Feeling stuck? Ready for something more?

Is your identity holding back your career?

Published 3 months ago • 3 min read

In a world where everyone asks, “And what do you do for work?”

Aim to answer the question, “Who am I without my job?”

Tying your identity to your current role is one of the reasons why it can be so extremely uncomfortable to leave it — whether by choice or by force.

In my early career days, I thought of myself as a “consultant” even before being an incredible friend, fun older sister, or loving daughter… yikes.

Placing my identity in my job for years meant it was incredibly difficult to come to terms with the fact that it was no longer serving me.

When I realized I would love nothing less than to get promoted, I knew something was off.

I had networked my way into the target group at my consulting firm, was close to senior leadership, earned high performer bonuses, nearly 2x’ed my salary in 3 years — and completely burned out in the process. Chasing success without fulfillment will do that.

I couldn’t help but ask, “Is this all there is?”

Cue quarterlife crisis 🙃

I decided I couldn’t stay there. I spent the next month getting to know myself — my values, interests, and gifts. I reflected on the work that would be a better reflection of who I already am on the inside. I got clear on my skills and talents.

As a result — I created my career vision.

I decided at that time (Sept 2020): I want to build a personal-brand based service business.

I just didn’t know what it would be…. yet. So I set a near-term objective: join an early stage startup to learn how companies get built, products get made, and teams get hired. I’d bring my problem solving skills from consulting and in turn, I’d learn the skills that would show me how to be a founder.

I knew what I wanted but I continued to apply for and interview with companies that were interesting to me, but not aligned. Turns out this is extremely common.

Why was it so difficult to commit to my goal?

I didn’t know then, but now I do. Dr. Benjamin Hardy, an organizational psychologist and author (quickly becoming one of my favorites) says:

Your identity is what you’re 100% committed to, and what you’re 100% committed to reflects your current results. So, if you want better results, you have to genuinely look at yourself and admit that there might be part of your identity or even part of your process that is keeping you where you’re at.”

I wasn’t ready to shed my “consultant” identity and adopt a new one like “startup job seeker” that was more aligned with my goals. Once I all-in committed to working at a startup, my identity shifted. I joined a community for startup job seekers and dialed in my job search objective even further. This created my filter for what roles I’d say yes and no to during my job search.

And it worked. Once I aligned my career transition story, personal brand, networking conversations, and job search strategy with my goal to work at a startup, I believed it was possible for me. I ended up landing 4 offers in 4 weeks (this was April 2021) and starting my new role at a seed stage YC company a few weeks later.

As I achieve my near-term goals, I continue to expand my career vision and set new goals that pull me toward it. That’s why I started coaching others on navigating career transitions. It’s why you’re reading this right now.

Identity is a tool to help you determine what actions to take next and who to align with.

Shift it as you want your actions to change. The same way “I want to start running” is a wish and “I’m a runner” is a declaration. The latter compels action.

As my vision evolves, so does my identity. I’ve consciously shifted it to spur my behavior change. Last year, I was a side hustler and coach. Now, I’m a founder. In the future, I’ll be an author and podcaster.

Your identity is temporary, just as your job title is.

You are a beautiful human gifted life on this planet with a set of inherent gifts and talents and unique desires. The school of life has taught you a special set of skills. You are equipped to channel all of that into the work you do — which is the key to fulfillment AND success.

If you choose, your work can be an authentic expression of you. That’s when a career becomes a calling. But hey, it can also just be work :)

Want to create your own career vision and shift your identity?

Use these journaling prompts to get started:

  1. ENERGY: In your personal and professional life: What gives you energy? What zaps it?
  2. IDENTITY: What identity am I most committed to right now? How might that be holding me back? What new identity could I adopt to move closer to my goals?
  3. STRENGTHS: What challenges have you overcome? What strengths helped you do that? What do people compliment you on? What comes easily to you?
  4. INTERESTS: What do you like learning about for fun? What are you curious about but haven’t pursued?
  5. BELIEFS: What would you do if you could not fail? If no one would judge you for it, if you knew it would absolutely work out?

Reply back to me with your reflections! I’d love to hear from you.

And since you’re an early subscriber, here’s a special bonus. Grab a free copy of my Career Transition Tracker: an all-in-one personal CRM, role and company tracker, and weekly progress journal. Hope it’s helpful!

Chat soon,

Feeling stuck? Ready for something more?

I'm Katy Culver, founder, coach, and startup operator.

I help growth-minded professionals get clarity and pivot to work they love. Join my newsletter to build your career by design and navigate transitions with confidence. Expect big ideas, tactical strategies, and seriously good vibes. You in?

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