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In what ways can occupation and employment affect identity Essay

This essay will focus on the process of identity formation; it will explore how a particular occupation can influence identity. And also look at how both employment and unemployment affects identity; it will also examine the importance of paid work. Identity is marked by sense of recognition, belonging and similarity of people like us, and difference of those who are not. We know which people are like us by categorizing others and ourselves (Mead et al. , 1934). We use symbols such as employment, uniforms, and club membership, language we speak or even the car we drive.

For instance wearing a policeman’s uniform is a public declaration that one belongs to a particular group. To identify with a group as such is to have a collective identity (Sarup 1996). Occupation is a very useful tool to link a person’s situation to class and status, with the knowledge of ones occupation assumptions can be made regarding their political tendencies and even most probably their religious background. The first question asked in many situations of primary social encounters is “what do you do”, by which we mean what is your occupation.

By having a particular occupation society’s discernment will differ, for example doctors are perceived different to road sweepers Therefore it will affect the way one perceives one’s self, and ultimately have an impact upon their identity. Contemporary life in the western world has faced rapid and diverse changes creating uncertainties or insecurities of work identity (Giddens et al,. 1991). This is mainly due to the changes in both, society’s expectations and also the creation of new technology. That with the disintegration of labour intensive, heavy industry occupations such as mining, steel.

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People are migrating to different locations to find paid work (Social Trends, 2002); consequently there is a fragmentation in the traditional large work, oriented communities that once existed. This has resulted in the degeneration of collective identity, which is extremely important to a person’s sense of belonging to a community. This perception is confirmed by Turner and his colleagues (Turner et al. , 1987), Turner argues, identity is fashioned by self -categorization, where people asses diverse social categories and decide whether or not they belong to that category.

A community can be defined as a group. If they can recognise and identify with that group, then that group also becomes a part of their identity. Although a testimony of an individual, John Greaves (2004) account does clearly suggest that we are not able to exercise much control over our identity. As he claims prior to 1984 he was part of the traditional mining industry, where communities and culture grew around; “John was interpellated by that collective identity” (Kath Woodward 2004).

After 1997, as a result of unemployment he had not only lost financial security but also his collective identity, which was his sense of belonging. John Greaves account also puts large amount of emphasis on the importance of paid work, suggesting paid work provides self worth. If this is indeed the case, then people who work, but yet are not paid such as housewives and carers are valued less to those who are paid exactly for the same work. Also someone who maybe out of employment, but engaged in voluntary work is looked upon as not worthy as a wage earner.

This finding clearly emphasises how the importance of a paid and unpaid work can influence a person’s identity, “our identities are influenced by the shape of the income distribution” (Kath Woodward 2004). I conclude that employment and occupation does indeed influence identity. For instance, certain traditional institution and large service sector such as the Armed Forces and the Police Forces are referred to as being headed by the “Old Boys”. They have been under fire many times as being racist and also sexist.

If this is the case, then employees are strained to recreate, and redefine at least some degree of their identity, to adopt the institutions, regimental characteristics. A person’s employment like their identity is not fixed. It is subject to changes, such as, employment to unemployment, changes in occupation may also occur. There was a time when people were more certain of their work identity; men were the paid workers “bread winners” whereas the women were the unpaid carers. As a result of changes in both economic structure, and in employment forces, individuals are strained to recreate and redefine their identities.

I also consider occupation identifies a person more clearly than any other single characteristic. Serving as an indicator to assess ones personal needs, and abilities, as well as economic and social position. Through our occupation we shape modify and express our identity. “We are what we do”. Support for this statement is found in our everyday experience by considering the ways in which individuals typically introduce themselves to one another. We associate our professional accomplishment and goals to who we are.

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