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How to Develop a Professional Identity

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Perception is a powerful force. Greater opportunities exist when colleagues, clients and employers see you and your work in a positive light. Developing a professional identity involves assessing who you are and what you have to offer. Whether your goal is snagging a first job after college or taking control of a career in progress, staying dedicated is critical. Careless actions can derail momentum for even the most well-respected professionals. Take control of your career by developing a positive professional identity.

Package Your Skills

Separating yourself from your peers is a critical aspect of developing a professional identity. It will be more difficult to make waves with a lifeless social media profile or a resume that simply lists previous job duties and education. Create a personal branding statement that highlights your professional value. Think of a memorable, concise way to sum up your professional offerings. The goal is to make others equate expertise in your chosen field with your name. Effective examples are Jungle Jack Hanna and Bill Nye the Science Guy. Develop a winning elevator pitch that gives your audience a concise, memorable snapshot of who you are, what you do and how you do it.

Excel at Work

Exceeding workplace expectations makes people notice your drive. Clients and colleagues will be reluctant to hire or recommend an error-prone accountant or mechanic. Aim for quality and quantity in all of your workplace endeavors. Give stellar oral presentations that display your forward thinking and confidence. Use time management skills and productivity apps to complete individual and group assignments ahead of schedule. Avoid joining in toxic workplace behaviors such as gossiping or misusing social media.

Network With Purpose

Engaging in professional organizations can build your credibility and expand your networking opportunities. Simply paying dues and doing nothing else to contribute to the goals of your chosen organization won’t get you noticed. Show that you are not just a seat filler. Arrive to meetings with fresh ideas and a willingness to contribute your time. Stay in the loop about special projects and volunteer when you can. Collaborate with colleagues to implement or modify organization procedures. Running for office or serving on influential committees could be the boost your career needs.

Stay the Course

Developing a professional identity is an ongoing process that requires a consistent commitment to excellence. Your reputation is fluid and easily damaged. Losing your cool on social media can damage your reputation. So can linking your professional profile to personal contacts, fudging metrics and not owning up to your faults. Surrounding yourself with positive, like-minded colleagues can keep you grounded.


Mika Lo has been producing online content since 2005. The majority of her work has been published in areas such as parenting, lifestyle and health. Lo has also assisted with the development of community and hospital-based patient education programs, including creative discharge classes for new mothers and assisting underprivileged patients with medication assistance and information.

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JGI/Tom Grill/Blend Images/Getty Images