out for themselves in the mix of things is completely joined with their personal passions and beliefs – one fuels the other.
I also know of many small vegan businesses run by passionate vegans who lead with an activism message to one degree or another (for example, Viva La Vegan clothing). It makes sense that if your business is built around the vegan cause you need to bring your passionate authentic self to the forefront and lead by example. If you instead hold back then you may find it more difficult to build your tribe. In these types of businesses your tribe consists of ethical vegans, and you’re going to have to throw yourself in and consistently show just how much you care about the cause to get them on board.
Keep at least a little of yourself ‘safe’
However, you’re going to have to keep a little of yourself back. Or keep a space which is your own. When your professional persona and personal persona are one it means everything becomes personal; it all seeps into your personal life, your personal time, your personal physical and mental energy, and your personal emotional resources.
We all know what burn-out feels like, and to allow yourself to get to that stage can mean you having to step back from the business, which is not what anyone wants (even if it’s for a tiny break). When you have no separation between professional and personal, those negative comments you’ve had in the business world are easy to take personally and you start to absorb them like heavy pebbles – and our jars are only able to hold so many.
So, the best thing to do is to work on being able to compartmentalise at least a little. Keep a little personal persona back, a bit of you that nobody in the business world knows or can touch. Carve out some space and time each day or each week to step back from your professional persona and step into your personal zone. That means you’ll have created a space (however small) between your two personas, even if it’s just for the sake of a small amount of self-protection.
We all must make sure that we take care of ourselves – if we don’t, then we can’t take care of others or help the cause. To stick with the jar and pebbles analogy – make sure you keep some of that space in your jar solely to put your own pebbles in, and time to remove the others you don’t want in there.
Although the great thing about having a vegan business is that you can align your personal ethics with your work ones, sometimes you need to be able to take a step out and allow your inner vegan to flourish without it being connected with your business!
Where there needs to be definitive separation: the vegan business not led by the vegan cause
If your business isn’t cause-led then you certainly should have a larger divide between your professional and personal personas. This is generally a good rule for all business owners. We can all see the difference between our LinkedIn profile and our Facebook profile – most of us wouldn’t dare put anything on LinkedIn which we’ve just put on Facebook. Why? Because personal and professional is different; although the lines are blurring a little lately, they’re still very much present.
You can still present yourself professionally as fun, kind, caring, even silly at times. You’ve still got to be you. However, if people see unprofessional behaviour from us then it undermines our ability to be taken seriously. After all, you’re serious about your business and you need other people to believe in it and believe in you. So, do be yourself, but be your professional self (even if you’re dressed in an Easter bunny suit).
Acknowledge which parts of your personal life you may need go ninja with
There may be things you need to ‘hide’ if your business isn’t cause-led. If you’re an animal rights activist then you need to keep your personal persona and professional persona completely separate. This can take a while to accept, especially as it’s one of the most important parts of who you are. However, if you’re trying to appeal to customers who have different viewpoints to your own, then they will be put off by your activities if they can make that connection.
Even if you’re not an activist but you vocally support the cause online, you must evaluate your personal online presence. If you have a Facebook page which is public and you create or share vegan posts, make your profile and all posts private. The same goes for Instagram and Twitter. Or you could even go so far as to use a different name for your professional persona, then that gives you complete separation.
It can be an uncomfortable thing to think about and make peace with; it feels like pretending. But perhaps if it’s something which makes you this uncomfortable then you should go back a few steps and ask why you decided you make your business not vegan cause-led. It’s never too late to change business direction if this thought process has made you realise you want to be out loud and proud for the vegan cause!
How have you managed your professional and personal vegan?
How have you managed to keep it authentic?
Tell us in the comments below.
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