Growing by quitting work

Intentional Unemployment: Taking a Risk to Discover Your Authentic Self

By Kate Nestibo

Identity Crisis

Our jobs typically demand a great deal of our time and energy. They frequently come up as a conversation starter and may even be the first thing we’re asked about.

We form much of our identity around our chosen career and our professional accomplishments.

We judge others by their profession and make assumptions about them based on their job titles. We may stay in roles and working environments that don’t fulfil us or with leaders who don’t value us, not simply because we’re reliant on the income, but often for the prestige, power, or significance we feel they bring.

Who are we without our jobs? Some of us will never take the time to contemplate that question. The answer our brain conjures up may be more than we wish to consider.

I Quit

When your passion, strength, and values intersect with your career, you’re a force to be reckoned with. If you find yourself in a job that is out of alignment with your unique gifting or value system, the consequences of this misalignment can manifest mentally, emotionally, and even physically.

Recently, I made the decision to resign from a job after mere months with the company. For the first time in my life, I ended my employment without first securing another job. Yes, it was a scary move, and for some it’s an unlikely option with looming bills or a family to care for.

With a small financial cushion and a temporary stint in my parent’s basement, I realized the scarier option would be to continue down a career path I did not feel was the best fit for me.

During this season of transition, I’ve had the opportunity to think about work I’m naturally drawn to, the strengths I have self-identified or others have recognized in me, and my definition of success. Nobody wants to appear as if they hop from job to job, but sometimes you must ‘try before you buy’.

While job interviews are a chance to showcase our skills, experience, and personality, they’re also an opportunity for us to assess potential employers and corporate culture.

It’s a two-way street. Employees should be viewed as the greatest asset a company has, rather than its largest liability.

The Realization

So, back to answering the question: Who are we without our jobs? Well, you’re still uniquely you. Your job doesn’t make you. You make the job.

Nothing is accomplished without you and the distinct set of values, beliefs, passions, capabilities, and insights you bring to a role. And when you leave a role, you don’t lose those elements.

We must continually take time to get to know ourselves and to evaluate our mental, emotional, and physical well being in the workplace and beyond.

Dating While Jobless

If you really want to delve into how you define yourself without paid work, try going on a first date while unemployed. That’s precisely what I did.

When a friend offered to set me up on a blind date the same week I left my job, I figured it was either the best or worst time to meet someone new. Naturally, I had the thought that being unemployed and living at my parents' place may lessen my appeal.

I joked with my girlfriends about using this as my opening line during my impending rendezvous.

Luckily, I quickly circled back to the fact that this just happens to be the stage of life I’m in and having a job doesn’t change the story of me. There’s plenty more to discuss than my job description. If a date doesn’t agree, that’s OK by me. All I’m responsible for is putting forth the most authentic version of myself. Take it or leave it.

Seeking Support

When you’re experiencing a big change in life, a solid support system of family, friends, or mentors are vital.  Most people have a need to process their feelings and experiences with another person, ideally someone who understands their perspective and can offer a listening ear or practical advice.

Your relationships are best tested when you go through challenging periods of life. We may feel like there’s an expiry on the amount of time we are allotted to discuss our issues with those closest to us. Genuine relationships create a safe space where you can wrestle with personal issues for as long as it takes to find resolution.

We rarely judge our loved ones as harshly as we judge ourselves. Remember to extend the same understanding and compassion to yourself that you so freely give to others.

Nobody has life permanently figured out. We all experience ebbs, flows, highs, and lows. If not, you’re probably not truly living your life. 

Take the opportunity to experience change, risk, and personal growth then reap the rewards that trickle into every sector of your life as you seek out the most honest representation of your authentic self.

Kate Nestibo believes in the power of investing in people. With a varied background in marketing and communications, Kate has a growth-mindset that drives her to continually develop as a person and a professional, helping others along the way. Email: [email protected].

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