Occupational Identity and Naming a Future: A Roadmap

Christine Rodriguez, Ph.D.
September 21, 2022

Whether it’s using an old-school atlas or technology like Google Maps, roadmaps have been a go-to as we navigate the world. They help us get from point A to point B and show us a fairly safe passage to our destination (even if there are potholes and detours along the way).

When I ponder on roadmaps, I can’t help but reflect on NAF’s campaign #NameAFuture. Its purpose is to inspire students to think about what they see themselves doing in the future and name it (like when we pin a location). Just like a GPS, it allows them to have the confidence they will get to their destination so they can focus on the ride – the joy of the journey. It gives them the chance to concentrate on navigating, the gauges in their vehicle, their driving, the expedition itself.

Educators, mentors, and families are also part of this journey. We serve as the compass to guide their journey, the voice to warn what’s ahead, the gentle alert when they traverse too far off course, and sometimes the entertainment (as long as we’re not backseat drivers).

One way to signal pathways to their futures, specifically viable and high-value careers, is to support our students’ occupational identity development…and the first step is to get them to NAME IT. (This is why when we get on the road, it’s important to have an idea where we are going so we are not driving in circles.) 

 Allow me to veer from the metaphor for a moment – 

Occupational Identity Development is “a vision of future selves in the workforce – what they like to do, what they believe they are skilled at, and where they feel they belong.” That is the aim of #NameaFuture! 

How can we leverage #NameAFuture to influence occupational identity and support our students on their career paths and trajectories?

  1. Exposure to representations, role models, and content where they can see themselves reflected (media, advisory boards, alumni, industry experts, employers)
  2. Engagement in authentic project learning experiences (NAF Expeditions, passion projects, service learning) and activities (career-specific clubs and competitions)
  3. Participation in communities of practice and high-quality work-based learning experiences (mentoring, apprenticeships, clinicals, and internships)

These principles are inherent in NAF’s Educational Design, our #NameAFuture campaign, and NAF’s new Expedition and e-portfolio template. These resources serve as a roadmap to develop their occupational identity and navigate to a promising future.

As we continue to support our students (regardless of our role in their journey), remember that the acquisition of knowledge and skills is not the destination; it’s about them knowing and naming where they want to go, how to get there, and who will be there along the way.

Modified from the Funnel of Influences and Occupational Identity Outcomes.1

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Christine Rodriguez, Ph.D. is the director of Instructional Services at NAF. Before joining NAF, Christine served as an educator for 25 years in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, and enjoys writing about how the collaboration of teachers, administrators, advisory boards, industry leaders, and the NAF staff truly cultivates the minds, hands, and hearts of our future.