I now give almost every person I work with an exercise to help them determine their Vocational Identity. The Vocational Identity Statement (or V.I.D.) is a way to tell someone the roles and tasks you are gifted to bring to the work world without tying these to a particular job title or position. The point of the exercise is to help a client understand herself or himself in terms of their inherent strengths and competencies. Then they can evaluate a prospective job or work role by the extent to which they will get to exercise those strengths and competencies.

In interviews and networking, the V.I.D. is a great way to help a potential employer or relational contact understand the value you bring to them or their organization.

In a larger sense the V.I.D. is another way I hope to alter the way my clients think about their work.

We typically think about our work as a means to get things – to earn money and benefits, to attain the things (and not just material things) we want in our lives, to occupy our work time, and sometimes to put together our sense-of-self or identity in the world. This paradigm has our work serving us, our needs and our wants. From this perspective one might say, “I want or need these, therefore I work”.

This mindset is what drives us to write resume’s listing work tasks we’d never want to do again, to apply for jobs that have made us miserable in the past or to comply to work or life demands that steal time, energy and joy from our lives. Our need makes us desperate, so we make the poor choices desperate people make and accept tasks and responsibilities for which we’re not suited. (In my work I have some “rules” I share with clients. In this case my rule is: “Never make vocational choices out of desperation, they always lead to regret.”)

I propose an alternative view of our work. I believe we were each created with specific natural strengths and given a unique life story in order for us to serve a purposeful and intentional role in the world. If we are wise we engage in work that allows us to bring these unique gifts into work situations and use them to support and enhance the world. We engage in work that allows us to make a unique contribution that only you (or I) are able to make. From this perspective you might say, “I am this (or these), therefore this is the work I do”. *

The alternate view places you in a position to declare the value you bring to an endeavor, an employer or an organization. It says, “I am strong, competent or gifted in these ways and can help you accomplish these tasks or deal with these challenges.” Another way of thinking about it might be, “I am a person who can help if you are facing these types of challenges”. It’s a value proposition that’s directed toward positive change and growth, and it invites employers and organizations to invest in themselves by hiring you.

Of course, once you’ve made that value proposition or declaration, then you have the responsibility to make good on your claim. In other words, if you convince people to hire you (to invest in you) then you have to make sure you give them a good return on their investment. That’s why it’s so important that you thoroughly evaluate and understand your Vocational Identity before you begin using it in your work-related conversations. If you’re not on target in what you tell someone then you might convince them to “buy” something you really can’t deliver.

If you’d like a copy of the Vocational Identity Statement exercise, I’m glad to share it. Just click HERE and you’ll be taken to my contact page where you can write and ask me to email it to you. At a minimum you’ll learn something about yourself but it may just change the way you think about yourself and your work.

*(I can hear the pragmatists screaming that, “work is called work, and not fun, for a reason” or “don’t give me that ‘find your bliss’ crap” or maybe even “you still have to pay your bills”. I eagerly acknowledge that we all require financial resources to provide for our basic needs and fund our personal “pursuit of happiness”, and that work (by itself) cannot make you happy. But so many of the people I serve come to me because their work hasn’t provided satisfactory answers to the deeper questions of their lives that I cannot ignore the role vocation plays in the larger meaning of our personal lives.)

As always, I welcome any questions you might have about this article or what I do.