Losing a job can be such a traumatic experience. There is a lot we rely on that’s part of a job. In so many ways we are defined by our profession and there is a stigma against not being able to say “what you do”, as if not having the right answer disqualifies you from society. Jobs also can provide social interaction and opportunities to meet new people. With any luck jobs provide a challenge and opportunity for growth through interesting work. Then there is always that paycheck that can be pretty important when rent day rolls along. So, it sucks when you have to say “I got fired!”.
I’ve lost a couple of jobs and each time it has been hard. The first time I got fired was after the 9/11 attacks. I was working as an HR Consultant straight out of grad school and our largest client was a major airline. The airlines lost so much business after 9/11 that consulting, especially HR consulting, was one of the first things to be cut. Not only was I just out of school but I had just gotten married seven months before. It was devastating.
During the five months it took me to find another job I went through depression, desperation, and a lot of disruption! It was one of the best things that could have happened to me. The job I found after this was dealing with data, a lot of data and I worked about 80 hours per week for the next year I had the job. I learned so much in that year. Just after joining the guy training me had a stroke and was out for a month (he was okay!). I had a trial by fire and in that crucible of necessity I was forced to be innovative and to grow. Having this job set me up to succeed in compensation and data analysis. It gave me an opportunity to move to the Middle East for 8 1/2 years and to ultimately become a disruption coach!
What’s the point of this story? It is that there are so often hidden benefits and opportunities which come up when you suddenly are pushed out into the world with no safety net. I was scared when I got fired and that fear was a motivating factor that drove me to create something new in my life. It is far too easy to let the fear grow and take over our decisions, to become desperate and unsure of our own identities. It is easy to feel like we don’t have a purpose when we don’t have a job.
But it is just as easy to say that our jobs don’t define us and that we are far more than just an employee. Every person has a unique and amazing value. Suddenly finding yourself without that identifying “what do you do” answer makes you really question who you are, not what you do. It lets you question your path and create a new one that fulfills you in ways you didn’t even realize you needed.
Job loss still sucks but it can also be utilized for growth and development. Take what time is needed to mourn the loss then look forward and choose the path you want to take, the choice is yours.