You can listen to or read this post. (About 7 minutes)
If you’ve ever lost a job, you know how crushing that can be to a sense of self-worth, not to mention a hit to your sense of financial security (like a punch in the gut).
Behind the scenes, I know many people who have been let go who I see as amazing and gifted people with so much to offer. The way of typical business is NOT a test of your worth.
I’ll explain my own gut-punch experience, my theory on what it means when you are let go, and I’ll provide a simple exercise to help you in your recovery process.
When My Job Was Threatened
I was almost let go once.
The background was that my boss didn’t like how I was always bringing up ideas and how I was coming across when I raised ideas. According to her, my approach was irritating her and other people. It was a bit confusing to me at the time. But eventually, fast forward, we worked it out and she said all was fine.
Then, when the company needed to do layoffs during an economic downturn, she used that moment to threaten me to just tow the line and stop asking questions and raising ideas, or else I’d be laid off with the others. I was stunned, having been there many years, having been a hard worker, and having been told all was fine.
In my shock that day, I just said yes to her demands, not even fully understanding them, just so she’d let me stay. Big ouch. I don’t know if I slept at all that night. It felt like a punch in the gut for sure.
Luckily I took something useful from that painful experience and I found other ways to raise my ideas, with an approach I felt better about in the end. I learned how to be clear yet not so blunt as I had been before. She even let me run with some of my ideas to help the company recover quickly from those layoff setbacks.
Even though I learned an important lesson that I’m grateful for, and even though things did get a little better for a while, there was something else…
I needed to leave for something better. Something meaningful! Where my ideas and enthusiasm are wanted. It was a cubicle job that I thought was going to be meaningful, but it wasn’t.
I eventually left that job on my own terms. A big relief in the end.
Working there in that mismatch of a job all those years fueled my resolve to explore self-employment. I was so ready for letting my ideas run free. (Although as an introvert, I still thought self-employment was only extrovert territory so I still had some work to do on that. See Self-employment for Introverts.)
It’s Not About You. Here’s What It Does Mean When You Get Let Go.
Being fired is just plain hard, and so is having your livelihood outright threatened, whether explicitly or implicitly with all those messages of “Buck up, or else…” That’s hitting where it hurts, in our ability to put food on the table. It’s a big deal.
And yet, none of what they do is a reflection on our true gifts.
Granted, there are times a company needs to let someone go. I’ve even been the one to let people go, I admit, usually for theft or harassment reasons.
In the typical scenario (where an employee didn’t do something outlandish like theft), I believe job threats and dismissals are a reflection of a mismatch between employer perspective and employee perspective.
Sometimes our gifts and the employer’s needs are simply a mismatch, and it’s time for both parties to move on to a better fit. More often though, I think employers just don’t know how to tap our gifts that are useful to them. Such a loss, for everyone. And so much needless stress.
Sometimes we don’t even know what our gifts are. Right? I hear that a lot.
When you know who you are and what your true talents and interests are, you will more likely find the right work and the right environment where they appreciate you for what you bring.
That’s not an overnight thing to do, to figure all that out and find it.
But it can be done. (Please hold on to that possibility.) And sometimes that discovery process is essential for your sense of self-worth too, not just for your income.
A Writing Exercise to Help You Recover
Something that has helped me find more clarity about what happened and where I belong is to do a written inventory of what happened. Writing helps us make sense of things, capture the lessons, and find clarity for next steps.
I’ve given this exercise to some of my clients who were still feeling the hurt from a past job loss and were having trouble moving forward, even a year or more later. After they did this exercise, it started to soften and they were able to move forward.
Here are some questions I have used to spark some useful clarity and stress relief. I recommend doing this in writing, not just in your head.
- Describe my boss and co-worker experience and what parts were not a good fit for me.
- What are some things I definitely don’t want to repeat in my next work?
- What parts of the job experience did I enjoy most?
- What are some accomplishments that I’m happy about in that job?
- What are some aspects of that job that I want in my next work?
- Something I’m sad about…
- Why did it end? (Go beyond the surface.)
- What are 3 lessons I want to take with me?
- What am I grateful for about that job experience?
- Keep writing whatever else is coming to you from here.
You don’t have to answer all the questions. For me, the inventory gave me some new insights, a sense of letting go, and some ideas for what to look for next.
In my case I also talked it out with a career coach to not only learn from the past but explore who am I and why am I here. (By the way, I can now see how everything has led me to where I am today, with work that I love.)
In the meantime, if you’ve lost your job, I am feeling for you.
Sending big love to you,