How to regain your identity after a job loss

For over 20 years, journalist Karen Given was the producer of a in style nationally syndicated sports activities radio present, Only a Game. Given recognized so carefully with this position that when she launched herself, she would say: “Hello, I’m Karen, the chief producer of Solely a Recreation.”

However when the present and her job got here to an abrupt finish in September 2020, Given discovered it exhausting to preserve a clear sense of identity. “With the loss of my job, I struggled to work out who I used to be professionally,” mentioned Given.  

Given’s emotions round job loss usually are not distinctive. Work offers lots of us with far more than a paycheck. A job can provide recognition and standing, instill a feeling of belonging, and reinforce self-worth, which collectively create a tangible skilled and private identity that may be exhausting to let go of when the place ends.  


Research exhibits that having a concrete “work identity”—which may be outlined as how essential your job is and who you imagine your self to be professionally—may be carefully tied to your well-being. In a Gallup ballot, unemployed Individuals had been greater than twice as doubtless as these with full-time jobs to say that they had been handled or had been being handled for despair, and this case has turn into endemic in the course of the coronavirus pandemic as tens of millions of Individuals have skilled unemployment.

Whatever the motive why you misplaced your job, listed here are some steps you may take to regain your sense of self:

Grieve the loss of your work identity

As a coach who works with individuals in job or profession transition, I’m aware of the extraordinary emotions of anger, unhappiness, and abandonment that typically accompany a layoff. After having a go-to response to the icebreaker query, “what do you do for a dwelling?” it’s exhausting to be pressured by circumstances to let go of the pithy reply that helps us place ourselves in different individuals’s worlds, in addition to our personal.

When a job that you simply as soon as recognized with turns into a factor of the previous, it’s important to acknowledge your emotions concerning the loss, and never dismiss or cover from them. As with all form of grief, earlier than you may transfer ahead, you could first mourn what you’re forsaking.

Reframe the scenario

After I spoke with Given about how she was dealing with the current finish of her long-time radio position, she defined that this yr has been all about reframing the best way that she seems at issues. “After I begin to get unhappy about shedding the job I beloved, I remind myself that the commute was actually horrible,” says Given. “After I begin to fear about what the long run will maintain, I problem myself to consider the chances.” 

She emphasised that whereas uncertainty is horrifying, it additionally creates a clean canvas on which you’ll construct one thing new. “I can not do the factor I’ve all the time completed, which provides me the liberty to strive the issues I’ve all the time wished to do,” says Given. “With all the world the other way up [due to COVID-19], might there be a higher time to take a threat?” 


Attain out to your community

Social help is essential in occasions of change and problem. Isolation and loneliness are compounding components that may accompany job loss, so it’s important to join with others within the wake of a layoff.

When my shopper Josh misplaced his job in a biotech firm due to a merger, he requested individuals in his community to recall a time that they had seen him at his greatest. He additionally invited them to establish the abilities he was utilizing to assist him house in on his most marketable capabilities. Doing so allowed Josh to reconnect to supportive individuals and regain his footing throughout an extremely troublesome time.

Return to your values

Values are elementary beliefs or rules about what you stand for, and may be thought of the “essence” of who you might be. Values—reminiscent of creativity, honesty, collaboration, private growth, and autonomy—underpin profession selections over the long run, although the way you categorical these values and rank their relative significance can shift over time.

Whereas values can assist you discover that means and success in your work, they transcend your work identity and will also be expressed in lots of contexts outdoors of labor. They’re one other lens from which to view your self throughout a profession transition. That’s why grounding your self in your values and imaginative and prescient is a highly effective approach to navigate uncertainty and regain a sense of self within the wake of a job loss. 

Brad, certainly one of my shoppers who ran social media advertising and marketing for his tech firm, was all the time all in favour of mentoring youthful workers—significantly those that had fewer alternatives rising up that resulted in much less publicity to the enterprise world. Brad’s worth of serving to others laid the muse for exploring different attainable profession choices. His ardour for variety and inclusion guided him to begin a consultancy aimed toward aiding tech corporations that wished to diversify their engineering organizations. 

Do one thing unrelated to work

To regain your sense of identity after a layoff, it’s essential to incorporate some actions which are doubtlessly much less irritating and rejection-filled than in search of a job. After I coach professionals in transition, I’ve usually noticed how volunteering helps many rediscover a sense of goal and accomplishment. Taking up a volunteer position can broaden your networks, and in some instances leads to concrete job alternatives. Most significantly, participating in actions which are essential to you and that assist others can foster a sense of confidence, competence, and management over your life—qualities that will have felt shaky after being let go.

Job loss can usher in a corresponding loss of identity and shaken self-image—however remember the fact that what makes you distinctive isn’t decided solely by your job title or the group to which you used to belong. Your work isn’t who you might be; it’s simply what you do. In case you’re open to it, shedding a job can reveal potentialities to discover sides of your self that lay dormant till now.