I sometimes get the sense that people are afraid to ask how the job search is going. It’s not that they aren’t curious or concerned. Perhaps they think I’d rather talk about other things. Recently, a friend who I hadn’t seen in quite some time said, “I bet you’re getting tired of this question….” I’m always glad when people ask.
Up until a few weeks ago, I had a steady part-time freelance writing assignment. I enjoy the work, and I especially appreciate the flexibility of working from home while looking for full-time employment. A few weeks ago, I learned that the next phase of the project had been delayed and won’t pick up again until mid-October. This has given me a lot of extra time to concentrate on my job search – too much time almost!
When I first learned that the writing project was delayed, my heart sank to the floor. It was the first time during this transition that I experienced that momentary sense of dread. It finally hit me that I am unemployed. This new reality of “not working” nearly knocked the wind out of me.
Being laid-off from a job you love is enough to send even the most healthy and emotionally stable person into a temporary identity crisis. Who am I?! And who am I without those daily tasks and workplace relationships? I never thought that I was a person who placed my entire self-worth in my job, but I could feel my confidence quickly slipping.
For those who might find it helpful, here are three things that keep me grounded:
1. Shortly after I was laid off, a dear friend said to me, “Beth, it really doesn’t matter what you do for a living. No one cares if you’re the janitor or the CEO. We love you because you’re YOU. Your life already has meaning, value, purpose. You don’t need a fancy job title to prove your worth to us.”
I come back to this reflection often … especially on those days when the emotional roller coaster threatens to hurl me downhill. I know that my life has meaning and purpose, and good things await me in the future. This season of being in between jobs is part of my story, but it does not need to define who I am. Frequent coffee dates, networking lunches, and play dates with my god-daughter help remind me of this as well.
2. I have a routine and a to-do list. I still set the alarm clock and get up at a reasonable time each day. I spend time in prayer, and I try to get to the gym most days. I make myself a to-do list, even if it includes simple things like “take out the garbage”. I’m learning that finding a job is a job unto itself, and that I will wear myself out doing it 24×7. I try to keep my internet searches strategic and limited. Too much time on Monster quickly turns into a mindless obsession and leads to endless worry! Life is about balance, and I’m learning to balance my career discernment along with everything else.
3. Finally, I learned a valuable lesson several years ago. “You have the right to tell your own story.” (How I learned this lesson is a tale for another time!) Each of us has the ability to speak the truth about our lives. Words have meaning, and words are important. Sometimes, we have to learn to tell the story differently.
Simple questions like, “what do you do?” or “where do you work?” were quite complicated at first. I had no desire to jump into the pity party pool of “I got laid off, and let me tell you…” So recently, I’ve been practicing a new story line – one that is both hopeful and true. If our faith teaches us anything, it is a story of HOPE. My story goes like this:
I’m a writer, and I work from home. I had a long career in campus ministry and before that I worked in corporate consulting. I’m in transition and looking for full-time work. I’m hoping to find a mission-based organization where I can put my project management skills to good use (ideally Catholic, but I’m open to other non-profits too). In the meantime, I’ve been doing a lot of networking and using the extra time to brush up on my Spanish.
I can say this, because I know my life has meaning and purpose and value – and because for right now, it’s true. Feel free to ask me how it’s going.