If you’re like most people, you will spend about a third of your adult life working for somebody. Employment is most likely a huge part of your identity and a source of meaning in your life. The loss of work identity that comes with being laid off, being fired, or even retiring can feel crushing. A good way to defend against that is to begin to dis-identify from your work identity while you still have it.
Naturally, this is a private process. I’m not calling on you to demonstratively burn your company’s name tag in front of the main building. I am inviting you to take your name tag off psychologically.
How? First of all, let’s face it: no one is irreplaceable. If your job can survive without you, you can survive without your job.
Second, resist corporate categorization and objectification of what you are, however well-intentioned it might be. As flattering as it might feel to be an asset to your company, recognize that you aren’t just a “human resource”; you are, first and foremost, a human being—not a sales force, but a life force.
Third, dis-identify with your title: you aren’t a regional manager, an executive assistant, a VP, or any other designation—you are you. You were you before this title, you are you now, and you will be you after this title.
Title identification is pervasive in the military and law enforcement. Recognize that you are not your rank. Rank is information. You are not information.
The education industry is another big identification player. You aren’t the school you are in or went to. Your identity isn’t at stake when your college sports team loses. Sure, networking on the basis of your college affiliation can provide career opportunities. But what does that “graduate of” lettering on your car’s window really say about you? That you went to such-and-such higher education institution? Resist institutionalization.
Write down your professional and educational identifications, line by line. Use the “I = such-and-such” form. Then look at all this information. Is it important? Yes. Is it essential to your existence? No. Decisively strike through all these identifications (“I =/= such-and-such”), one after another.
Dare to conclude: I am not who I work for. I am not my job. I am not my rank.
Pavel, not a psychologist
Reference: adapted from Lotus Effect
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Last reviewed: 9 Jul 2011