Identity Capital: how to make imperfections a gripping career story

ethnic female psychotherapist listening to black clients explanation
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You probably have at least one job that doesn’t quite fit in with the rest. Maybe a mistake or failure you skip over at any opportunity. Which one is it and why is it weird?

Identity capital is how much you own your own story. It’s commonly referenced in Career Development spaces, guiding people to create a more cohesive narrative of their working life so far.

Everyone’s had a job at least one job that didn’t fit in with the rest. How do you reconcile this? Ignore it? Maybe you cover with a little white lie – yet what if your fear was completely unnecessary? In fact, it might make you more personable, relatable, and interesting.

You might immediately think this sounds like stretching the transferable skills cliché where you overstate the applicability of something you did to everything else. Identity capital isn’t a million miles away from this but the emphasis is different: delivering an enticing story of your life! A Disney film is unlikely to include a calligraphic and sparkly “transferable skills” as an epic opener, let’s say.

Let’s explore this from two perspectives, or assumptions, in addition to your confrontation with an odd past job or failure. One is that you’re happy where you are now, and the other is that you’re not happy where you are now.

For the first: you are content with where you are now career wise. Moving on from one job to the other. You may be asked to explain a part of your timeline that you’re not too proud of. Maybe embarrassed. What do you do, glaze over it? Laugh it off? Omit?

It’s more strategic and kind to allow yourself to accept the blip and see it for the informative experience it must have been on some level. If for no other reason, do this for yourself. It made you who you are now. And it got you where you are now whether you think so, or not.

A passing understanding of the butterfly effect will inform that any change to your timeline could have had massive consequences down the line, good or bad. Therefore, if you are happy where you are now, you just have to integrate the failure into your ongoing success story.

For the second: let’s have a look at some that specifically will help those who are unsure of their position right now has what’s happened made you re-evaluate your choices. Is this not quite where you want to be. Did this setback or oddity show you:

  • How did you realise that this is not where you want to be?
  • What yearning, did you realise you had?
  • Assume there was a gift hidden in that experience, what was it?
  • Why are you glad that happened anyway, despite the superficial outcome?

If you feel negative about this event, it’s time to reconcile with it, to make a peace. How do you do that? You might take inspiration from the hero’s story the archetypal hero arc that allows character development and creates an exciting tale about how you became who you are now. It’s all guiding you to become the person you want to be in the future.

A hero without a failure is not a hero. Their power stems from their resilience, and not without flaw, otherwise they would stand amongst impersonal gods. Instead, you cannot be and do not want to be that. Instead, let’s ask a few questions about how what happened, has led you to the position you’re in now and leading you to great things in the future. Here are a few more prompts:

  • What did this experience teach you about doing work or the meaning of work?
  • What did it show you about yourself?
  • Did it give you an appreciation for something new?
  • Did it inspire you to do better?
  • Did it frighten you away from complacency?

It doesn’t have to be so serious, either. It could be way more lighthearted, even funny. Maybe it was just time to make a frivolous decision to see the world and be less productive on paper. There’s nothing wrong with that. But tell us your tale – entertain us! More importantly, afford yourself a wonderful story.

Resources

[1] “What Would It Cost You? Why (and When) Does
It Matter?” – https://chayoot.blog/2018/10/22/what-would-it-cost-you-why-and-when-does-it-matter/

[2] “How to Make the Most of Unique Job Experiences” – https://online.hbs.edu/blog/post/unique-jobs

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