Career Identity and Self – where does one begin and the other end?

 “In the middle of the road of my life I awoke in the dark wood where the true way was wholly lost” Dante

How important is your work to you?  Is it something that’s always been a great source of pride?  For many professionals, their career represents a massive investment of energy, hope and ambition.  They’re bright – and proud of their intellect.   After all, it’s tough even to get into their particular profession, let alone to succeed at it year after year. And they enjoy a certain status, even a mystique, because of their grasp and application of specialist knowledge.

But as an accountant, lawyer or other professional invests more and more effort into progressing their career – regular passing of exams, completion of training contracts, long hours, changing jobs and earning promotions – they risk creating something that is so psychologically valuable that it become an end in itself.  At some point their career starts to represent more than what they do – it became who they are.

Of course, they don’t realise that at the time.  It’s only when they start to question the value of their work that they end up facing a gargantuan knot of career as self-identity.  A terrible doubt can emerge; “if I strip away all my professional identity, will I disappear?”