Our Careers and Our Identity Capital

Identity capital is the accumulation of our personal assets, in other words, a culmination of things that make us who we are.

A book called The Defining Decade, by Meg Jay, is one of our most recommended books for people in their 20s – and it talks about identity capital.

The book coined the term identity capital, describing it as “the currency we use to metaphorically purchase jobs and relationships.” 

Identity capital is the accumulation of our personal assets. In other words, a culmination of things that make us who we are. It is what we do to invest in ourselves to create the collection of skills, relationships, and professional resources we build up over our lives. 

It’s about owning up to your choices and becoming the person you want to be. Forget about having an identity crisis and get some identity capital. Do something that adds value to who you are. Do something that’s an investment in whom you might want to be next. 

Identity Capital for What?

There are some parts of identity capital that are ‘tangible and intangible’ so to speak.  The tangible items are what you can say you’ve accomplished: degrees, schools, grades, clubs, and jobs. The intangible items are your innate personality traits: how you solve problems, your empathy, introversion, or extroversion to name a few. 

Every single book you read is part of your identity capital!

Educational Investments: One of the primary ways to build Identity Capital is through education. Pursuing a degree or additional certifications not only enhances your knowledge but also adds to your identity capital. Employers often value the dedication and discipline required to complete educational milestones.

Work Experience: Your professional experiences play a crucial role in shaping your identity. The skills you acquire, the challenges you overcome, and the accomplishments you achieve at work all contribute to your Identity Capital. Don’t underestimate the value of internships, part-time jobs, or volunteering, as these experiences can be equally important.

Whether you are identifying new goals to accomplish or shifting careers, it is imperative you consistently work to accumulate your identity capital. 

By building your identity capital, you are leading yourself down a path of personal development. The author of The Defining Decade has put it simply, “You cannot think yourself through life. You must simply do.”

Where are you at your work? Are you happy with it? If not, you might want to chart a new career plan and start taking steps in that direction. You may need to review your resume, find out what the requirements are in a new field, or even go back to school. Keep in mind that education doesn’t have to be a four-year university degree. 

Sometimes you can get a certificate that will give you the focused knowledge you need while saving you a significant amount of money.

When you can find the through-line between the personal and professional development choices that you’ve made, you can clearly see your purpose.

Our society asks us for instant gratification, with everything being delivered faster and faster. However, developing your identity capital is not an immediate process. 

It’s a marathon, not a sprint, but it’s so worth it!

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