Why You Should Stop Making Work Your Identity

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Education & Career Trends: February 21, 2023

Curated by the Knowledge Team of  ICS Career GPS

Work became more than just “work” throughout the years as it evolved from a system of trade to include increasingly complex talents.

  • Excerpts are taken from an article written on psychologytoday.com

There have been a number of major layoffs, mainly in the IT sector. For instance, it was widely reported that many Google employees discovered they had been cut when they came to work and their key cards were no longer functional. There is no doubt that many of these layoffs are the consequence of organisational “right-sizing” following overhiring during the pandemic, there is no question that it has many people wondering if more is to come.

Even under the best of circumstances, making predictions about the future is challenging, but that hasn’t stopped anybody from trying. In a study conducted in December 2022, business executives predicted that their companies would “likely” make layoffs in 2023, apply hiring freezes in 70% of cases, and terminate so-called “silent quitters” in 79 per cent of cases.

In addition, a recent LinkedIn research revealed that the proportion of remote job listings decreased from a peak of 20% in March 2022 to only 14% in November, which has some speculating that remote work is on its way out.

Meaning-Making Matters

Our need and capacity for meaning-making, much of which is derived from our relationship to work, distinguishes humans from other beings. Given that you spend the majority of your time at work, this makes it reasonable. Work became more than just work throughout the years as it evolved from a system of trade to include increasingly complex talents. It began to define who we were, to categorise and arrange us, and to give us meaning and direction. We are now “workers”; we no longer merely “do work.”

The Atlantic article by economist Arthur Brooks discussed the risk of objectifying oneself in terms of a single quality and “encouraging others to do so as well. When it comes to working, it might mean evaluating one’s self-worth positively or negatively depending on performance at work or one’s standing in the industry. “What happens to your sense of value when you can no longer perform that which has defined you for so long, as Brooks draws the line that must be crossed? When you are not working, who are you without it?

Most individuals, if not all of them, are seeking what they would define as meaningful or purposeful employment. What does this signify, though? Simon L. Albrecht defined meaningful work as “a positive psychological state where people feel they make a positive, important, and useful contribution to a worthwhile purpose through the execution of their work” in a review of the literature on the relationship between work engagement and meaningful work (Advances, 2013).

What happens when we stop defining ourselves by our work?

When you let what you do stop defining who you are, something significant occurs. Here are just a few potential results:

1. It transforms “opportunities for progress” into genuine opportunities.

It can be difficult to distinguish between constructive criticism and what appears to be a personal assault when what you do is who you are. When you separate the two, it’s easier to concentrate on the message’s substance and use feedback as a chance to improve. In a world where advancement is largely the responsibility of the individual, knowing how to seek out feedback and develop a growth mindset is critical.

2. It modifies fabricated success metrics.

You stop aiming for imaginary goalposts when you stop defining who you are in terms of what you do. You’ll be more adept at putting an end to thoughts like “I’ll feel successful when I earn that promotion,” “I’ll feel successful when I make as much money as my colleagues,” and “I’ll feel successful when I have a specific title.” Goalposts are always shifting. They have also been constructed such that particular individuals cannot access them. Future-ready workers will set their own standards for success and establish their own benchmarks.

3. Change becomes more tolerable.

It’s your responsibility to conduct your research and get ready as much as you can for what lies ahead. Change is unavoidable, and that much is evident. Your employment may be lost. Your position might radically change and you could have new management. You are better equipped to negotiate these shifts with adaptation and resilience, two essential characteristics for the future of work when your job is not your identity.

4. The disappointment felt when the “work family” leaves is lessened.

In relation to the previous statement, there has been a trend in recent years to refer to workplace cultures as “families.” The layoffs at Google were sad for individuals who were affected, but they were also depressing for those who were left behind since they could no longer rely on the culture to protect them. You can more clearly view work for what it is when you put your identity and job apart. It’s not your family, your reason for being, and it definitely doesn’t define your worthiness in this world.

Have you checked out yesterday’s blog yet?

Top 10 Career Options In Business Analytics

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article mentioned above are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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