Developing Your Professional Identity: Strategic Moves To Supercharge Your Growth
In today’s dynamic business world, establishing and consistently developing your professional identity plays an integral role in setting you apart from the competition (and these days, the competition is intense!).
Professional identities not only convey your company’s primary objectives and values but also foster trust and loyalty among stakeholders.
Understanding Professional Identity
At its core, developing your professional identity means curating how the world perceives professionally. This perception could be among colleagues, entrepreneurs, stakeholders, or the entire industry. While it’s anchored in showcasing your skills and proving you’re an indispensable player in your field, it goes beyond just abilities. Your professional identity also encapsulates your values, marking you as an ethical, reliable business leader. Further, it should weave in those unique personal traits that differentiate you.
In a nutshell, developing your professional identity is tantamount to crafting your professional brand. Just like you may think of a Coke when someone says “refreshing beverage” or Apple when someone says “trendy smartphone,” you want your name to appear first in your audience’s mind when they think of your niche or industry – helping you more effectively build your network.
Why Prioritize Developing Your Professional Identity?
If stakeholders and peers can’t discern your professional stance, their inclination to collaborate or invest dwindles. From recruitment for entry-level positions to leading a business to success, the weight of your professional identity remains consistent. Initiatives like pursuing an MBA, optimizing your in-person networking efforts, or specializing in specific business sectors can lay the foundation for the entrepreneur or business leader you aspire to be. Engaging in value-driven projects and endeavors further solidifies your reputation in the field. The sooner you prioritize developing your professional identity, the more adept you become at articulating and leveraging it.
Guidelines for Cultivating Your Professional Identity
Evaluate Your Professional Abilities
Recognizing where you currently stand is crucial. Reflect on the skills you’ve garnered thus far, encompassing technical knowledge and soft skills like communication. By identifying areas you excel in and those requiring enhancement, you pave the way for intentional growth. Seeking feedback from mentors, bosses, or educators can provide invaluable insights.
A good way to start is to list all the technical skills you have and then all the soft skills you often hear others say you are great at. Then, pair those skills with achievements you already have under your belt so that you can back up anything you say when you build your personal brand online. For this, it’s good to have an “achievements Excel sheet” handy where you can note down all your achievements on at least a semi-annual basis so you never lose track of all your successes.
Craft a Polished Professional Elevator Pitch
One way to build your network effectively is by learning how to pitch yourself concisely to the people you meet. This is called an “elevator pitch” — a pitch about yourself or your business in less than 30 seconds, which is the time taken to get from a high floor of a building to the ground floor. This concise introduction should encapsulate:
- Who you are professionally or if you are pitching your business, it should be a one-liner on what your business offers.
- Your unique skills and how you apply them
- The impact of your professional abilities
The objective is to intrigue and engage, paving the way for more in-depth interactions and developing your professional identity further. Be sure not to “hard-sell” yourself too much — your pitch should sound natural and give your listener just the right amount of information to be able to ask quality probing questions to you. Mastering the elevator pitch will take your in-person networking to the next level.
Steer Clear of Negative Workspaces
Working in an environment steeped in negativity or unethical practices can taint your professional identity by association. Prioritize affiliating with entities that align with your values and bolster your identity — whether you are an employee, a vendor, or a business partner. This may mean removing yourself from existing relationships not serving your brand, so plan your steps carefully.
Engage in Networking (In-Person or Online)
Building genuine connections is instrumental in developing your professional identity. Begin by linking with peers, mentors, or even MBA alumni. Approach networking authentically, aiming for meaningful interactions rather than mere number growth. The quality of these relationships can amplify your professional persona.
If you are struggling to start your network, consider not just sharpening your business skills via an online MBA but using the MBA to build new connections in various industries that you never would have met otherwise. Getting connected to the network of your classmates is an easier means of growing your own network — and with an online MBA, you can continue to work in your organization or grow your business without interruption.
Intentionally developing your professional identity is a journey, not a destination. Through introspection, a clear understanding of your unique offerings, and the right strategic moves, like keeping the right work environment and networking, you can establish a profound impact on your chosen industry and its constituents.