Professional Identity: You can handle the truth!
In my book, Make Your Mark: The Smart Nonprofit Professional’s Guide to Career Mapping for Success, I describe Professional Identity as your unique set of talents, experience, desires, and interests. I also described Professional Identity as not what you are, but who you are. It’s who and how you show up at work — excited, willing, eager to be a team player, engaged in problem-solving — not what your job title says you are — accountant, fundraiser, marketing manager.
Here’s a story you need to know…
Once upon a time, I coached a Director of Development at a midsize nonprofit organization. She was unsure if she wanted to continue going up the ladder to eventually become an Executive Director, or if she wanted to do something different. She had some beliefs, assumptions, and professional needs that were paralyzing her. However, after gaining clarity she knew that her Professional Identity would not thrive as an Executive Director, even though it was expected of her by her peers, society, family and herself.
Her Professional Identity was truly happier serving in a different capacity. She wanted to remain in fundraising, and she decided to do so. Not from a place of fear. Not because she was afraid to fail as an Executive Director, but from a place of strength. From a place of knowing exactly what and who she wanted to be. What her gifts to the world were and in what space she could better share them.
Like Lisa, once you are clear on who you are, and what your Professional Identity is, be faithful to it. These don’t change with every interview or new job. You are who you are, and that is the truth.
Time and time again, I see job seekers speaking to every job description through their cover letters and morphing into everything the job description wants them to be. This is not only deceitful to the hiring organization, but to yourself. No wonder 50% of American workers are dissatisfied in their roles. Nonprofit professionals are not excluded. They are in the wrong roles.
I highly encourage my nonprofit professionals to remain faithful to their Professional Identity throughout every step of the way. Take pride in it. You have gifts and talents that no one else has. It has to take you courage, discipline, time, and effort to get here. Don’t lose sight of that.
With clarity around your Professional Identity, interviews are painless, you show up with certainty, and it can be seen and felt. Your new nonprofit employer won’t need to spend time trying to figure you out, because you will be transparent and genuine from the beginning.
Written with love 🧡,
Nurys Pedersen, Founder & President
Careers In Nonprofits