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Losing my job – losing my identity

It Happened To Me

Ten years ago I relocated from Toronto to New Jersey with my family for my job.  Our friends and family asked us isn’t it scary? Did we really want to take the risk?  But my husband and I didn’t see it as a risk in any way – we viewed it as opportunity, adventure, put on our seatbelts and flew away.

One month after arriving, buying a house, our kids in a new school, the first “surprise” restructuring occured at work.  My group had a team meeting in Chicago and as the day started we noticed some colleagues weren’t there, then as the news of the layoffs started to trickle out we realized what was happening.  Out of the blue – total shock to most of us. Our new VP gathered our team to address us and answering a question regarding job stability she replied that the new reality is that no one’s job is ever safe.   Even if you worked at the company for 10, 20 years, you had amazing performance reviews, didn’t matter – it could happen to anyone. Wow – harsh. I always tucked away this comment in the back of my mind.

Over the next few years there were many, many restructurings – sometimes twice a year.  And yet, I “survived” as I viewed it. Invinsible it seemed.

Shortly after we relocated to Singapore, the restructurings started coming at a faster pace.  Seeing colleagues both expats and locals leaving. The reality that this could happen to me soon was becoming more real.  I started working with a coach to work on me – what did I want to do next, what I called Part two of my career? I decided that I really loved my current job, would put my dreams of working in nonprofit/social business area to the side and continue to do what I was doing.

Then it happened.  Out of the blue. When I wasn’t expecting it.  And that sucked, because I really like to be in control.

Six months after moving back to New Jersey, great team, new Global strategy in formation for the brand, I was sent to a Leadership course in Hanoi, Vietnam. Day 2 of the course I received an urgent call from my boss at 7am.  He said it’s bad this time. The company is eliminating all the Global teams. It hit me hard. The tears started streaming as I heard this – I knew it was my time. I called my husband crying and apologizing for letting our family down.

On the flight home from Hanoi as I was settling into my seat, the person next to me introduced himself and asked what I do.  I just stared back at him. Who am I? Who will I be once I’m no longer a marketer at Kraft/Mondelez? How will I answer this question??????

It took another few weeks before we all had our “HR” meetings and I was informed that there wasn’t a role for me at the company.  When I got home I sat the kids down and told them the news. “Are we going to be poor?”, “What will you do Mom”? I didn’t have answers.  Then the calls to my family. I was so afraid to tell them that I lost my job – they were all so proud of talking about their daughter/daughter-in-law who worked at Mondelez, etc. etc.  Now what would they be able to say about me? Who was I now?

For me, that was the hardest part of losing my job.  Losing my identity. I was so connected with what I did in my career to who I was as a person.  And the question I kept asking myself “Who do I want to be now?”

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