You go to a dinner party being thrown by one of your neighbors. You don’t know most of the people there but you do your best to mingle and make some new acquaintances. Throughout the evening you strike up conversation with half a dozen people or so, and you realize there’s a common theme. With each person you meet, after the initial introductions, the first question they ask is, “So, what do you do?” You’re reminded of being a kid and having every adult you ever encountered asking a similar question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Society places an incredible amount of importance on what people do for work, which makes sense since, as adults, we spend the lion’s share of our time devoted to career. But there’s no guarantee that that job is going to be there forever. Over the last several months, for instance, the tech industry has been hit by a tsunami of layoffs. Just since January more than 130,000 people from companies like Google, Meta, and Amazon have found themselves unemployed, with even more projected throughout the year.
Obviously, losing your job is going to trigger all kinds of fear-based emotions. And some legitimate fears like, How am I going to pay the mortgage? Keep the lights on? Put food on the table? But for some people, there is something even more insidious bubbling underneath. What happens when you allow your job to become your very identity?
Ethan was the Executive Director of International Asset Management and Allocation Services for a software development company. It was a very impressive and long title that he spent years climbing the company’s ladder to obtain. His name was on the door, his business cards were impeccable, he was on LinkedIn, Eventbrite, Bizzabo, Intch, and Bizfluence. He was on the job from the moment his eyes opened in the morning until his head hit the pillow at night. Ethan’s job wasn’t just an occupation, it was his entire identity.
Then one day Ethan received an email informing him that the role of Executive Director of International Asset Management and Allocation Services was being folded into the duties of the International Vice President of Capital Accrual and Foreign Investment and that retaining his position was no longer feasible. An email. No face-to-face sit down, not even a phone call. And in an instant, Ethan’s world came apart because the only world he knew was the one that revolved around the title on that beautiful bone white business card.
He couldn’t believe that the position he’d worked so hard to obtain could just be “folded” away. He was stunned that the company he’d devoted his life to could so easily discard him like so much trash. He was lost as the initial shock sunk into deep states of unworthiness, shame, and despair. The situation felt hopeless and unmanageable. How could he ever reach such a soaring height again? The answer seemed to be that he couldn’t. Maybe even shouldn’t.
According to the American Psychological Association, the continuing layoffs in both the tech and financial industries will create detrimental impacts on the mental health and well-being of those affected. Just the threat of downsizing can cause elevated stress, anxiety, and low self-esteem from the stigma of being out of work. And studies have shown that the longer a person spends between jobs, their confidence erodes, they grow more afraid and frustrated, and begin to develop learned helplessness. Unemployed people report they are less satisfied with their lives and are more likely to suffer from psychological and emotional problems. Those problems only get worse when they try to get back into the workforce and their anxiety, resentment and animosity make them seem pretty undesirable during job interviews.
And that’s exactly where Ethan found himself. Waking up every morning was like a fresh slap in the face, reminding him that he was no longer the person he thought he was. Because his identity had become so intertwined with his job, he felt adrift on a sea of confusion. His hygiene fell apart. What’s the point in showering for another day of couch surfing? Nutrition took a backseat. The size of your waistline can be flexible when you're wearing sweatpants all day. The blinds stayed drawn, dust accumulated, crusty dishes stacked up in the sink. Personal relationships drifted away because he couldn’t face the shame and embarrassment.
Don’t be an Ethan. If you’ve been laid off, or you’re concerned that your job may be in jeopardy, there are emotional management tools, techniques, and strategies you can use to shift your perspective and get on to the next thing.
First of all, as with any traumatic event, it’s important to let yourself feel all the feels. The disappointment, the fear, the anger, let it all flow. Cry, mope, yell, bark if you want, just let it all out. And after you’ve taken a good go at the heavy bag, start to leverage your Power Series training to light up passion and inspiration. Separate yourself from the role you played at work. If it helps, look at yourself in the mirror and say, “You are not your job!” Then get to work naming and aligning with your vision for career. Don’t have a clear vision defined? Now is the best time to get super clear so that you have context on what you want to create next. What do you want to be doing? Who do you want to be working with? What’s the culture and setting that you want to join or create? How much money do you want to make?
As you’re developing or aligning with your vision, take stock of where you are now. Take an inventory of your skills and talents. What can you do? Think beyond what you’ve been doing, your skillset could take you in any number directions. Getting clear on where you’re going will give you a target to shoot for.
Once you know where you are and where you are going, set 3-5 benchmarks around career that when hit, will confirm you’re on track towards your vision. Next, identify the top 1-3 actions you can take to ensure you meet your named benchmarks. Lastly, make a plan for evaluation and calibration of your benchmarks. You don’t have to nail it right from the start. There may be unforeseen circumstances that arise, but you can be prepared to recognize them and adjust or change course as necessary.
Ethan could have used some emotional training. He’d allowed himself to become so consumed by the status of his position that he’d lost sight of what he was actually capable of doing. Ethan had joined the software company as a developer. He’d been a hotshot programmer that the company snatched away from another startup. But somewhere along the line he became so preoccupied with the climb to the executive suite that he’d forgotten what had brought him there in the first place. With the right tools, techniques, and strategies, Ethan can pull himself out of the funk and see the potential that’s right inside of him. He can create and execute a vision for the next part of his life, and he can do it from a state of peace and inspiration.
Unfortunately, Ethan can’t attend a Power Series program because Ethan isn’t a real person. But you can! Train the nervous system so that you can manage your emotional state when faced with those challenging life events. We’ll provide you with the tools and the training to do it. You’ll also join a community of like-minded individuals that are here to support you on your journey.
In all sincerity, hundreds of thousands of people are suffering with job loss, and they don’t need to. My vision is to eliminate suffering as efficiently as possible and give people access to lives better than they imagined possible. I’m committed to the fulfillment of that vision and encourage you to spread the word about IMS to anyone you think would benefit from emotional management training.
Click HERE to learn more about the Power Series and sign up today!