Sunday, October 16, 2011

It's never too late to reinvent yourself

The above is a quote from Judith Jamison, a noted American Dancer and Choreographer which I found in Whole Living. The rest of the quote follows: “ to do whatever it is you need to do to rekindle your life”.

About 15 years ago I joined a business development group in the company I worked for - making a bet that the young VP in charge of the group could revitalize said company. Instead he managed to get sideways with the president of the company, whereupon he was given the opportunity to pursue a different career. Two weeks later his group was given the same option. Which meant I was out of a job.

Even though I knew of two groups who wanted to hire me back into the same company, I was for a time unemployed. And, even with the assurance of another position with the same company, I still went through some pretty intense stress - see, I had never been in the position of not being able to say “I’m an engineer with an oil company”. That is what I was - that is how I defined my self worth - which is not the same as being an unemployed engineer.

I was fortunate that I had just started reassembling the engine for my 1970 MGB: I had plenty to keep me busy while negotiating my return to the company. Plenty of time to think about who I was, and to start realizing that I needed a better definition than the one I listed in the previous paragraph.

I plan to discuss in tomorrow’s post how I coped with this need to “reinvent” myself. For today I want those of you who are still in the work force to think about how you introduce yourselves to others - and to decide if that really is the way you want to define yourself (making the assumption your response is like the one I used to use). Heck, at this point in your career your job may be the most important thing in your life. But does it define who you are? And, if you are already retired - do you use your past career to define yourself?

I was talking to a retired contractor earlier today - he is an avid woodworker and has been retired for 15 years. He told me that it took him two years after he retired to find himself - during which time he went through some serious mental stress - and hey, he was a self-employed home-builder. Even being self employed and deciding for himself that he was ready to retire - he still had a serious identity crisis. Just think how much impact it can have on a persons sense of self worth, especially for someone who is proud of their career, when they find out they have just been laid off because the company is downsizing, rightsizing, or whatever.

Retirement - perhaps it is a good idea to give some thought to this game changer before you find yourself cast in the deep end. I plan to explore this subject a bit more this week.

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