I’m in my early 20s and slowly learning the DOs and DON’Ts of daily corporate life.

  • DO show up to work earlier rather than later.
  • DON’T stay in your cubicle all day long.
  • DO ask others if they need help on projects they are working on.
  • DON’T be afraid to ask for help.

As I am trying to learn as much as possible, I have found myself caught in a bit of a trap. I’m watching each step I take so carefully, with a fixed gaze on my feet, I have forgotten to look up and look in the mirror. I sometimes work to reflect this corporate image I have in my mind, rather than the very best version of myself. I realized this after attending the recent Celanese Women’s Conference.

Lori Johnston, Celanese senior vice president of human resources, opened the conference with the importance of diversity and inclusion in the work place. A slide popped up on the screen with statistics of the diversity at Celanese. While it was interesting, I began slipping into a yawn until she said, “Though, numbers aren’t everything. What’s important is how we feel. Do we feel like Celanese is inclusive? Do you feel like you belong?” Wait, are we talking about feelings at work?

Yolanda Conyers, vice president of human resources and chief diversity officer at Lenovo, shared stories of her personal life, as well as tips for career and company growth. She spoke so candidly about work- life balance and what it takes to effectively merge different cultures at work. Her talk-show-like conversation with Lori was refreshing as she and Lori spoke openly of their challenges in and outside of the workplace. When speaking on diversity, Yolanda said, “It’s beyond race and gender, it involves diverse skills, languages, and experiences, too.”

As I was digesting the stories shared from Yolanda and Lori, I felt a little bit of myself waking up. I began remembering the value I have to offer simply by being myself and remaining genuine in my work. And the value I can bring to the table does not only involve my actual work, but the authenticity in my daily conversations and meetings. We spend the majority of our lives in the workplace; it’s important that we let our guard down from time to time and be honest about how we feel. We are hired partly on the basis of our diverse experiences and thoughts, and we should not be afraid to let this diversity surface in our daily interaction with our co-workers.

What do you think is most important at work? What do you value most outside of work? What do you think sets you apart from others? Set your mind on these things and bring them with you as you work. Yes, a company should ensure a positive, inclusive environment. However, we have to respond with authenticity. Don’t be afraid to bring your differing perspectives, work experiences, and personality to the conversation and be open to others doing the same. Not only will you feel more freedom in your daily activities, but you will be prouder of your contributions at the end of the day.

Adding to my list…

  • DO be authentic to encourage a diverse and inclusive environment.
  • DON’T be afraid to step out from behind the corporate curtain and simply be yourself.

I’m excited to apply these to my daily work, and I have a lot to learn. So, help me out! What do you do to create an environment of inclusion?