Identity is a complex matter, made all the more so by well-meaning psychologists. At its heart, though, identity is about a label (“archetype” or “persona”) that we choose to be linked to. Similarly, the concept of branding stems from cattle-farming, where cattle are branded with the name of their owner’s business.
Two labels, or identities, seem to be most important at work, according to research by Kate Walsh (Cornell university) and Judith Gordon. These labels are “occupational” and “organisational” identity. In essence, do you choose to link your personal brand, or sense of who you are, with your occupation and/or organisation? Are you happy to be a ____ person (think Steve at ****bank), in _____ role? If not, you will not be engaged, neither will your work be excellent, it seems.
What makes you identify with an occupation or organisation? According to the research, you choose labels that offer distinction (or distinctiveness) and status. In other words, that which makes you stand out from the crowd positively. If your occupation can give this to you (e.g. doctor, commercial property mogul), but not your organisation, you will not stay at your company for long, but will probably stay in your field. Some love their organisation, but not their occupation within it (e.g. a plumber at NASA). If you are dissatisfied with both your occupation and your organisation, you are likely to revert to your personal brand as your core identity, and life will then start when work ends.
Ideally, then, you want to ensure that your occupation – WHAT you do – and the organisation – WHERE you do it – are a match for WHO you are, and want to be. If the three identities align, you will find it easy to get up and go to work, offer better customer service and feel more positive about the contribution you make each day.