Working Your Identity vs. Your Work Identity

Last week we talked about how conventional career change methods often don’t lead to the results you hope for—a refreshed, renewed career. You can read more about that here.

This week, let’s talk about how working our identity is critical to a successful career and life transformation.

I love this play on words. Instead of your work identity, you work your identity. Meaning you take action to recraft how you want to show up at this point in your life.

For some people, reworking your identity is about making small tweaks, like shifting to a new sector. For others, it means completely transforming their future.

According to Herminia Ibarra, an organization behavior professor at London Business School, working our identity is the “process of applying effort to reshape our identity.”

The truth is that if you are serious about refreshing, renewing or completely reinventing yourself, whether you want a new career or a new outlook on life, action is what is going to get you there.

It’s easy to sit around and think about what we wish we had or complain about how we want a change. But, let’s face it. Thinking and complaining, by themselves, isn’t going to work.

I love this quote and I share it often.

“Everyone who’s ever taken a shower has an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off and does something about it who makes a difference.” (Nolan Bushnell)

So, how do you work your identity in order to reshape your identity?

You use what Professor Ibarra calls the “Test and Learn” approach.

There are three parts to the Test and Learn approach. I’m going to share those with you today. Next week, I’ll dig into my favorite. (Can you guess which one it is?)


If we wait until we figure out exactly where we’re going, we will probably never get there. Instead of waiting until you have all the information you need and then taking one giant leap into your next act, consider designing a side project in an area that you are curious about.

If you dream of a future bringing under-represented voices to the masses, host a TEDX event in your community. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and will connect with all sorts of people that can help you in your career transformation.


If you surround yourself with people in your current universe, you’ll fail to see what another universe has to offer. Start hanging out with people in industries and sectors that you want to learn more about.

Interested in starting your own business? Go to entrepreneur MeetUps and talk to people who have made that leap. Not only will you learn a lot, you’ll make connections that will cushion your leap into your next act.


O.W.N. Y.O.U.R. S.T.O.R.Y! Many of us feel shame around our reinvention journey, especially while we are knee deep in it. We believe that it’s shameful to not have our sh*t figured out, especially in midlife. But, crafting & telling your story as it unfolds will not only help you make sense of your transformation, it will allow other people to see where they can help you. Learning and changing is part of life. Make it the plot of your story.

Have a great week!

Kirsten Bunch