Youth is fun, but whenever us oldies look back on our twenties, we pity our younger self a little bit because they had no idea who they really were.
Discovering your identity is a life-long process because learning new things will change who you are. But, there are benefits from thinking about this question while you’re young. Knowing who you are means you can start identifying your assets to better sell yourself to potential employers, as well as your weaknesses, which allows you to improve your skills and abilities.
When I left the company I cofounded, Mirabela Nickel, I was really surprised at the sense of loss I experienced. I came to realise that my identity had become the company, so when people had asked me who I was, my answer would be managing director of Mirabela Nickel. This wasn’t a healthy state of mind and along with the drop in stock price during the GFC, all I felt was loss and inadequacy, despite having achieved so much within such a short space of time.
It was only when I started mentoring that I was able to find my identity again and it has had enormous benefits for my career and my life. I discovered who I was through the eyes of the young people I mentor.
Their admiration is easy to misinterpret as them thinking I’m an important businessman, but this is incorrect. They see me as being someone they can aspire to in terms of my skills, abilities, experience, family life, the fact I’m out doing things with them and community service, the vision and insight I can give them – these are the kinds of things that form your true identity.
I wish I’d been able to work through these issues when I was younger. It would have given me a point of reference so I could make better decisions and ensure all my efforts were more efficiently directed on the same course.
I would also encourage you to see your identity as malleable because it opens up new possibilities in work and life. Identify who you are and what else you’d like to be. If you’ve just finished university, then you’re just another kid with a degree, but if you start writing a blog, then suddenly you’re a writer and this is a sellable skill. For most office jobs, employers will choose a person with proven writing skills over another potential employee any day, even if it’s just so you can write all the boring reports.
Through mentoring young people, I’ve been encouraged to do things beyond my comfort zone and it has made me evolve in ways I never would have anticipated. I can now say I’m a writer and a painter and have developed more creative thinking skills.
A really important part of discovering your identity is finding your passion in life. It’s not always as easy for some people as it is for others. If you still aren’t sure about what your passion is, it’s something you should start working on. It’s not easy, but nothing worth doing ever is.
Part of the process of finding your passion is learning how to come up with ideas by talking to lots of different people and trying new things. Finding a mentor can really help with this process. When I was younger, I wanted to learn French and live in the Amazon – they sounded like obscure dreams until I spoke to my boss and discovered I could do both at the same time in French Guiana.
When you find yourself feeling jealous of something or someone, explore why that might be. If your mate has just started something new and you wish you’d had such a good idea, try to determine what it is that appeals to you about it. Sometimes, jealousy is a really good indicator of what captures your attention.
You don’t have to be too specific yet. Rather than trying to determine whether your passion is hedge fund management or risk consultancy, maybe you can identify that you’re passionate about establishing yourself as the most dependable name in the state for safeguarding clients’ wealth. Instead of working out whether you’re going to be a writer or play in a band, maybe you can just set yourself the goal of spending at least one day a week on a creative endeavour.
Also think about where you would like to be and what you’d like to be doing when you’re 50 or 60. Chances are that you don’t want to be the same bar-hopping, computer monkey you might be today, not that there’s anything wrong with that. But, if you aspire to other things, you won’t get there by doing the same things you’re doing now.
Everyone can form a vision of what they’d like their life’s work to be and it’s to your advantage to start working on it now. If you’re not sure, start something new and see where it takes you. Good luck!
If you’re looking for career advice, or how to make your workforce more innovative, you can read more at www.nickpoll.com or contact Nick Poll on 0417 006 172.
About Nick Poll: With a 28-year career in mining, corporate development and entrepreneurship, Nick is an expert in business and mentoring, with a passion for helping people find their purpose and reach their full potential.