Do you identify yourself with your job title or role? I did.
I went from “I’m Jason, General Manager” to “I’m Jason, I don’t have a job” (and in my head I heard “I’m a loser.“)
I’ve seen too many professionals and executives between jobs that have taken it way too personally. I can see it in their eyes. I can hear it in their voices. I know why this hurts so much – I know because I was critical of the guy that lost a job (or couldn’t get a new one immediately).
I used to think it was their own fault for (a) not choosing a better major, (b) not getting a graduate degree, (c) not taking good risks at work, (d) not developing better relationships with key people, (e) not producing, or being valuable at work… the list goes on and on.
And then I found out it isn’t necessarily anyone’s fault. It’s not the MBA’s fault, with 20 years of incredible experience. It’s not the lawyer’s fault, who is one of the best in her field. It’s not the PhD’s fault, who was one of the best research scientists in the company.
Maybe it’s management’s fault. Maybe it’s “the owner’s” fault. Maybe it’s the customer’s fault. Maybe the economy is to blame. Maybe maybe maybe.
Maybe… just maybe, we are not immune to this unemployment thing. When I read the statistics – the ones that say I’ll change jobs nine times before I retire or I’ll change careers up to six times – I need to believe it. Because I didn’t before. I thought I was above that. I thought my degrees, experience and personal charm would make me immune. It didn’t. And it won’t in the future.
There is no immunity. I’ve talked with too many people I’ve met because of JibberJobber that should never be out of work – but they are… because of things outside of their control.
I have learned two things from this experience:
A. It happens. It happens to almost everyone. One of the best results of going to a job-seeker’s network meeting was seeing the types of people that were there. I thought I would be the most qualified, highest educated, most sophisticated person in the room. What I found were people that ran circles around me. To hear their stories was discouraging (what? Go to school for a long time and still end up here??), but it helped me understand that it happens – and there isn’t necessarily anything you can do to prevent it.
B. You have to move on. Don’t sit around trying to figure out what you could have done differently. Don’t try and figure out what is being said about you. Don’t let depression suck you in. Don’t define yourself based on what happened. Pick up the pieces, do a personal inventory, get help if you need it (I strongly recommend finding a coaching relationship to have someone else help you through this process). Figure out what job search strategies are (I took months to really dig into this) and move on.
So maybe you lost your job. But you don’t suck.