One incorrect belief is that everything becomes easier once you lock down your career brand. Once you know what makes you awesome, you’re all set.

It’s not true. It’s bigger than that.

What seems clear in your head loses its clarity when you go out in the world. The old identity pops through, and you use outdated terms to describe your work.

It can look like this. Imagine you are an unhappy executive director. You go through a process to discover what makes you awesome and learn that your career brand is this:

“I am happiest when leading a major change, mentoring others, and putting together presentations to sell a solution.”

Perfecto. You have a career brand.

You might have even started to memorize the new brand and have created a new networking introduction. Learn five new ways to introduce yourself here:

But, you still hold onto old identities and career rules at the back of your future-looking work. Instead of holding your body like a change leader, you hold onto the unappreciated and unseen version of yourself from 10 years ago, plus the tiredness you feel right now. When people meet you, the words sound impressive but don’t match your vibe. Instead of living the new story, you have a brand that can’t live.

Another example: You are a Community Manager who has always wanted to make films.

Your filmmaker brand from the Career Stories Cards (read this to learn how to find your career brand) is that when you make films, you have a great eye, keep others’ morale up and keep projects moving forward.

But when you meet people with connections to film, you talk more about your current job, what it takes to manage multiple viewpoints and only a little about filmmaking. And when you speak about filmmaking, shyness makes people think you aren’t as passionate as you are.

If you talk about your former work, even critically, that’s where the energy goes. That’s what people will remember.

There is always a time between the old and new identities, where you dabble in both. It’s a few steps forward, a big step back. You eventually must drop some of the old to embrace the new identity fully.

“What is important is not changing the work or organizational context but reworking outdated basic premises and decision rules that are still governing our professional lives.” Ibarra, Working Identity


The benefits of dropping the old identity

Dropping outdated work identities and rules will allow you to:

  1. Let the new brand take up space and spark new ideas
  2. Feel less unsettled, less in limbo
  3. Make it easier for your audience and network to understand your new vision
  4. Have clear intentions
  5. Carry less shame about your new work focus

When you drop the old, you make it easier for yourself to develop and share a refreshed identity.

Old work identities aren’t bad.


We all come from somewhere.

“Nobody can be autonomous in making choices today unless she grasps how she’s being internally yanked around by stuff that came before” (Karr, Art of the Memoir).

The trouble with outdated identities is that they muddle your current message. If people meet you and you say, “This is who I am,” they believe you.

If you add old identities, they’ll think you are that too. If you add a bunch of “I used to be a…” they get confused.

It’s not that your outdated identities are bad or should always be kept hidden. You worked hard for them. They’re not useful for you at this moment in your transition. They’re taking up space that could be used to expand on new ideas or expressions.




The steps for dropping it are as follows:

  1. Identify what needs to drop
  2. Do a ritual to drop the old (with respect and appreciation for all it has done for you)
  3. Establish the new rules/boundaries

A recorded guidance

You can use the process I just shared.

If you want specific guidance on identifying what needs to drop, suggested rituals that support the dropping of old, and how adding new rules to your career brand keeps your message clear, access the live class I taught on February 16th.



Things I dropped

I have dropped many identities in my career. Some stay forever dropped, and some will rest for a while and get dusted off and seen in new ways years from now.


How it feels to drop identities

When you drop an outdated identity, it feels free and exciting. There is more room for you within yourself. I liken career narratives to acting. You read the character’s lines like yourself when you first take on a role. Over time, you bring the character to life as you try on their voice, mannerisms, and how they relate to other characters. Both you and the audience only see the character.

You and the audience get a flow state where you understand your work.

People who can drop outdated identities joyfully and respectfully report feeling less confused. They make fewer excuses. Their ideas and stories are future-focused (instead of rehashing events that happened in a job 12 years ago), and they know exactly how they help.

Get the Drop It workshop if you want to learn how to drop an old identity that is clinging to and dragging down your story.