Many years ago I was an administrator for a major motion picture association. When I took the position, I made an agreement with the Board members that during hiatus I would be free to do community service work . They agreed, so long as I was available by pager whenever I was away from my office. Six years went by and Board members changed as did my staff. Upon loosing one of my secretaries, I hired a woman who was very fundamentalist in family beliefs and religion. When she discovered that part of my “community service work” included visiting persons who had AIDS she immediately reported this to her family who in turn convinced her that I could give her AIDS. In a panic she went over my head to the Chair of the Board of Directors who also responded in an uneducated, fearful manner and instantly fired me. Since I had an impeccable service record, I was in shock. I had never been fired (or requested to resign) by any company and I was in no position financially to be out of work. After going through the normal responses of denial, shock, anger, sadness, etc., I found this experience to be an incredible teacher.
To begin with, I had to look at how much my identity and sense of self-worth were attached to my job. I instantly felt like a failure even though I had not lost a single ability or skill. I lost faith in myself and my ability to see people clearly. I even began to feel others were also judging me or perceiving me as failure or less valuable.
In today’s society we become over-identified with externals and forget who we really are. We become over-identified with our role in the home as mate or parent, with our position at work or we can even become too identified with being a survivor of abuse, a co-dependent, an alcoholic or an addict. We forget we are also multi-dimensional, multi-talented human beings who are a great deal more than any title, life experience, label. or job we are performing. It is not true that we are somebody when we are working and nobody when we are not. despite the fact that we may have spent a great portion of our life trying to be that somebody.
Sometimes, we have a tendancy to drag our feet with reference to changing careers, leaving negative job situations, or taking that step up the career ladder. When we do that, the universe decides to kick us out. of our present position in order to help us take the next step. At the moment this takes places, we may have a tendency to feel victimized by this event. However, a closer look might reveal that this is really a new opportunity. For instance in my case, I had been seeing clients for many years on week-ends doing counseling. But, I had been so attached to the security of a full time job that I never gave this endeavor my full attention or energy. So, after the dust and terror had settled, a friend said, “Maybe this is happening because it’s time for you to go back to school and do what you really what for a change.” So at forty-something years old that’s exactly what I did.
In addition, loosing my job gave me an opportunity to check in with some deeper issues. I had raised four children by myself and one of the ways I did that was to come home from my executive job in the daytime, take off my business suit, put on my waitress uniform and wait tables at night. I had to examine my level of false pride and ask myself if I would be willing to do that again if it became necessary. It was good to know I was willing and would have had fun doing it again.
When things get stressful financially, it’s important to sit down together and make a list of everything that you feel rich in such as love, compassion, understanding, friends, etc.. Even if bill collectors are doing a great job of being as tacky as they are supposed to be, you can remind yourself that you are a person of integrity who will and does pay their bills as soon as it is possible. Just as your value is not diminished by whether you have a job, neither is it diminished by whether you are late paying your bills during trying times.
The most important way to support a partner who is out of work is to constantly restate that you do not see him or her as any less valuable or successful because of this temporary status. Remind your partner that s/he has not lost his or her talent, ability or skills. Keep emphasizing that an attitude of confidence is critical to finding that next position or perhaps beginning that new career or even that new company of your own.
Being out of a job gives you an opportunity to do some things you may not take the time to do while you are working. You can evaluate your level of satisfaction with the kind of work you are doing. You can network and explore new ideas with others in different fields that you may have been curious about. You can do research on starting your own company, or finding the opportunities for training in a new field. You can get those creative juices flowing again and take a look at how you can put your talents and abilities into a new position that is more satisfying. If you like what you are doing, you can set a plan of action for yourself that includes making so many phone calls, personal visits to companies with your resume or job interviews per week. When you are busy creating what you want, there is less time to be depressed about not having what you need. Make sure you celebrate your accomplishments together when you meet the goals you set up for yourself even if they don’t result in an immediate offer of employment. Ultimately they will!
© Dr. Dina Bachelor Evan 2013
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