Develop Your Professional Sense of Self

“Work” has always been important to me. I love putting my mind to a task, creating something new, problem-solving, and improving efficiency.

Like other young children, I play-acted being different professionals such as a news reporter, a doctor, and a lawyer. One defining moment in my awareness about work actually happened when I was 9 years old.

I remember watching various sitcoms during the 1980s and noticed that a running joke in most of these television shows was about how everyone “hated” their work. I remember saying to myself that I never wanted to hate my work. Hating what you did everyday did not make any sense to my 9 year old self.

Unfortunately, I did find myself hating aspects of my professional work after my undergraduate studies. The experience of hating my work impacted me deeply because a part of me felt as though I had failed and reneged on my promise to my 9 year old self! How did I let that happen?

Did you know that according to a Gallup poll, 70% of employees are not engaged or are actively disengaged in the workplace? SEVENTY PERCENT.
[Read more about Gallup’s Study]

Gallup defines “Not-Engaged” as employees that “are essentially “checked out.” They’re sleepwalking through their workday, putting time – but not energy or passion – into their work,” while “Actively-Disengaged” workers are described as employees who “aren’t just unhappy at work; they’re busy acting out their unhappiness. Every day, these workers undermine what their engaged co-workers accomplish.”

The overwhelming odds in favor of not being engaged in the workplace, along with my under-develEmployeeTypesoped professional understanding and narrow vision for my work life, probably helped guarantee an experience of aversion related to work.

As professionals, supervisors, and business owners, we have the power and the ability to change this long-term trend of felt workplace disengagement.

A key factor in transforming this epidemic of unhappiness that many live with for 8 or more hours a day, involves each of us putting attention and effort toward intentionally developing our professional sense of self and our ability to envision a more engaged work life while taking responsibility for our own education and career management.

  • Are you willing to devote time (now and at different intervals in the future) to think about and explore what you love?
  • What moments helped define your awareness of work/education/career?
  • What work will honor and integrate who you are and have been as a unique person in this world?
  • What subjects do you study and what activities do you engage in effortlessly and joyfully?
  • What social causes/movements call or move you to action (e.g., environmental sustainability, the state of education, healthcare, politics, business)?

These and others questions invite the everyday creative and exceptional aspects of your individuality to reveal themselves and gives you clues about the type of work that will help you develop and strengthen your professional self and improve your awareness about how you can engage in meaningful and proactive ways in the work world and in your life.

5 thoughts on “Develop Your Professional Sense of Self

  1. Robert says:

    Hey, Latoya,

    I like what’s happening here.

    Could you expand on ‘the professional sense of self?’

  2. Mark W Barnett says:

    I found the Gallup poll alarming. And I admit too being one of those sleep walkers – I hated the work ethic (I blamed the world for this). But at 35 I was directed (subconsciously)to leave the work force and return to school. I have since then completed both undergraduate and graduate degrees.

    Returning to school gave me the time I needed to introspect; I took a very deep look into my self during this time to learn about what was causing my disengagement and I found that I was actually disengaged from family, community, and life in general; not just work. Returning to school allowed me time to “check out” and take care of myself. The term “reinvention” doesn’t does not describe the inner work, but maybe personal development.

    Now, having just completed graduate school this year, one might think that I am busy with a new career full of ambition. Well, no. Although I have thoroughly dealt with the issues of disengagement, I am taking my time now to re-enter the world of work, community, family, life; I have of yet to rediscover my place. And I know its there, a place, but I refuse to force this out of fear, or even necessity. We all know about the state of the economy, unemployment, etc… be that as it may, it doesn’t worry me. I need this time now to develop vision. I call it my “Joseph Campbell” phase; when Campbell finished college he spent five years in upstate New York doing nothing but reading before finding work. And I am doing little more than biding my time with reading at this point.

    Thank You!

  3. Admin says:

    Mark, I also felt compelled to leave the work force for school (JFKU) in order to help heal the disconnect I felt working in industry. The past two years since graduation have been the time I was given to read, explore, and build relationships until I felt able, ready, and moved to create meaningful work for myself. The professional/career path can be experienced with a sense of ease!

  4. Very informative statement inspires me..thanks..

  5. Latoya J. Williams says:

    Thanks for stopping by career management! I plan on going back to the concept of the professional sense of self in my posts within the next month. I truly believe that who we know ourselves as professionals is key to career wellbeing.

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