Who am I? Where am I heading? How do I get there? These are questions we all ask ourselves. Understanding your identity capital helps you answer these questions for yourself.
Recently we did a workshop for the Senior Leaders Academy at the University of South Florida. The Academy is comprised of students on the verge of graduating and starting their post-academic lives. They were selected by University faculty for their excellence in leadership. The primary question we were asked to address was: “What next?” These students came to the University with a myriad of experiences, added to them during college, and were now looking at how to use them to take the next steps in their lives. It became clear that the question was less about the actual next steps of getting a job or internship and more a question of identity.
In her book The Defining Decade, Meg Jay, Ph.D. posits that who we are is built over time, piece-by-piece, by the things in our personal and professional lives that we choose to develop. She describes these as “investments that we make in ourselves, the things we do well enough, or long enough, that they become a part of who we are.” Everyone adds to their identity capital in their own unique way. Some choose carefully and focus on the skills and traits that they want to develop in themselves. Others take a wider approach and just try everything that they can, adding identity capital in wide strokes.
Your identity capital is your story.
When you can find the through-line between the personal and professional development choices that you’ve made, you can clearly see your why. You will be able to better follow the story of your own experiences and make intentional choices on how you take your next steps. Meg Jay also writes that “those who can tell a good story about who they are and what they want lead over those who can’t.”