Monday, December 15, 2008

Can Losing a Job Save Your Life?

Would you do your job if you didn't get paid?

If you burst out laughing after reading this question, then this column is for you. If you've broken into tears at the question, this post is for you. If your stomach cramps and your vision starts to blur, this is definitely for you.

This post is for all of you who can't imagine who or what you'd be without your job, but you do know that the word "love" or "passion" has never entered your consciousness when you talk about what you do for a living.

It was much the same story for Kathy Caprino. As a corporate vice president with a high powered job, she thought she had it all: security, money, prestige. She had done what she was supposed to do, and achieved the desired status symbols of a nice office, people at her beck and call and a new home.

Then 9/11 happened and a week later, Caprino was laid off. While she did tell her husband the news, somehow the reality didn't connect with Caprino. For a week after her layoff, she arose each morning, put on her business suit, got in her car -- and drove around each day.

"It's so demoralizing to be laid off," she says. "You're stripped on any kind of self-esteem."

Finally, Caprino was forced to deal with her layoff, and she found herself in therapy "weeping."

"I hated who I had become," she says.

Who Caprino had become was someone who suffered chronic health problems, a stressed, desperately unhappy woman who felt trapped by her job and everything that went along with it. As a middle-aged woman who was the primary breadwinner, Caprino had never thought of doing anything else until she was forced into it with the layoff.

That, Caprino says, is when she discovered that even though she was middle-aged, she could "choose the next chapter."

It's that message that Caprino hopes many people -- especially mid-life professional women -- will hear during these tough times when they may lose their jobs.

"My prayer is that this (job loss) is a wake-up call. When something bad happens, it's time to assess whether you're really aligned with it," she says. "Don't make the mistake of glomming onto the first thing that comes along. Step back. Approach it from an empowered position."

Caprino, who went back to school and has become a therapist and executive coach, says that she has some words of advice (also available in her book, "Breakdown, Breakthrough") for those faced with job loss:

1. Believe you can move forward. Find someone -- a coach, therapist, etc. -- who won't feed your fears, but will help you believe that you can create a new place for yourself. Caprino does say that one coach, whom she paid $800, said that she was in the "perfect" job. "I wanted to stab myself in the eye," Caprino says. "But I recognized that he was as stuck (in his thinking) as I was. It was a friend who said to me: 'I love you dearly, but you're always unhappy.' That's when I knew I had to change."

2. Let go of the beliefs, actions and thoughts that keep you small. Just because you're not 20 anymore doesn't mean you don't have dreams and goals. Look deep inside yourself and think of what else you'd like to do. "Don't assume that a certain job is your role and nothing else. Don't over identify yourself with a job."

3. Say "yes" to honoring yourself. "Don't believe someone else has the power. You have the wherewithal to make your dreams come true."

Are there are other ways someone can find a job they love?

Lijit Search


Paige said...

What an amazing and enlightening blog post. I think this can speak to so many on so many levels. I love the advice the author gives and the story is a very touching one.

Thank you.

Anita said...

Thanks. I just wanted to show that while there is a lot of bad news right now, we need to keep our perspective and understand that many of life's most important -- and rewarding lessons -- often don't first appear that way.

Anonymous said...

A bad job can be like a bad relationship in a lot of ways. Unfortunately, we're often too close to it to realize how bad things are...and that's even before depression sets in which complicates things even more.

I'd also add volunteering. That can be a great way to meet people and to explore other career options before you make a big move.

Anita said...

Great analogy about it being like a bad relationship.
Volunteering is a great suggestion. It can make you feel good helping other people, and be another way to network.
Thanks for the ideas.

Anonymous said...

I would even go so far as to say a bad job/career is like an abusive relationship. A person may know exactly how bad it is, but money is often the one thing keeping them from walking out the door.

Regarding finding a career path you love, the best advice I've heard is to think about what you enjoyed doing as a child/teen/college student. Chances are good there's a common thread throughout your life - one skill that you enjoy the most, even if it's a less obvious one like being very organized or cheering people up. Identify it and figure out how to make a living at it, even if it means starting your own business.

Anita said...

You make a good point about how until you find out what makes you happy, then you're going to continue to end up in bad jobs. As for your suggestion about a childhood interest, I knew a man who always wanted to be a major league ballplayer, which was sort of impossible for him at age 49! But he did get a job where he became an accountant for a minor league team, and loved it. He was around a sport he felt passionate about, doing something he was good at. Great suggestion.

Anonymous said...

Well, I do enjoy getting paid. Beside, my clients need to pay my fee so they'll realize how important their coaching is. But the fact is that if I had the money to run around as much as I do, I'd probably do most of my work for free.

A few years ago one of my clients asked me how much more time he'd paid for. I said that he'd paid me until he achieved his learning objectives.

He responded, "you'd work for free if you thought a client was making needed changes with your coaching, wouldn't you?"

I mused, "probably."

This is my third career. I liked the first two for about the first five or six years of the eleven I stayed in each of them. I won't say how long I've been in this career except to suggest that I'm past retirement--and the thought of retiring has never even touched my gray matter. I have too much fun! And generation X and Y intrigue the hell out of me! They seem to think I'm amusing--smart and useful.

Anita said...

I'm so appreciative that you shared your story, because I think it's important for people to know that they can do something for a living that makes them happy, that they enjoy -- that is fun. You sound like someone who understands "who" you are and have found your place in the world. Let's hope others learn to do the same.