Career Tip #4: What is YOUR Professional Identity?

A professional identity is the image a person has based on the way he/she performs a job in their field.  A distinct professional identity can be instrumental in building a successful career. Building a professional identity often involves a mix of education, professional training, and personality.  Individuals earn degrees and professional certifications to demonstrate knowledge, credibility, and expertise their profession. Personality creates distinction among people in a profession with similar backgrounds.  Simply put, to stand out from other applicants, you need to demonstrate confidence in what you bring to the professional table.

Sometimes, there might be several professional opportunities that appeal to us. The problem is making realistic job choices revolve around truly knowing who we are professionally—what skills have we developed in a specific area—and, most importantly, are we honest when acknowledging the level of those skills and where we have used them? For example, a 3rd grade teacher comes across a job that is interesting and appealing to him. He is ready to leave teaching and try something new. He would very much like to work in the non-profit world as a Volunteer Director and is confident that he has a chance of securing that position because he has volunteered himself. Despite the job description specifically stating “experienced”, he feels he should apply for this position. Yes, he may be an effective communicator and be highly organized as the job demands, but does he have any hands-on knowledge of running a department of volunteers? Has he ever worked in a professional management capacity?  If the answer is no, his chance of getting the job is not strong.