You Lost Your Job, Not Your Identity

by Heather Coleman Voss, Business Services Coordinator

I had a client say to me: “I am at a loss. I was just a cashier. I have no other skills. There aren’t many cashiering jobs out there, and I don’t have a degree or certifications in anything. I don’t have anything to offer.” I’ve noticed that regardless of the position someone has held, this feeling is common after a person experiences a lay-off.

The grief process can be brutal, and a lay-off hits hard. Loss of a job. Loss of your work family. Loss of your identity. A job loss and subsequent long-term unemployment can result in the feeling that your entire world has crumbled apart, and that makes it very difficult to believe there is hope for the future.

And yet, thousands of people are successfully career transitioning—in many cases without additional training or degrees. How are they accomplishing this? How do you get from here to there?

Acknowledge the loss: Take some time to grieve, adjust, and put things into perspective: Separate the job loss from your identity. Unemployment is not who you are; it is a situation you are working through.

Be proactive: Contact creditors, establish payment plans, and budget your household bills. While it is true that unemployment insurance will not cover all of your expenses, effectively controlling the funds you do have available makes a significant difference in your stress level.

Surround yourself with a mutual support network: Take advantage of the no cost workshops and services via your local MI Works! offices. Attend free networking events online and in person. Join organizations such as your local area chamber of commerce. Meet people. Go forward with confidence.

Update your resume: Resumes should be fluid documents – spend time updating your resumes to reflect your skill sets as they pertain to each job posting. Jacqui Poindexter, Chief Career Writer and Owner of Career Trend, states in her post on Glassdoor: “Have the courage to sharpen your career story arrow. It takes courage and introspection to aim your resume and online message at a more explicit audience.”

Remember who you are: Your lay-off occurred due to a very tough economic market; it is not a reflection of your talents and abilities. Think back to all that you have accomplished in your previous positions. Make an honest list of your strengths and abilities and showcase them: On your resume, your business cards, at networking events and throughout your social media platforms. There is no false modesty in job search

Develop Your  Personal Brand Who are you? What are you most passionate about? Where are your natural talents and abilities? What are you great at and what do you want to do? Present yourself on social media and at in-person networking events as a specialist in your field of interest. Remember, your previous job title does not define you; it’s about where you choose to take your career.

Speaking of social media: Update and revise your LinkedIn profile. Tap into your Facebook network of friends and colleagues – mention that you are making a career transition and ask to be connected to someone relevant in your field. Interact in professional online groups. Learn how to effectively use Twitter for professional use. Join the conversation!

Social Media and Career Strategist Hannah Morgan of Career Sherpa says it best in her post “Your Reputation Precedes You”: “We all have a reputation…something we are known for by those people we call friends. It could be a skill, a personal quality, or an interest. Isn’t it time you shared it with a greater audience?”

Give yourself credit for what you have accomplished There is no ‘just’ anything in the workforce – every position is integral to the success of an organization. Know your transferable skills. Understand that those skill sets apply to many different positions. We are all multi-faceted; acknowledge your talents and abilities, and focus on where you will take them. You are the solution to an organization’s problem. 

The woman who felt she was “just” a cashier? She started to remember who she was and all that she had accomplished – and her skill set was amazing. With her passion for customer relations, strong mathematical skills, natural leadership abilities and her artistic talents, she was an outstanding fit for an assistant manager position at a floral shop. After 25 years as a cashier, she launched the next phase of her career by identifying her strengths and her passions and believing in herself. She is now doing the work that she loves.

You will too.

For more on networking during job search, check out this great video by  J.T. O’Donnell, CEO of CAREEREALISM

Check out our “Job Flash” for current openings in the Metro Detroit area!


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