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Both of these statements apply to me and both are true. As I look at them, each statement brings forth a particular emotion within me. I am inclined to sway towards the second statement, that is the identity I wish to portray, but I may be perceived by others to fall solely within the first statement, which is also my work-based identity.
In this essay, we will look at how employment and our occupations affect our identities. I decided to start with the above statements, to evoke a snap judgment from the reader (for the purposes of this essay), to support the fact that the way we are seen by others is hugely affected by our occupation.
Work-based Identity is fluid and involves a certain amount of agency. We can see this from looking at our own lives. But on the flip side of the above question, we also need to address the counter issue: “In what ways can our identities affect our occupation and employment prospects?” to be able to understand the issue fully. When we change our occupation, we change the way we are seen by the world. For instance, a recently documented fact is that many university graduates are turning their backs on the academic world and are training to be plumbers and builders. A recent illustration of this is Karl Gensberg. “He compared his wage slip with his plumber’s and decided that his career in molecular biology, on an annual salary of 23,000, was over” .
Words that could be associated with a molecular biologist are: intelligence, dedication and high-standing. On the other hand, the word plumber is often associated with: practicality, ‘salt of the earth’ and dirty overalls. I have no real basis with which to structure these connections in my mind, but this is how I would probably see the pre/post-plumbing Karl Gensberg (although I’m sure he would have something to say about it). Using this example, we can see the different stigma attached with different occupations. What it Mr. Gensberg had become a refuse collector? Again there would be a large difference in the way he would be seen by society. From yet another point of view, what about Mr. Gensberg’s social class? I’m sure as a molecular biologist he would have been viewed as say middle to upper class, but how many upper class refuse collectors do we see in today’s society?
So far we have looked at how we view our own work-based identities, how others view us in relation to our occupation and how this affects our social standing, i.e. class. So what about income? Income is a huge influence on one’s individual identity in many ways, and income is a direct charge of occupation. What clothes we wear, how we eat, where we shop, our hobbies and our aspirations. These are all integral parts of our identity and are all affected by our income. If I want to be seen as a ‘cool cookie’ donned out in the Versace collection and puffing on a Havana in Paris, I will need money to forge this identity. Without a job or source of income, my symbols will probably be mutated to puffing on a roll-up in a shell-suit on Whitby Bay.
On this note I will address the question posed in paragraph 3 of this essay. Without the tools of money and social standing, how easy is it for us to change our occupation and employment prospects? It may be fairly easy for us to ‘downgrade’ our occupation and thereby alter our identity, but it may not be so elementary for us to defy social exclusion and do the opposite. How many plumbers decide to become molecular biologists and are able to make it so?
In accordance with this fact, we must examine the effects of unemployment and what it means in terms of identity. If how we see ourselves is an integral part of our identity, being unemployed will definitely have an adverse affect upon this view. Low self esteem is almost certainly a by-product of being ‘unemployable’, and can stir up feelings of worthlessness and ineptitude. Whilst others may see an unemployed person as ‘just having a run of bad luck’ or being ‘between jobs’. The subject may see him/herself as a ‘bum’.
In conclusion, income, social standing, the way we see ourselves and the way we are seen by others are all hugely influenced by our occupation. These factors strongly contribute to the formation of our identities, and, in review of what I have written in this essay, I feel I must take my first two statements and combine them into the following:
“I am unemployed and will one day be a successful Psychologist”
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