There’s nothing worse than a job that you love suddenly falling through. There are probably worse things to happen but you know what I mean. You’ve worked hard, you’ve put up with having burnout, you’ve dealt with incredibly infuriating work situations, conflicts, and much more, then someone comes along to burst your balloon with a rather unsatisfying pop!
All that work you have done, all those times you have sweated over your tasks, suddenly means nothing.
You are disposable.
Or at least, that’s what you think.
Having to be reminded that your work isn’t who you are is crucial to not letting the weight and fear of being let go consume you. We are not our work and work is not us. We exist outside of the office, factory or any workplace environment and life goes on even when work stops [that’s for all the workaholics out there].
The worst part of being let go, especially unfairly, or not being extended or being fired, is trying to remain professional — this might not apply so much to being fired. Trying to keep a straight face, and not expel months of pent-up rage in your last few weeks or days, is incredibly difficult.
In my most recent experience, my contract wasn’t extended. Like many young people, particularly in academic research, I had a fixed-term contract. You’re probably thinking, “What are you crying about then? You knew the contract was going to end.”
Yes, I did know the contract was going to end however at several points in my contract there were mixed messages about possible extensions. I wasn’t extended but my colleague was. While a part of me wanted to just peace out and leave, I knew that it was not the most mature thing to do. Sure, it sucked. It sucked that I had worked hard, given my best to a job that no longer wanted me.
Sitting at my desk on my last week at that job and I didn’t feel any anger anymore. I just felt acceptance and grief. My contract was coming to an end and that was how it should be. I no longer wanted to fight the decision or try to convince anyone around me that I deserved to stay. I started to view it as an opportunity for change, but in a good way. The job had been a great learning experience and I had gained skills that I never had before. I worked with fantastic and genuinely talented people who made me feel welcome. The only thing I was upset about towards the end of the contract was leaving the people I worked with.
The end of my contract had stirred up a variety of emotions in me including grief and anger but I knew that this was all going to be fine. I had a belief in myself that everything was going to be fine.
I meditate a lot and have done since January (an actual New Year’s Resolution that has stuck). One thing that meditation has given me is the ability to have perspective and I came up with this easy to remember slightly morbid one liner:
“This will all still exist when you’re dead so why worry.”
Sounds morbid but it helps put things in perspective. Every situation is temporary — not that this makes these experiences pointless, because you should be able to have purpose but it’s important to understand you have a finite time on this planet, and do you want to look back on your life thinking you worried too much? Or worked in a job that didn’t appreciate your work just to get through?
This is not to say this mindset is easy, or following your intuition is a walk in the park. It’s not a switch in your head that you suddenly click on. It’s really not. It’s difficult but it’s about discipline and reminding yourself of who you are, why you’re here and what truly matters to you. This is constantly interrupting your own negative thoughts and asking yourself “Is this productive? Does being upset change this situation?” (Something I learned while stuck in a lift at the 14th floor).
I’m not saying you can’t grieve the loss of a job, or be angry, but you can accept those feelings and not be overwhelmed with emotion 24/7. You need to acknowledge those feelings then build on them. For example:
“I’m upset but what will help me get to where I want to be in a week’s time or a year’s time?”
Being able to view this change as a step on a journey that will go on for a long time is helpful when trying to identify what your values and passions are. The ability to reflect honestly on that role allows you to evaluate what you did well, what you didn’t do so well, and what you want to work on in the future. This puts you in a better position in your next stage of employment or self-employment.
My lack of extension is not a reflection on me personally. It’s not an attack. And if it was theoretically, would I want to continue working for someone who doesn’t value me?
No, I wouldn’t.
Would I rather not work in an environment that appreciates me and helps me to grow even further?
Yes I would.
So why waste my time angry at people who probably aren’t wasting time worrying about me?
The only person that’s affecting is me.