August 18, 2022

Hybrid Professional Identity: Make Sense of Your Multiple Identities

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Posted by Sharmarke Hujale

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6 min read

This blog post is a continuation of previous thoughts and ideas written on generalists and one of the most dreaded questions to be asked as a professional.

When you wander into different fields and obtain new skillset, it gets harder to articulate to others what you do. You present a list of skills to someone 'I am a designer, but I also do facilitation and strategy'... and the list goes on.

If you are like me, you may feel like having one field specialized or one title is incredibly limiting. You feel like one title is not really a good representation of who you are. So you would maybe call yourself a generalist, someone who wears a lot of hats.

But what if in reality, you don't look at yourself as a specialist or a generalist?

What if your identity is a hybrid? A hybrid professional to be more exact.

What is a hybrid professional identity?

The idea of a hybrid professional identity came from Sarabeth Berk, Ph.D., who helps professionals discover and articulate their hybrid professional identity and unique value in the workforce.

She describes professional identity as anything considered to be your work, whether you get paid for it or not. And it's what you call yourself. Professional identity does not include hobbies, extracurriculars, or social identities.

According to her, there are three types of professional identities. The first is the singularity, which refers to people who do one thing (experts and specialists). The next is multiplicity, which refers to people who do many things, but there's no overlap between them. On LinkedIn, you can see many people listing multiple identities on their profile header.

Then there's hybridity, which refers to people who blend and combine multiple professional identities together. They work at the intersection of those identities. The most important part of being a hybrid is having at least two professional identities that overlap.

(Three Types of Professional Identity - Sarabeth Berk, More Than My Title)

The Value of Hybridity

The biggest value of being a hybrid is that you don't have to throw away your multiple professional identities. You can investigate, and see how they integrate instead of being separate things.

There's no problem being a specialist and focusing on one thing only in your entire life. Or jumping from one identity to another. But if you have multiple identities, and you just didn't have the language to describe what you do in your work—now you have the opportunity to do that with hybrid professional identity.

Sarabeth Berk is a hybrid herself and calls herself a Creative Disruptor, a title she came up with that resonates with who she is. She works at the intersection of being an artist, researcher, educator, and designer (her primary professional identities).

When you are hybrid, a regular and generic titles don't fit really well.

Examples of Hybrid people

I am a visual person that likes to see examples to get a better idea of a concept. And naturally, it went the same way when I was learning (still do) about hybrid professional identity. Here are some examples of hybrid people, and all the images shared come from Sarabeth Berk's website:

(From Sarabeth Berk's website, Examples of professional identity transformations)
(http://andreacarpenter.design)

Not all have hybrid titles. The simplest way to express your hybridity is using the phrase "I work at the intersection..."

(murrayfgray.com)
(jamesdiers.com)

Even companies use it to describe their hybridity:

(studiospatialentities.com)
(webershandwick.com)

And many more can be found on her website by clicking here.

Discover your Hybridity

It requires a lot of reflection, self-awareness, and looking back at your own professional career. As mentioned before you have to have at least two professional identities—four is the maximum—more than that then it gets complicated to integrate.

For some of you, it will probably be easy to identify your professional identities, and for others, it will take a longer time.

Luckily Sarabeth Berk shares some free resources on her website and YouTube channel for you to get a better understanding of this concept of hybrid professional identity.

In the process of discovering your hybridity and looking into your primary professional identities—the question you should ask yourself a lot is—who are you at the intersection of your primary professional identities?

Now it's your turn

Did the idea of hybridity resonate with you? And what did you think of the examples shared?

I became fascinated by it. And I am always open to ideas that help us to get better or language to articulate the value we can bring to others.

I consider myself a hybrid professional and call myself a Creative Possibilineer because I work at the intersection of being a designer, concept developer, visual communicator, and strategist.

Lastly, I will share a video of Sarabeth Berk presenting and explaining hybrid professional identity. It's a 1-hour long video, but worth every minute.

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