Designing Your Professional Identity

Did anyone mention that we as individuals get to choose our own professional identity definition? Did anyone explain that to you whilst you were choosing your ‘options’ at senior school? Nope, nor me!

“Professional identity is defined as one’s professional self-concept based on attributes, beliefs, values, motives, and experiences”

(Ibarra, 1999; Schein, 1978).

I didn’t know that my professional identity was a ‘self-concept’. I thought that my professional identity was the thing that followed my choice of career path or sector. I assumed that if I chose to be a Barrister then that was my professional identity, in its entirety. That I would become A Barrister and, as sure as day follows night, I would have all the attributes that come with the role.

“That realisation has been an absolute revelation!”

I wasn’t cognisant that I had some choice in defining my own professional identity until I had spent 20 odd years trying to ‘be’ what I thought others wanted me to be. Now I know that if I focus on being myself. If I continue making choice after choice, based on my own values and beliefs, then my career will form itself. That realisation has been an absolute revelation!

Professional Identity definition

Had I known that I was looking at the career situation backwards, I would have taken some choices much earlier. Had I known that it was within my own remit to define my own professional identity I would have been much more committed to choosing where and how worked. I would have been much more vigilant in listening to and acting upon my passions and values. I would have been way more curious about the purpose of work for me beyond earning a wage.

Professional Identity Definition

I would certainly have been more rigorous in choosing who I wished to work with and of the organisational ethics. Instead, I flailed about, seeking a sign from outside of me, that I was doing the right work. The outside signal never came. It never came because the signal I was seeking could only come from inside of me. Only I could know when a role or sector was right for me. Career Identity definition takes place through a series of choices. If you don’t make these choices for yourself then circumstance will make them for you.

“If you don’t make these choices for yourself then circumstance will make them for you”

None of my past experiences were wasted because they have brought me to this place in my career. This place in my career is one that gives me great joy. My past (diverse), experiences have surely up-skilled me in order to be able to undertake the roles of coach, supervisor and entrepreneur in a rounded and perhaps more mature way. I do regret that I had such a lot of years of unhappiness before I figured out that I needed to take control of my career situation and that I needed to find my own professional identity definition. If I can help others move through that uncertainty and or pain, in a swifter and more compassionate way, then I am fulfilling my professional purpose. Preparing to manage a portfolio career was not on the list of ‘options’ at school. If I can Up-skill another to manage their own professional identity definition now then I am meeting my purpose.

You can find Rebecca here at the Daemon Career Coach