So, who are you anyway?
SVP? General Manager? Managing Director? President? COO? CEO?
Why stop there? How about Father? Mother? Brother? Sister? Friend? Colleague?
Just like the Faceless Men in Game of Thrones, we all wear many faces. It can be confusing and difficult to hold on to, to even fully identify, who we are. Recently, the ExecuNet stage was graced by Larry Ackerman, a leading authority on organizational and personal identity. He talked to us about various ways in which one’s identity is the guiding principle driving our choices and successes. He made this comparison: “Your identity is like the keel on a boat. It keeps you steady no matter what the weather, no matter how bad it gets, and no matter what direction you’re going in.”
The challenge is evaluating what your identity really is.
Most of us are not very good at doing this. Our Career Strategists consistently report that the members they work with struggle to identify their unique value proposition. It’s really the same concept as what Larry talked about.
We all have innate capacities that distinguish us. These capacities constitute “identity muscles.” For example, they could be:
- A genius for discovery
- A passion for change
- An instinct for harmony
These muscles are most valuable when they’re being exercised in the context of work. Identity is best unleashed as your unique contribution of characteristics for making a distinctive contribution in the world. But it’s important to remember what you do is not who you are. You are not your labels – or job title. Work is your stage. You should be who you are, with the same principles, attributes, and beliefs when it isn’t showtime.
The three defining qualities of identity:
- Uniqueness – There is only one you.
- Potential – It’s about the future as well as the present.
- Constancy – Who you are never changes, but how you express yourself can change infinitely.
Combined, organizational and individual identity strengths have a major impact on employee engagement and, by extension, business performance.
Understanding your identity allows you to determine if there’s a pattern to your life. You can make the connections that explain past events and foreshadow your future. The pattern of your life reveals a theme that explains how you create value as an individual. You can use this theme as a way to gauge career opportunities and job compatibility.
Use your identity as a lens for assessing potential fit with prospective employers.
Make your identity the foundation of your personal brand. Weave your brand into all aspects of your career: your job, your work relationships, your reputation. identity is a filter for making better choices.
Your identity is about creating value for others, giving your work and your life greater impact and meaning. In times of uncertainty and doubt, we can remind ourselves what our special strengths are – our innate capacities and values creation theme – and work to make the most of them, every day. There’s no guarantee all will want to be in your orbit, but the beauty of knowing your identity is that you’ll know who you are and where you belong.
So I ask you… What is your message? What do you want the world to know? Declare yourself on the strength of your gifts. Aligning what you do with who you are is the surest way to find a career – and a job – that will best serve you as well as your employer.
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