When I was a kid, I loved Popeye the Sailor Man who got his strength from eating copious amounts of tinned spinach. He had a catchphrase – “”I ‘yams whats I ams, and dats all that I ‘yams”. I always liked that he knew who he was, his no-nonsense character and that trademark chuckle. In this cartoon he suffers from an existential identity crisis!
Why is clarity about your identity important for your employability?
For me, self-awareness is the foundation stone of development. Understanding who we are is a lifetime’s work in progress and understanding our identity is hugely complex, encompassing a wide range of self-determining factors like our personality, values and beliefs, gender, generation, heritage and allegiances.
I like to think of identity as an inside out and outside in relationship. Inside out – the core persona within me that seeps out of my every pore in the way in which I interact with the world. Outside in – the metaphorical (and actual) clothes I wear to reflect to the world who I am and which feed my self-esteem.
“The value of identity of course is that so often with it comes purpose”
- Richard R Grant
Awareness of it helps you to articulate what you stand for so your authentic self is on show and you can be at your best more of the time. It’s partly about being comfortable in your own skin – reflecting what that skin is, what makes your blood pump fast and your heart tick. It’s also partly about what makes you proud about yourself and the confidence it enables you to exude. It’s the congruence between inside out and outside in. Knowing who you are gives you clues as to what you need to promote (talents and strengths) or manage about yourself (overplayed strengths and development areas).
“I’ve grown certain that the root of all fear is that we’ve been force to deny who we are”
- Frances Moore Lappe
Having a clear understanding of your unique identity means you can use it to stand out and differentiate yourself from others. It enables you to package your personal brand. As well as knowing if you can do the job, employers are interested in who they are hiring, what drives you and how well that fits with their culture.
Asking people ‘who are you?’ often elicits a blank look. We are more comfortable with ‘what do you do?’ than how we tick.
Here are 3 common ways to find out who you are as a person:
- Reflecting on yourself, including the use of personality profiles
- Asking other people what they observe and experience of you
- Testing yourself through new and different experiences (then reflecting again)
Reflecting on ourselves can be an uncomfortable experience and modesty or fear can prevent some people from seeking feedback. Try asking yourself these questions as a gentle way to start:
- What do you know about yourself that is also generally known by people who know you well?
- What would you like to know about yourself from other people who know you well?
- What do you know about yourself that generally other people don’t know and that you keep to yourself?
- What would you like to know about yourself that no one knows yet?
About the Author: David Shindler is the author of “Learning to Leap, a Guide to Being More Employable”. An experienced coach and people development expert, David specialises in developing and accelerating employability. He also runs the Employability Hub (a social learning community and resource centre), the Learning to Leap group on LinkedIn and Facebook fan page. Tweet David, or contact him via his website.