Friday, August 6, 2010

Losing A Job, Losing An Identity

We get a lot of questions from readers here at our Blog, Business and Career Tips (and if you want to ask us one, feel free to leave it in the comments here) and on Twitter. Looking at what everyone is saying, we realize that people are struggling to not only find a job but also stay sane in these tough times. And the times are tough. The frustration is palpable.

I was flipping through the pages of Pink Slipped: A post-layoff survival guide and figured one chapter in particular would be helpful to you. Edie Milligan Driskill, CFP, CLU, author of Pink Slipped, devoted an entire section to post-layoff identity.

The answers to the following two questions will tell us a lot:

1. Who were you the day before you lost your job?

2. Who are you today?

If the answers to those two questions are not exactly the same, then you’ve got some work to do.

Driskill goes on to explain that the title on your business card (real or imaginary) doesn’t mean that’s actually who you are. It can. As she says in the book, an accountant is an accountant as long as he or she has a CPA license. Whether or not the accountant is on someone’s payroll is irrelevant. Or another example she gives is that a physical therapist who gets a job as a waitress in order to make ends meet might not consider herself a waitress. She’s a physical therapist working as a waitress.

That might sound a bit hokey to some of you, but think about it this way:

One strategy that employers use to encourage people to be productive and stay around is to find titles that will feed their egos and give them status within the organization. If you were handed one of those titles and you bought into it, you forgot that it was a rental contract. Believing that you actually owned it will cause you to have an overall harder time dealing with the loss of your employment.

Losing a job is hard on all aspects of your life. It’s an unwelcome surprise. It affects your finances. You’re reminded of it daily when you’re at home instead of at work. If you connected yourself more to the idea of the job than the actual work you like doing, you’re going to have a hard time coping and a hard time finding work. Job titles differ from company to company, as do the responsibilities and expenses that come with them. Your job search needs to encompass a range of options that let you do what you like (and hopefully make what you’d like). That’s why we like to recommend job seekers:

  • Search for jobs by skills, not just by titles
  • Know what they’re good at and what they like doing so that they can find work that suits them–not just another job they hate like the last one they had
  • Know what they don’t want to do, because ruling out what doesn’t work makes it that much easier to find the job that will work.

Pink Slipped: A post-layoff survival guide is out now if you want to read more about handling unexpected unemployment.

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