You Lost Your Job Not Your Identity
If you’ve recently lost your job, my heart goes out to you. I know how you feel. There is often a profound sense of loss and fear that comes with being laid off, and that feeling can be mistaken for the actual job itself. If you feel like you’ve suddenly lost your purpose and point in life, it isn’t the job loss that is causing you to feel this way. It is the perception that you no longer matter, you no longer have meaning or you no longer are who you think you are.
During all layoffs, there is a sense of being singled out. Maybe you fell short somehow, maybe had you done XYZ, they would have kept you. We all toss those thoughts around in our heads when layoffs happen. And maybe there was some criteria behind the scenes that did lead them to let you go. But the chances of you ever finding out those answers is highly unlikely, so stop entertaining them in your head. Remember this instead: never let someone’s inability to see your value determine your self-worth.
The feeling you are feeling is about loss of identity. Our job has a profound impact on who we see ourselves as. We proudly state our titles and rank when someone asks what we do for a living. “I’m the first shift supervisor! I oversee 35 people in our welding operations. Been doing it for 27 years. I’m the guy they turn to when the machine breaks down. Only one who knows how to fix it.” So when the title and responsibilities are suddenly snatched from us, we experience a deep sense of loss.
However, that job never defined you. You defined you. Despite being let go or even retiring, leaving behind a job doesn’t change who you are. Being reliable and trustworthy defines you. Being a team player, a mentor, a confidant to those in need, is who you are. Your work ethic, your versatility, your adaptability, THOSE are the things that make you who you are. Whether you are working or not, does not change those qualities. And always remember this: You made the job. Not the other way around. The title simply helped HR figure out your pay grade and types of responsibilities to give you. You were the one who made that job a shiny penny.
Want to start feeling better? Find a new investment. Jobs are an investment. We give our hopes and dreams to them, along with a substantial number of personal hours from our life. To get back that sense of purpose and identity, invest in something that will allow your abilities to shine once again. If it isn’t a new job, then try a hobby or something you have a passion for that you haven’t had time to properly invest in. Better yet, find someone worthwhile to invest in and give to them as though they were your new career. Grandchildren, adult children, up-and-coming newbies in your field, all need help navigating life, so why not invest in them and find purpose through helping others.
Its normal to feel stunned, heartbroken, flat or angry when your job is yanked from under your feet. Sit in the discomfort for a few days or even a week, but don’t remain there. Keep your identity, heck, keep your title, just redefine the pay grade and job duties. “I’m the first shift supervisor. I oversee four children ages 2 to 16 in our household operations. Been doing it for over 16 years. Ain’t nobody better than me who knows how to love and guide these kiddos during these tough times.”
If you have been laid off due to COVID-19, I am offering a free coaching session to anyone who reaches out and needs help to rediscover their identity. These are trying times. No need for us to go this alone. Shoot me an email and let’s do this together. Losing a job doesn’t define you. You define you. So pick yourself back up, dust off your boots and get back to being that shiny penny in someone else’s world now.
Davana Pilczuk is an award-winning kinesiologist who specializes in the field of human performance. She is a speaker, writer and consultant for Fortune 500 companies, universities and medical groups. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow her on Twitter @DavanaHPG.