Why It’s Important To Unhook Your Ego From Your Job

Why It’s Important To Unhook Your Ego From Your Job

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From the desk of Lawrence M. Light,
Creator of eJobCoach.com

The most debilitating thing about being laid off (or fired, for that matter), aside from the very real loss of income, occurs when a person suddenly finds herself / himself cut off from a sense of their own worth – precisely because their sense of their own worth has been inextricably tied up in their having … holding … and performing … a job.

The first question one usually gets asked when someone first meets you is: “And what do you do?” That’s the occasion to gauge where on the ladder or social scale you stand. I had a friend, a perverse friend, who held a very good job as the Head of a Data Center for a large IT Operation, who used to tell people, just to watch their faces fall: “Oh, I’m a garbage man.”

And, truth to tell, many people who face the mirror in the morning, equate their worth with their job title: “I’m a Vice President … an accountant … a manager … a project manager … the Special Assistant to …” etc., etc., etc. … ad absurdum. Think of poor Kenneth Lay, who was so powerful as Chairman of Enron, if you remember them, now that he isn’t Chairman any more, and how his whole puffed-up persona was linked to that role.  Then contrast that with Steve Jobs, who maintained his sense of self-worth even after he had to leave Apple the first time, who came back again and made his true worth known again and again.

The unspoken rule seems to be: Equate your personal net worth with the role you hold at work.  The equally unspoken rule is: No work, no role, no worth.

When looked at objectively, after all, the person who’s been laid off today is still exactly the same person who held the job yesterday. She or he has the same capabilities, talents, internal resources and work experience that made holding the job possible. She’s still the same person the employer thought valuable when they hired her in the first place.  She or he is still the same human being.

So what’s changed? Well, for one thing the salary isn’t rolling in. For another, the laid off person doesn’t have an office to go to or a boss or people, if he or she is a manager, to manage, or co-workers to associate with.  The day is entirely open to do whatever the heck you want with it, which can be very unsettling. There’s no job description. There’s no power or sense of accomplishment. There’s no challenge. (These, by the way, are excellent reasons for seeking out a support group or – plug, plug – a job coach.)

But, if you really look closely at it, all of that is external to the individual.

So what I’m saying is, if you’ve linked your worth to the role you’ve played (or are playing) in your job, you’re riding for a fall. And that fall, the more you’ve linked your worth to your job, is going to be precipitous if your job ever goes away.  It will be unsettling emotionally, and it will work to your detriment when you start job hunting.

My observation is that most people who are laid off experience some degree of depression, starting off with shock, sometimes disbelief or denial, anger and resentment and this often translates itself into lack of energy and motivation in connection with finding a new position. Underlying this is – what else? – the severing of the link to the job and the loss of ego … status … position.

So what can you do about it? Well, for one thing you can begin to look at yourself in terms of the qualities that contribute to making you who you are – the qualities that contributed to whatever you’ve achieved in the work-a-day world, but also those qualities that have contributed to your having friends, a life-partner, if you’re a parent those qualities that have gone into parenting your children, contributions you’ve made in other areas of your life. Are you courageous, inventive, creative, empathetic, humorous, analytic, objective, supportive, etc., etc.?

The list, I hope, is long and diverse; if not, “attention must be paid.” Those qualities are what contribute to your individuality and worth in the first place, not the fact that you hold a certain type of job or earn a certain amount of money.

(Please note that I’m not running down the importance of the money, which is another issue completely. It is important to pay the bills, and it can buy status symbols, but it doesn’t really have anything to do with – ironically –your self-worth.)  Because, if you let your intrinsic self-worth be determined by anything outside your control, you’re at  the mercy of whatever comes along, instead of really knowing who you are and what your real attributes add up to.

What I’m proposing here is, as the title suggests, that
you, dear readers, unhook yourselves from your jobs and substitute something that’s more permanent to bolster your egos.

About the Author

ejobcoachLawrence M. Light has been coaching people for over fifteen years. He created the eJobCoach.com website and wrote and directed the forty-five minute video on how to conduct a multi-level job search which was acquired by libraries, universities, resume writing firms, and state employment agencies. He has written countless articles, the latest of which was a series on job-hunting for the Orange County Register. He has worked for, among others, IBM, Xerox, CSC, Atlantic Software, Kremer Laser Eye Center. His clients include individuals in management, high-level executives, information systems, marketing, consulting, the medical field, non-profits, housewives returning to work, sales, the arts and various other fields. His latest eGuide “The Three Critical Stages of a Job Search, and how to master them, plus Networking” is designed for “do-it-yourself”ers. He lives in Mission Viejo with his wife Mary Lou and two poodles named Mocha and Cleo, in a house with a view of the Cleveland National Forest.View all posts by ejobcoach

  1. Amy
    Amy02-25-2012

    Excellent Harry! It’s very easy for lngoer-term job seekers to get discouraged: I know many, unfortunately.I would only add: talk to someone who is prone to making you smile.

  2. CoralJaven67
    CoralJaven6702-29-2012

    I liked this page, great advice!

    kerry propper

  3. DelmerKrut09
    DelmerKrut0903-01-2012

    Superb job on this posting!

  4. ejobcoach
    ejobcoach11-20-2013

    If any of your clients are interested, I’d be glad to send them information about my eBooks and services (if they speak English). Thanks for the feedback.

  5. Philip Henderson
    Philip Henderson12-03-2013

    Well written post Larry. This will help those who are confused about where their worth as a person comes from, if it is a job then their anchor is fragile. If their worth is based on who they are in their relationships with family, friends and strangers they aid as volunteers, then they may not want to return to a full time position . . . they will want the freedom to enjoy the world and contribute in many other ways.

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