Why Do People Create Professional Identities?

Topics: Identity, The Creation of Adam Pages: 7 (2388 words) Published: October 3, 2008
The 21st century has seen how globalizing forces caused the rapid transmission of information and technology across the world and the consequent formation of a global village. With advancements in the field of science and technology, there is also an increasing need for the labour force to keep up with the ever-changing globalizing trends, be it fashion or work dynamics, so that no one would be left behind. This leads to increasing emphasis placed on the creation of professional image, which are perceptions held by one’s colleagues and business clients about one’s competence, character and composure (Roberts, 2005), due to the impressions conveyed by the former. Other than what has been discussed about globalization’s role in professional identities, there are alternative reasons for the creation of professional identities. People of the working population create professional identities not only due to globalization, but because of perceptions existent in society, demands of the career and expectations at work as well. In addition, supporting and opposing ideas would be brought in from three main sources, namely, “Changing faces: Professional Image Construction in Diverse Organizations” (Roberts, 2005), “Provisional Selves: Experimenting with Image and Identity in Professional Adaptation” (Ibarra, 1999) and “It’s a Brand-You World” (Lee-St. John, 2006).

Prior to looking at the reasons for professional identity creation, it is necessary to define the term “professional identity” clearly and explore how one goes about creating one’s professional identity. “Professional identity is defined as the relatively stable and enduring constellation of attributes, beliefs, values, motives, and experiences in terms of which people define themselves in a professional role” (Ibarra, 1999). This means that the concept of professional identity is only applicable to the workforce and it is related to impressions that a person desires others to have of him or her.

To create a professional identity, the person has to enact a certain persona that may or may not be representative of his or her genuine personality. By observing others’ reactions and receiving feedback from peers, the person also has to decide on whether to continue using such an approach – enacting a certain persona – for the portrayal of professional identity (Ibarra, 1999). One can even engage in social identity-based impression management, SIM in short, to construct a viable professional image. SIM, as the term suggests, is based on social identity group memberships which people relate themselves to. One may use SIM strategies to boost one’s own professional image by increasing the probability that one will be cognitively associated with positively stereotyped social identity groups, or by decreasing the extent to which others cognitively correlate one with existing negative stereotypes that concern the social identity group one belongs to (Roberts, 2005). On top of these, professional identities can even be created on the Internet. Branding consultants offer to market one’s professional self and individuals who request for such services will be charged a fee accordingly. “Personal branders use your online identity – the links that pop up when you Google someone and details on sites like MySpace – as well as tools like the 360Reach exercise to determine which core attributes will sell your brand most effectively” (Lee-St. John, 2006). With these possible methods of professional identity creation listed, we can then proceed to discuss the reasons for people creating professional identities in their working lives.

First and foremost, one of the reasons that cause people to create professional identities is globalization. Globalization can be termed as the increasing interconnectedness of people and places as a result of improvements in transport, communication, and information technologies that cause convergence in the political, economic, and cultural arenas....
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