Chasing an identity doesn’t always make for a good career


A business’ brand is becoming increasingly important as markets evolve and consumer intelligence increases. Yet is it not just about buying and selling: the brand is now instrumental is recruiting and retaining the best talent in the labour market.

Research conducted by LinkedIn revealed that 53% of the workforce could not be tempted to work for a company with a negative or bad brand, irrespective of the wage offered. It seems staggering in this supposedly materialistic culture to learn that people won’t take up a job purely for financial benefit, yet looking under the surface reveals some deeper truths to the reasons why.

These days we spend more time at work than at home. Unsurprisingly, given the extent of work’s influence on our time, we are shaped by our work – what we do, the environment and the people – and it helps us understand and construct our identity – who we are. Work not only creates our identity but it also helps to nurture it for as long as we remain in that line of work, and even longer. This is why people can struggle when they change jobs, as they are forced to come to terms with the discrepancy that often opens us between who they think they are and the unfamiliarity of a new environment, new responsibilities and new colleagues. Our identity shapes our whole working life, beginning with determining what career path we go down. This is why identity is becoming more and more central in our decisions to work for certain organisations who portray identities that appeal to us, and we feel can both reinforce and nurture our identity aspirations.

However, be warned: putting identity first can lead to disappointment and upset in the long-run. Rather than privileging identity and individual passion, workers should balance this with pragmatism and the acknowledgment that the world doesn’t work for us as individuals; rather we need to work with it and for it. It should be less about entitlement and more about contribution.

The lucky ones with buckets or resource and finance can back their dreams and establish or work for businesses that correspond with our ideal identities and passions, yet the reality for many is about them showing businesses they can fulfil and need that someone is willing to pay for. It is about finding your relevancy.

Time is too short to explore everything until you find a passion worth following. What’s more, we suffer from interest scarcity and it would be wrong to allow yourself to be drowned in ideals and ignore the reals. Rather than discover a passion, you would be best served building a passion out of what you do. Even if you don’t like your job, you can find areas of your work that you really like and concentrate on developing them. Spending all day complaining and feeling bitter about lost opportunities and a suppressed identity is only a waste of resource that will annoy colleagues and business owners.

Discover your identity and passion by investing in what you are doing now and expanding the bits you like. This is how career journeys are created in the real world. Also, don’t forget to continually apply yourself and assess the value of your contribution to the business. Avoid sell-by-dates by staying relevant through updating skills and keeping an eye on industry trends.

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