Job Loss and Self-Identity

Seven years ago I lost my job.  It wasn’t just any job; I was working for my church.  The church my family had been involved in for 100 years.  I lost not only my job; I also lost where I went to church; the support system of people I had shared my faith with; the place where I socialized and many friends.  For various reasons, the members went to all different parishes.  It was a lot to lose for one person. I lost the place, activities and people I would go to in times of trouble.  But it was gone.  Not only did I have to look for a new job but I had to find a new parish and start assembling faith sharing group.

Who am I?

However, I had lost my identity.  I had been a Director of Religious Education (DRE) at Sacred Heart Parish in Lawrence, Massachusetts.  I had a title that described what I did, what I believed and where I did it.  If I was no longer the DRE at Sacred Heart, who was I?  My skills didn’t seem to translate into the secular world.

What do I do?

The chances of repeating my role as a DRE in the Archdiocese of Boston didn’t looking promising as 80 parishes were closed at that time.  I had tightly woven my identity, my job and my church.  I had poured my heart and soul into the job and parish; it had become who I was.  After it had been closed, I didn’t know who I was, where I belonged or what I wanted to do.  People asked me what I kind of job I wanted but I didn’t know.   I looked for something in a haystack but didn’t know what.

What I do.

After taking different jobs doing various tasks, I realized who I was. I was a people person.  I enjoy helping people.  Now when I think about who I am, I no longer think of myself as a particular title.  I am happiest when I can help people get what they want; whether it’s a job, a skill, a connection or a listening ear.  That is what I do best.  Anything I can that uses this talent is my job.

Who I am.

I am someone who can help you.  I am proud of my ability to assist people in their needs.  Sometimes I am a career coach, other times I am an office assistant or daughter who will take her parents where they need to go.  I am not just one thing.  I enjoy being resourceful and capable.  If need be, I will learn all I can to better help people out.

I attend a parish regularly and have made friends there, but not tied to that parish.  I attend Mass at different churches.  I have a support system that isn’t faith-based.  I have made my job one of helping people find jobs.  But I am open to other possibilities as they are made known rather than tying myself down to one identity.  When the inevitable change comes, I will be able to adjust to meet the new challenges.

How are you defining yourself?

Arleen Bradley is has two certifications in career coaching and certification in the Job-Loss Recovery Program .  She assists clients in moving beyond job loss grief in order to land dream jobs using the Job-Loss Recovery Program.  The Job-Loss Recovery Program uses guided imagery to achieve results. To learn more about it and how you can benefit from it, log on to

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6 Comments to "Job Loss and Self-Identity"

  1. March 1, 2012 - 8:10 pm | Permalink

    All so true! After being unemployed – by choice – for only a week, I must say I already have a much clearer understanding of who I am and what choices I need to make in my “career life” to make me happy. I have always felt a strong calling to do something which would allow me to reach people in a positive way, and I think I am headed in the Human Resources direction. I will continue to follow your posts – keep that confidence coming!

  2. February 27, 2012 - 6:16 am | Permalink

    Hey Arleen,

    I can relate to this post. I was guilty of defining myself based upon my job as CFO of the Bank for the longest time that was who I was. It was interesting to see how some people treated me differently when I left because I now longer had that title. Now I am much happier and I am able to do a lot more to help my friends. Thanks for the post and reminding people that it really is only a job.

  3. Shannon LaPointe's Gravatar Shannon LaPointe
    February 20, 2012 - 8:25 pm | Permalink

    Hi Arleen,
    I read your blog and love it… All very well said!

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