I have been asked to further define what I mean by the professional sense of self.
I have been thinking about how I want to frame this concept because I know that my current understanding and perspective is partially intuitive and steadily developing. Consequently, my definition will probably evolve as I write and contemplate more on this subject.
Over a week ago, I explored various definitions of the word “professional”. One online source provided a broad definition that appealed to me: a professional is “a person prepared for work by extended study or practice.” By this definition, the completion of undergraduate and/or graduate studies qualifies a person to claim the designation of professional.
However, earning a college degree or even multiple degrees did not create a true sense of being a professional for me. I also noticed that working as a consultant over the years (e.g., practice) did not, by itself, create a real felt sense of being meaningfully invested in my work. I want to do more than claim the title of “professional,” I want to genuinely feel passion and commitment for my work.
I believe that developing a living sense of being an intentional professional comes through extended study, practice, and mindfully envisioning and creating my work. No degree or job title will make me feel like a professional. Only my active participation and contribution to designing my life’s work will satisfy my yearning and inspire an ongoing feeling of connection and coherency in my career path.
Within the idea of the professional sense of self, the word “professional” represents the more practical everyday efforts that demonstrate and reinforce my commitment to a evolving a field or to my life’s work through study, practice, and mindfulness. At the same time, the term self points toward a deeper dimension of being human. According to Carl Jung, the Self is realized by the process of “integrating one’s personality” and “signifies the coherent whole, unified consciousness and unconscious of a person.”
This definition directly correlates with my idea about the professional sense of self…the process of integrating one’s personality (e.g., sense of self) within one’s professional work.
In order to effectively integrate my personality, I have to continually observe, get to know, and befriend my self and my experience! Meditation, dream work, mindfulness, informal and formal self-assessments, and being open to honest feedback from family, friends, and colleagues are all methods to help us recognize different aspects of our self that desire expression.
I see the self as a representation of our own personal path, as a vital agent of our cultural and biological heritage, and as an ambassador for our future evolution. Therefore, the professional sense of self is purposely evolved by honoring your unique life path and finding ways to integrate and develop emerging self-awareness directly in your work.
Recognizing my experience of being a first generation professional, which has inspired this discourse, finally surfaced because of my ongoing reflections on factors that differentiate me:
- My personal and professional path
- My family history, and
- How I want to build a better foundation for future generations