This past weekend, the cover article of The Seattle Times’ “Pacific Northwest” Sunday magazine was entitled “The Castaways.” The writer, Tyrone Beason, profiled several individuals who have lost their jobs during this economic downtown and how they have coped – and the emotions they have faced – while looking ahead for other jobs or forms of professional expression.
Toward the end of the piece he raised a profoundly disturbing question: “If we are what we do, who are we when we have nothing to do?” Several of the people profiled shared how much their identity had been bound up – and defined – by their jobs. Confronting the question of identity when a major “marker” like one’s job is suddenly gone is a huge Challenger that many are facing these days.
I know. I was fired from a job fairly early in my career. I remember well the emotionally trying time and anguished days of wondering what to do and who I was and what was next. I certainly felt victimized by the circumstances and, initially, fell head-over-heals into the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT). However, after some time of healing and with help from a Coach who helped me identify and clarify what I was passionate about pursuing professionally, it became a time and an experience for which I have great gratitude. It set me on the course toward today and the work that is mine to do.
While the men and women in Beason’s article are still in the “fertile void” between the job and identity that once was, all of them are facing their situation less as a Victim and more as a Creator. They certainly face the ups-and-downs that come with such a transitional experience, but all seem to be gaining deeper clarity about what is important to them and how fragile an identity based on job-title can be. They have moved beyong a Victim-based identity and seem to be facing their future as a Creator – and from that hope emerges for their future and their “professional expressions.”