Never again say: “I lost my job.” Instead, say this:

A few years ago I was inspired to write a post suggesting we don’t talk about or refer to “job security.”  The idea was that there is no such thing as job security… of course.  I proposed that we replace the phrase with INCOME security.  That is, I am working on securing my income, which might come from multiple sources (not a single employer), might come sporadically (when I make a sale, or through quarterly royalties, or monthly rent payments, etc.).

Doesn’t that make sense?  Shouldn’t we be working towards securing our INCOME, instead of chasing the 1900’s romantic idea of JOB security?

I thought it was brilliant, and wished I could come up with more of those ideas.

Last week I did.  I was thinking of a friend of mine who lost his job as a programmer.  My wife was concerned for him and his family (the sting of our unemployment can come right back when a loved-one starts their journey) but I told her I wasn’t worried about him at all.  As a programmer of some hot languages, I was sure his job search would be very quick and easy.  And it was.  He has since landed and really has nothing to worry about.

As I was thinking about him, and his very short journey, I was thinking about the scariness, and stigma, of being unemployed. Or, of losing your job.  Especially now, with the holidays near, where we’ll “have to” spend time with family and loved ones, and we all talk about what’s going on in our life… no one wants to be that one person who is unemployed.  The token loser.  Something must be wrong with you.  Right?  I know how it feels.  I was there, for many months.

I was thinking, what if we go away from those stigmas (and assumptions) of “I lost my job,” and shift the mindset (or, have a “paradigm shift”)?  What phrase would change the meaning and take away the sting?  I came up with this:

“My contract ended.”

Think about it… a lot of people have contracts that end.  And when the contract ends, you move on to the next contract.  It’s not a horrible surprise (contracts are meant to end, whereas in some fantasy universe we tend to think that jobs aren’t supposed to end).  Okay, sometimes the contract ends early, but not contractor believes their contracts will end when they are ready to retire.

Contractors should always prepare for the ending.  They do this with:

  • fiscal responsibility (spend less than you make, save money for the bouts between contracts, etc.)
  • filling the pipeline (networking, putting bids out, etc.)
  • marketing themselves (know how to talk about your products/services, know when to talk about them, know who you want to talk to about them, etc.)

An employed person, though, who fears losing their job, doesn’t do these things the same way a contractor does.  The employed person fears losing, the contractor prepares for the loss.

This phrase, when said out loud, changes the course of the conversation.  Instead of “oh, you poor person who must have caused too much friction at work!”, it is more of a “Oh, sorry to hear that, what’s your next contract?”


This phrase, when you INTERNALIZE it, empowers you to be more in control of your career.  You really do become the CEO of Me, Inc.  You are no longer a victim of a bad boss, of HR, of the market, etc.  You are empowered to prepare for the end of the contract.

Isn’t this awesome?

Many years ago I started working at a janitorial firm.  In the first month or so of that job we lost a $5M contract.  I went to work the next day a little nervous, wondering what kinds of cuts they might make at the corporate office.  The CFO seemed happier than usual, and I somehow remember him whistling in the hallways as he went about his duties.  Later I asked him to explain how they could lose such a big contract and still be happy, or not be overly worried.

He replied that the company had been in business for a long time, and that they had won and lost many contracts.  It was no big deal, and there would be more contracts they would win.  And in fact, they did win many more, and the company grew a lot while I was there.

That mentality is the same mentality that we, as CEO of Me, Inc., need to have.

What do you think?


11 thoughts on “Never again say: “I lost my job.” Instead, say this:”

  1. I love the use of re-framing, from I’ve lost my job, to “My contract ended.” The internal shift is empowering, rather than defeating, and I imagine the conversation to follow would be much more useful to the job seeker. I can see the family at Thanksgiving dinner actually asking what kind of work and focusing on being helpful in finding the next contract, instead of going down the path of ‘poor you’.

  2. Yes, exactly! That’s a big part of the change in the words. Isn’t language so powerful? Not only will the outward expression change the tone of what others think, but this should have a huge impact on what WE think about ourselves, our situation, etc.

    Thanks for the thoughts Marti 🙂

  3. I love it, income security and empowerment to accept full responsibility and accountability to achieve it. As more people are able to understand and run with these concepts the sooner we will reach a tipping point of self worth and self determination – the possibilities are exciting.

  4. Two thumbs up, Jason! I am co-facilitating a community Job Club that meets alternate Tuesday mornings. I will share your post with them on December 10th! Wish I’d had for this mornings group in which we did speed networking. Can’t wait to see what you come up with in another 18 months! 😉

  5. I like this very much, Jason. Makes me think that sometimes it’s the “social contract” that ends, too. When both parties in a relationship are no longer benefiting from that relationship, there’s no more reason for the relationship to exist. Time to move on.

  6. Nice job of reframing. I imagine it would have a positive impact on both the sharer and the listener. I would just add one more element: the nonverbal message that goes with it. Is the face frowning and head down and away, or is the sharer communicating directly to the listener, implying perhaps that this is an opportunity to seek out a longer-term contract or one that is more interesting/challenging/closer-to-home, etc.

  7. I like the contract ended idea. Since Linkedin decided to change the way Linkedin Jobs works, I also like the idea of creatng a 3-page PDF-. I think every person in school should learn how to create PDF’s that show off one’s true value.

  8. What a great way to look at your situation. Nothing is permanent and certainly not jobs now days. This is a great way to encourage people that it is just a temporary thing. I am going to use this concept with others I work with to help them.

  9. Thank you for this post. I agree that nowadays job security simply does not exist and we should perceive ourselves at work as contractors and business owners. I am also going to use your concept with my clients to help them in the process of transition.

Comments are closed.