Some thoughts on identity - Jo Alcock Consulting
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Some thoughts on identity

Some thoughts on identity

This morning I received some coaching from someone I have a co-coaching relationship with. I came into the session with just a small issue (OK, maybe not so small) – that of my identity. I attended a workshop on personal brand earlier this week and it pushed some of these niggles to the forefront of my mind.

I’ve been struggling with my professional identity for a few years, and have blogged about it previously when I moved from working in a library to working in a research role within a library (but not located in a library), and again when I moved to working for myself. I always introduced myself as a librarian and that aligned with my identity in 2010. It’s now 2017 though and it’s been over 7 years since I worked as a librarian. Whilst I still worked in the heirarchy of an academic library until 2016 I could possibly argue my identity was still that of a librarian, but in reality that wasn’t really the case, and it certainly hasn’t been since then.

There have been some core elements of all my work, both paid and voluntary, primarily in helping others develop, and that continues to be the case. My professional identity now aligns much more with that of a coach, and I can now confidently introduce myself that way. I am a coach. Coaching underpins the work that I do and more importantly how I do it – I use this approach in my training and facilitation, and in my research and consultancy work. I’m doing more pure coaching too (both one-on-one and in groups through action learning sets), and am looking to expand this side of my work.

Since getting married earlier this year, I’ve been struggling with my identity even more due to my choice of name. I felt quite comfortable with the idea of keeping my maiden name for professional purposes and changing it for family purposes. This seemed to make logical sense. Until I lived it for a few months. Over the past few years I’ve been on a journey of learning more about my authenticity and bringing together the different parts of my life so that I don’t have multiple identities and I bring all of myself to everything I do. This is the way I want to be. But now I have created two identities for myself. I have to remember who to introduce myself as, what name to put on the form, and which signature to use. I’m always the same me, yet I have two names. It doesn’t feel right for me. So I’m going to change that and embrace my new identity, both in terms of my professional identity as a coach and in terms of my name as Jo Walley.

Hi. My name is Jo Walley and I’m a coach. I’m hard-working, honest, open-minded, supportive, generous, curious, and silly. I love learning and helping others learn. I honour commitments and bring myself whole-heartedly to them. I try to live in an ethically conscious way.

OK. That’s the hard part done. Now I need to implement this with the small matter of changing my name (and business name, still to be decided) for tax purposes. Then I need to let people know about the name change. Then there’s my various online identities. I have so many different accounts with different content, yet they’re all me. I have five blogs for example; keeping them all up-to-date is exhausting (and I often don’t as my interests change over time). Choosing which one to post this on today was an interesting challenge – I drafted it on my ‘Journal’ blog but decided to post it on my ‘main’ blog. It’s confusing for me, let alone anyone else! I’m therefore looking to bring as many of them as possible together and give myself permission to be authentically me on all my online accounts. This is likely to be a long process, but it’s something I’ve resisted for too long and am ready to tackle. I’m confident with my identity now and want to show that in my online identity.

How about you? What does your online identity say about you? Does it fit with your sense of identity? 

  • Emma Cragg
    Posted at 11:42h, 19 October Reply

    Jo, I’m totally with you on the struggles of managing a shifting professional identity. There’s an element for me around feeling confident in calling myself something different and that’s hardest when transitioning between careers. I think sometimes I seek external validation when it’s not necessary. But when you’re trying to establish yourself in a new arena it’s important to be clear about who we are and what we do, more often than not the easiest way to do that is to give a one word description, like librarian or coach or researcher. I think that’s limiting because the reality is that we’re multi-faceted and have multiple identities – we’re different things to different people.

    I like your new introduction because it goes beyond this. Yes you’re presenting yourself as a coach but more importantly you’re introducing your values. Whatever it is you do I think the most important thing is how you approach it.

    • Jo Alcock
      Posted at 13:39h, 19 October Reply

      Thanks Emma – some really excellent points there. I think I’d been under the illusion that this wasn’t much of a career shift but in reality (and thanks to discussions with those who have known me a while!) I’m now realising that it is quite a change, and it’s natural that I need to adjust things slightly to communicate that.

      Thanks for the positivity about my new introduction. You’re absolutely right about the values piece – it’s hugely important to me and something that will always be consistent in who I am being whilst I’m doing whatever I’m doing. That’s the bit I now feel like I want to communicate clearly.

  • Nicole Brigandi
    Posted at 18:34h, 20 October Reply

    Love how you’ve articulated your story, and really owned your authenticity!

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