How Do I Deal With Questions of Identity When Losing My Job?

5 ways to overcome a crisis of identity when facing a forced career change.

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Photo by Jorge Saavedra on Unsplash
Photo by Jorge Saavedra on Unsplash

Our work doesn’t just feel like something we do; it feels like something we are. This can be healthy or unhealthy depending on your relationship with your career.

But when you reach a pivot point and a change is needed either voluntarily or with the loss of a role, it signals a change in you. And when that change is uncomfortable, you feel uncomfortable. Yes, you may even feel in crisis. 

When you lose your job or want to leave an old career for a new one, the question is not only:

“How will I do something new?”

You also struggle with..

“How will I be someone new?”

“Who am I if I don’t do my old work?”

“What does it say about me if I walk away?”

“Who am I to try something new?”

“What does it say about me if I try and I fail?”

These are all questions of identity. 

It is important to know that redundancies, career transitions and pivots are normal and to be expected. Careers today are fluid, so the best thing to do is to know how to go with the flow when you feel in crisis or overwhelm.

Here are some tips below to help overcome an identity crisis when facing a job loss or having to make a career pivot.

1 | Plan something to look forward to. 

It’s tempting to retreat when you feel like confused and overwhelmed. But it’s important that you have somewhere to be and people to interact with. 

Especially if you’re in a situation where you suddenly have lots of free time. I know this from experience following my redundancy and even being a business owner now. It sure can get lonely. Schedule some social events into your calendar.

There is no need for anything big, stick to the small, low-key event if that feels better. No better time than the present to do this online now in the current global pandemic and if you have some spare time available.

2 | Give yourself permission to be transitioning or between jobs without fear of shame.

You won’t be here forever, so for a while, it’s okay to be uncertain. It is okay to not know everything. You get to be a full-blown mess if you need to. You will sort things out and recover. Forget what anyone else thinks. It is your decision and choice to find the right path for you. 

3 | Think about who you are. 

Write it down. This can be list form, stories, notes about your past, or what you’re doing now. Reconnect to who you are. You ARE more than your career. Remember who you are, just you, without work to define you.  

4 | Do things that make you feel like somebody.

What makes you feel like you have an impact?

When you’re in a career identity crisis, it’s easy to feel sorry for yourself. I have been there and done that. I still do on occasions when I wonder if I can crack this business owner thing! It is okay, you’re human. But to counteract that, you need to do things that make you feel capable, confident and courageous.

It might be creating art, helping a friend, redecorating your home, or spending time with a parent. My dad is a wealth of wisdom and gives me plenty of insights to remind me I can do this! 

5 | Directly address your career fears.

When something is off in our careers, we feel that we have no control over it. So, instead of addressing our careers head on, we distract ourselves with other areas of our life. We dive into other projects that may improve the quality of our life on a temporary basis.

But they don’t solve the core problem: your career. Take direct action to resolve the conflict in your career, and you’ll feel powerful, proud, and more like you. 

Have you been through a career identity crisis?

What steps did you take to overcome it?

Originally published on LinkedIn

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