Chris Webb, HE Careers Professional, Sheffield Hallam University

The concept of identity

Careers Adviser. Writer. Volunteer. Runner. Reader. Listener. Partner. Brother. Son. Friend.

In an era where we are often defined by tags and labels that help us fit into the online world that we occupy both professionally and personally, the concept of identity can be a potentially thorny subject, particularly for young people growing up at a time where how we are perceived is not always completely within our control, as Kate Eichhorn noted in a recent article for the New Yorker.

With so many of our professional and personal interactions now taking place via social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, are we all making the most of leveraging our identities to support with our career planning and development?

As a starting point, it is worth noting that many careers teams, support services, charitable organisations and employers around the country are already using the concept of identity to help young people with their career development or attract individuals to employment opportunities – for employers, this may be an increased focus on diversity within their recruitment strategies or the use of strengths, motivations or values-based interviewing practices, whereas for careers teams and support services, this often involves helping students to understand their identity in relation to their cultural wealth, protected characteristics or position within an underrepresented group, as seen in initiatives like the WISE (Women in Science and Engineering) People Like Me/My Skills My Life campaign, or the recent project from the University of Nottingham that focused on increasing aspiration for female engineering students.

However, as Dr. Iwi Ugiagbe-Green noted in her recent keynote presentation at the AGCAS Annual Conference 2019, identity in a professional context is far from a linear concept and is something that requires the individual to take into account myriad variables that change over time, including personal motivations, cultural, economic and social capital, as well as what the labour market desires from its participants.

With the above in mind, it is easy to see why utilising the concept of identity is both central to our career development but equally extremely challenging to address, particularly given that as individuals we are constantly in the process of developing as both professionals and people.

In universities, with students often informed of the significant presence of employers and recruiters on social media, there can be understandable anxieties about how to represent yourself online, particularly for individuals who are not regular users of any social media platform.

The prevalence of ‘Googling’ as a first port of call for careers information can also lead web users to potentially suspect advice on the subject of professional identity, whether in the form of cookie-cutter CV templates or ‘must-read’ articles on setting up a LinkedIn profile, all of which can lead individuals to ‘play it safe’ in relation to the way they present themselves to employers.

Advertisement

While employers and research organisations continuously tell us of the high industry demand for skills like Communication, Creativity and Confidence, this message does not necessarily filter down to young people, who in my experience often neglect to emphasise their involvement in opportunities like volunteering, charity work and the organisation of extra-curricular clubs and societies, despite this being something employers report that they are keen to hear about from applicants.

Whether this is due to the significant focus on academic accomplishments present within the secondary education system or a lack of understanding about how others can perceive you on social media from a professional rather than personal standpoint, many individuals (young and old) undersell themselves in relation to their involvement in extra-curricular pursuits, when often these experiences could be the very things that help them stand out in the eyes of employers.

Increasing confidence when approaching conversations about identity

So, how can we increase confidence for ourselves and others when approaching conversations about identity? One approach that many careers practitioners take is to encourage individuals to see themselves as the product of all of their experiences and not simply their education or work history.

Helping individuals to connect their passions to their career development may not only enhance career exploration and broaden their view of opportunities within the labour market but will also support the practice of speaking with enthusiasm about themselves, an area that many people find understandably challenging.

Whether it is waxing lyrical about the discipline and leadership skills that have been instilled through working as a karate instructor or the effective communication, patience and empathy needed to work as a volunteer with the Samaritans, the causes and values that make up someone’s identity can provide a strong foundation for helping individuals to define themselves to employers in an authentic and engaging way.

For individuals who feel that they do not have a lot going on in their personal lives, conversations about identity can also lead to discussions on career ambitions and potential short-term goals to address this situation, for example taking small steps to enhance personal satisfaction and future employability, such as learning a new skill or taking up an activity or hobby they have always been interested in trying.

Identity is clearly not a concept that can ever be approached as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ ideology – many individuals feel the need to keep their professional and personal lives entirely separate in order to maintain a healthy work-life balance, whereas others yearn to develop a career where they can truly be themselves in the work they undertake, something a friend recently informed me that she had discovered through self-employment after a decade of career exploration.

By encouraging ourselves and the individuals we work with to reflect carefully on the concept of identity, both in relation to ourselves and the employers and organisations we interact with, we can begin to assess career opportunities on a more holistic level and appreciate not only our own agency in this process but also enhance our ability to articulate the things that make us unique as individuals, a skill that has clear benefits for everything from job interviews to online dating!

Although social media may have partially limited the control that we have over how others perceive us, starting a conversation about the importance of identity can open up valuable discussions about how we see ourselves and what steps we might take to ensure that others see us the way we wish to be seen, both professionally and personally.

Chris Webb , HE Careers Professional, currently working for Sheffield Hallam University but writing in a personal capacity.

A registered career development professional and member of the Career Development Institute (CDI) and Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS), Chris has previously worked for education institutions in secondary education, FE and HE as a Careers Leader, Careers Adviser, Functional Skills Tutor and Study Programme Coordinator.

You may also be interested in these articles:

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Newsroom Activity

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel commented on this video 12 hours 52 minutes ago

www.accenture.com/gb-en/insights/future-workforce/…

How To Bridge The Skills Gap In The Future...

It's learning. Just not as we know it. The race is on... It’s a race between education and technology. As intelligent systems and machines reshape...

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel shared a video in channel. 12 hours 55 minutes ago

How To Bridge The Skills Gap In The Future...

It's learning. Just not as we know it. The race is on... It’s a race between education and technology. As intelligent systems and machines reshape...

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page