Aug28

Professional Identity

Professional Identity

During the last two centuries the identity of the professional (manager, teacher, physician, ...) is basically determined by two characteristics: being objective and satisfying clients (patients, employees, citizens, students)...

  • It is said that professionals have to be objective and technocratic, not subjective or feeling-based. They have a methodology, based on education and peer-review. The professional is specialised.
  • Secondly, professionals have to satisfy their clients. The professional delivers a service. He organises his work with the metaphor of free market, which activates a tendency to be dependent on the appraisal of others. Like any other citizen, professionals are earning money and want to have a good life. They are individualised, detached from their local community, larger issues and personal moral standards.

Quite a lot of professionals are fed up with this narrowing space of professional identity. They are stressed or even burn out. They are imprisoned in a middle class life style. Novice professionals are dreaming of a better world. But from the moment the teacher, social workers, nurse, lawyer, or leader is entering the complex system of an organisation the original values are suppressed in order to successfully socialize.

If we want professionals to be more society oriented, we first have to acknowledge that the way we think of being a professional is too narrow. Developing professional work has to be put in the bigger frame of rethinking what it is to be a professional. In this sense professionals are in transition.

The transition of the professional identity has three lines of development:

1.PERSONALISATION: the personal and the professional are no longer divorced from each other. On the contrary professionals are not only expected to be authentic in their work, but they also want their work is a space to exhibit their talents, passion, and values.

Do you recognize yourself in your profession or is your professional role something outside yourself?

2.HYBRID IDENTITY: the professional is no longer a singular position towards the other. The professional is a hybrid identity. He has different hats or roles. The challenge for contemporary professionals is to be clear for themselves and for their stakeholders from which role they act. Confusion of roles lead to confused communications and less efficacy.

Out of what roles does your professional identity exist?

3.GREATER WHOLE: the professional can be specialised but every professional is expected to be generalist enough to validate the meaning of his work in a larger frame of society and world. Therefore the contemporary professional is a cultural creative who contribute explicitly with his work to a better world.

What is the greater whole from which meaningfulness of your work derives?

If the professional takes up his own development, he automatically will look for a more holistic approach in the way he is a professional. He will start reflecting on how he can uses his talents and unique personality in his profession. He will start to deal with complexity in interactions. Moreover, if the professional is himself awaken about larger issues, his work will get more meaning for himself and others.