Career and identity

After three seasons, 10 months, over 500 resumes and one unexpected layoff, I went back to work this week.

I won’t say much about the new job (to avoid any conflict of interest or issues), but I can tell you that it’s in Chicago, it seems like a very nice place to work, and I’m grateful to be back.

Looking back, I was shocked at how forcefully my job loss hit me.

I’m amazed at how happy I am to be back to work. It was a long process to land a job, to be sure. And in retrospect, my layoff hit me harder than I’d ever expected it to; I now realize it knocked me into a serious depression for several months.

My partner has been very supportive all along, but he was surprised at my reaction. He was born and raised in Europe, and Europeans definitely have a substantially different outlook on work. After all, this is a continent where entire countries nearly shut down for a month in the summer. This is in sharp contrast to the U.S., where we have the fewest vacation days of any major workforce.

writer1I think that in this country, in the absence of the old “class” system, our careers have become our identity in many ways. We define ourselves, and measure our success or failure, by what we do and what we earn.

And losing that definition, that absolute in a world of flux, can be an earth-shattering event. (Of course, there are no absolutes in a career these days. Your dad may have been a company man a generation or two ago, but that’s an endangered species these days.)

Losing your job can make you doubt yourself and your strengths. For me, that doubt was compounded by the fact that I really loved that job. It was one that I’d wanted for a long time, and it disappeared before I’d even finished building the foundation.

I’ll always be a little heartbroken that it happened, and how it happened. But I’ve learned that I need to be a little more “European,” so to speak, about my job and my career. I’m going to work hard and give my job 110%. But as my wise, sweet partner reminded me, a job is just a job. It’s a transaction.

The yardstick I use to measure my success and the metrics of meeting my goals has changed significantly. And I have my displacement to thank for that.

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One comment

  1. Hi, I read about you on CNN.com and I’m glad to see you are finally back at work. I lost my job as a Real Estate title Examiner back in Jan ’08, and of course, as of today, no jobs to be found where I live in Georgia. I’ve applied all over the state but still no calls, no interviews, etc….No more unemployment at this time. My husband is having to do it all which leaves nothing for even tissue, shampoo, etc…you know the drill I’m sure. Anyway, just wanted to say CONGRATS!!! I hope all turns out well for you and your partner…………

    Thanks, Leisa! I hope your job situation changes soon.

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