Understanding how individuals make sense of their professions provides important guidance for career decisions and career counseling. In this paper we aim to further our knowledge of profession-specific self-understandings by investigating collective accounts of what professional members consider to be ‘one of us’. In contrast to objective approaches to job descriptions, our study thus investigates the subjective framings of professional identities. For this purpose, we collected self-descriptions from two different professions: police officers (n = 149) and market researchers (n = 357). Content analysis of the 7545 resulting statements revealed that self-descriptions in both professions relied on only a small number of thematic building blocks for their construction, yet focused on disparate aspects to frame their identities. We refer to these framings as identity configurations, reflecting variations in the relevance given to topics and themes across professional groups. Comparing these collective accounts of identity configurations with existing schemes, we find important additions to current understandings of professional identities by their members. Our findings also reveal the multi-level nature of professional self-descriptions. Our observations offer a new conceptual lens to study professional self-understandings, with practical applications for career counseling and guidance. In addition, our paper contributes to discussions around identity congruence as well as the content and multi-level nature of professional identities.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Identity configurations, Identity content, Professional identity, Self-description, Vocational fit
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb.2018.04.006, hdl.handle.net/1765/106157
Journal Journal of Vocational Behavior
Citation
Bayerl, P.S, Horton, K.E, & Belschak-Jacobs, G. (2018). How do we describe our professional selves?. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 107, 168–181. doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2018.04.006