Who are you? Are you your job title? Do you define yourself by the hats you wear? What happens when you loose a role or make a role change? If you loose your job or your business, who are you? One of the recurrent issues that comes up in my work is the lack of career identity. This affects people, whether they are working, have been laid off or are in school.
In the old manufacturing and service economies, your career identity was an ‘occupational title’ such as: lawyer, engineer, doctor, dentist, etc. In the knowledge economy this is dangerous and can lead to a range of problems. Defining yourself as an occupational title use to say more about your status and how expensive you were. It said nothing about how you made a difference or added value to an organization.
What happens when you loose your job and no longer have the prestigious title to drop? For years, acquaintances may have known you as Jim or Jane, the Auditor with WXY Company. Suddenly, you’re just Jim or Jane. Those who lack an identity outside of work cling to the past, like the aging high-school cheerleaders or homecoming kings who at 35 realize that they peaked during their senior year and life has been downhill since. Self-confidence and a positive professional self-image come from the sum of your experiences, beliefs, values and abilities, not from an occupational title.
Let’s look at the Andy’s Career Change:
Andy was good at many things in high school, including math and science. He was encouraged by his parents and teachers to go into engineering, which he did. Although he enjoyed learning at university, he never felt he fit into any of the jobs he had. Over a period of 7 years Andy floated between different engineering positions. He always did well and was respected by his employers, but he never felt satisfied with his actual work.
When Andy came to work with me, we started by reviewing all the things he had done in his life that he enjoyed. In a detailed review of his history, we were able to identify that although he did not like ‘engineering’; there were many specific experiences during his work history that he did enjoy. Yet, these all related to his ability to work with people. We came up with a variety of capabilities including:
Having an accurate read of others needs and motivations in a range of cross-cultural environments,
Explaining complex systems so that anyone could understand and use them, and
Creating win-win collaborative solutions linked to strategic sales initiatives.
When people ask Andy now about his work, he no longer has to describe himself as ‘I’m sort of like an engineer who also does some sales’. Today, he says: “I build client relationships leading to alliances that enhance software sales and mutual profitability”. He can also speak in detail about his success and describe how they make a difference in the world. He now has a unique niche and career identity!
I encourage you to take the time to reflect on your own identity. How do you describe yourself to others? What makes you unique?
Need Career Help?
I help people who desire to change their job or career in any way. To start this process, people need an action plan. My “Career Action Plan” session promises to get to the root of any career problem. I provide a concrete plan to get the problem fixed. People become empowered to take action because they have a plan designed for them. Contact me to book your session!
Photo courtesy of BarnImages