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Professional Identity

Updated: May 12, 2022

Professional identity: who you are as a professional.

Every person has an identity. Maybe that includes your race, ethnicity, place of origin, socioeconomic status, ability-status, past accomplishments, age, sexual orientation, or gender. Your identity is uniquely tailored to you and the way you see yourself.

Every person also has a professional identity... a self-concept that is enacted while using skills, knowledge and/or training to perform job duties and tasks.

Your professional identity informs the way in which you portray yourself at work or in work-related situations.

Do you have a professional identity if you do not work outside of your home? Yes. Where you work does not matter. Every person, in any profession, whether at home or in a large corporation, has a professional identity.

Professional identities are created and informed by beliefs, values, motives, experiences, cultural influences, and attitudes. For example, a professional identity can be founded on the characteristics of determination and hard work. An outside person may see this self-concept enacted by hours spent focused on job responsibilities, possibly at the sacrifice of other areas in life, like time spent at home or on vacation.

Understanding your personal, professional identity is challenging because it is complex and multilayered. To add to the complexity, what helps foster your professional identity may also change over time. What is important to you now, may not be as important to you later. And that’s okay. The development of your professional identity may grow alongside you.

How do I start building my professional identity? Well, it’s relatively simple. Start by writing a list of your skills and values. Try to answer the question: Who am I, who do I want to be, and what do I have to offer? Afterwards, be sure to act in ways that match what you wrote down. As you continue to foster your professional identity, be mindful of who you network with, try to develop strong communication skills, and be sure to present yourself at work in ways that align with your list.

Deciding what is important to you takes time and a lot of thought, but once you narrow down what is important to you, your identity will take form.

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