Women at work: Measure of a person is not in the job title
Lynette M. Loomis • February 1, 2009
Job loss. We all read about it. Many of us experience it first-hand or in our family. We go through the stages from denial to reticent acceptance. There are many strategies to cope with job loss, including re-training, networking, relocation, stress management and support groups.
Whether it's called a merger, downsizing, right-sizing or company relocation, the loss of a job can be devastating, particularly when coupled with an economic downturn across the country. Prices are increasing and retirement or emergency savings have dwindled. The traditional folk wisdom of "if you work hard, you will always have a job" has become more folklore than fact.
The loss of a job presents irrefutable financial challenges. There are the practical issues that face us all regarding house and car payments, rising medical costs, college tuition, property taxes and the expenses of daily living. It makes sense to assess your financial situation, develop a search plan and update your resume to help reduce your initial panic. But the anxiety we feel has to do with more than the money. It has a great deal to do with our sense of self, self-confidence, sense of worth and belonging. We may grieve or vacillate between doubt and fierce determination.
We Americans identify ourselves closely with our jobs. At any event, we quickly move past the exchange of names to "Where do you work?" Deadly silence sometimes ensues as we try to find a positive way to say we are looking, searching, revising our resume for every possible scenario and buying endless cups of coffee followed by handwritten thank-you notes while networking.
At a social gathering, I spoke with a delightful woman from England who may eventually move to the United States to be with her adult daughter and family. "But not too soon," she said. "You Americans work too hard. I value my six or seven weeks of holiday. My job is what I do to pay my bills. It is not who I am."
The logic of this would appear to be straightforward. We are people, not job titles and job descriptions. Our competitiveness and the seeming status of who can work the hardest, stay at the office the longest and return e-mail messages at 3 a.m. suggests that we have carried the Puritan work ethic a bit too far. And perhaps we hide behind our work rather than develop our skills as true friends, good neighbors or contributors to the well-being of others. In other words, perhaps we have lost sight of the fuller meaning of who we are.
When we reflect on our lives, we rarely measure ourselves against the accomplishments we put on a resume with documented measures of successes against benchmarks and goals. More typically, we reflect upon who we are as people and the various roles we held as parents or family members, good friends or volunteers. In our eulogy, we hope that speakers will reminisce about our sense of humor, courage, unfailing integrity or commitment to a spiritual life. Perhaps we were the ones who could always be counted on in a crisis or to share in a celebration. Or helped someone find his true calling in life or supported him in a time of self-doubt with boundless encouragement.
As Rochesterians seek new ways to support themselves financially, perhaps we could be kinder to ourselves and our unemployed friends. We could embrace our humanity, celebrate our uniqueness and develop a sense of self and confidence that survives our employment status.
Lynette M. Loomis is president of Your Best Life Coaching LLC. Contact her at www.yourbestlifecoaching.com or (585) 624-1300.