Identities are often how we define audiences for marketing purposes. Thinking deeply about who a business wants to serve, they create personas and think through what people want that product or service and then craft something that resonates with them. It’s ironic that there are millions of marketers out there thinking about people’s identities and beliefs associated with those, but so few people actively reflecting and thinking about what their identity is. While people may not actively think about their identity, when you threaten it, they certainly lash out, either fighting with rage, shrinking in fear, or becoming overall despondent. This is a reaction that makes us human, it’s natural.
When thinking about my own identity, I realized I’ve slowly let go of my identity as an engineer and it’s been beneficial for me. I grew up around a family manufacturing business. I went to college for engineering. I worked as an engineer. Then I slowly found myself in roles that became more engineering tangential and even found myself spending less time on engineering forums. I don’t feel like I can’t ever go back, but now I think of myself as a writer/blogger, a salesperson, a marketer, and a father. This is opening my eyes to problems from all sorts of different angles. When you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail after all.
After graduating college, while identifying strongly as an engineer, if you would have asked me how innovation happens, I would have responded about technology and invention. Today, I think much more about people. How organizations are propelled or held back based on how they treat, structure, authorize, incentivize and otherwise influence the people that make them up. It can extend beyond companies to nations even.
Grasping too tightly to an identity holds people back. The machinist that believe without a degree he can’t be an engineer, even though some jobs are willing to hire him and give him a shot is being held back by an identity. The company who fails to see a new service that most of their customers want even though its not in their wheelhouse is being held back by an identity.
Don’t let your identity hold you back. One way to be sure that’s the case is to actively identify yourself. If some marketer a thousand miles away can figure out your persona on paper, surely a few minutes of deep thought by you can help you draw some good conclusions. From there, you can figure out where you want to go with a new identity (if needed).