Professional You

Who is your professional self?

Bringing yourself to work

At the first level we must recognise that we all carry who we are — our experiences, personality and beliefs — into our work, but that important contextual differences apply to how we think and behave when we are at work that do not apply, or apply in the same way, when we are at home or in personal and other group or social settings.

The concept of a professional self voices the idea that the culture of your domain or field, applicable laws and the expectations of your colleagues come together to assert the need for professional boundaries, operating procedures and values that apply in your work. These constraints, along with your own self-reflection, help you conduct yourself cogently and consistently as what we call a professional or with professionalism.

Such a concept of professional self thus acts as a protective and supportive buffer to you and to those with whom you interact and serve.

A useful career development tool

The concept also applies pointedly to career development. The professional person you are and may become will be a construct of many things, but in job search situations you are likely to have to articulate specifics from your thinking, experience and approach to being a professional in your field.

As a start it will help you greatly if you have thought about questions such as:

  1. Who am I as a professional and why?
  2. What experiences have defined me as a professional person?
  3. More than merely what kind of job or field would I like to work in, what kind of professional would I like to become and why?
  4. What professional goals will I set myself?
  5. How will I achieve my professional goals?
Thinking through your answers to questions like these will help you in at least two ways:

  1. Clarifying your understanding of your professional self concept clarifies and strengthens your position and direction, and readies you to identify appropriate elements of strategy and action most likely to help you to accomplish your career goals. Knowing where you would like to go and what you would like to achieve (your vision or goal) precedes working out how you will get there (your strategy).
  2. During any job seeking period, a clear professional self concept will help differentiate you from your career competitors and thereby maximise your ongoing employability. As Bolles points out, "No employer wants to know what you have in common with everyone else." (2013:273).

Your professional self journey

Regardless of your career approach and philosophy, finding or making a successful career — i.e. the career you would like or choose to have — is likely to involve sustained effort, as well as intense periods of research, thinking, decision making and action.

Whether you are someone who likes to think and plan in detail before moving forward, or someone who prefers to respond to potential opportunities as they arise, the idea of your professional self can also equip you with relevant concepts, strategies and tools, to help you find your way to a career that turns out as well as, or better than you had hoped.

As with any journey, understanding where you would like to be in the end, will significantly affect your decisions about how you will get there.
Working through the readings, presentations, activities and quizzes in this portal will help you clarify, strengthen and direct your professional self.

Read: Bolles, Richard Nelson. What Color is Your Parachute? Ten Speed Press. New York. 2013.