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You’ve Just Lost A Job, Not Everything

You’ve Just Lost A Job, Not Everything

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you don’t know exactly how to answer the question, “What do you do?”

The most common answer I hear at meetups and networking events is reciting a job title and job description.

“I’m a business analyst.”

“I’m a marketing assistant.”

“I’m a financial analyst.”

“I’m a coach.”

I’ve given this type of answer before where my whole identity is attached to a job title, yet over the years I’ve realized that a job title is a label you put on yourself that does not define who you are. The problem with having your identity tied to a specific job is that if something happens like getting laid off or fired, your sense of self-worth suffers, making you think that the world is over and your life has no purpose.

Losing a job doesn’t mean the end of the world. What looks like a setback could very well be the opportunity you’ve been looking for to make a meaningful change.

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The key is diversifying your skills and remaining grateful.

Back in August, I received a notice that would change my perspective on life and work forever: I was laid off. I remember standing in the back of the room looking around and seeing mixed emotions as we continued listening to the “we are restructuring operations” speech. I left the room right after finding out we were going to get an extra month of salary to help us out in this transition.

A transition in life is a very fragile stage in our lives that put us in a gray area, and it can become our greatest setback or our most powerful opportunity. A transition always leads to uncertainty because we are not familiar with what’s ahead and emotions often go crazy. Our brain automatically starts looking for solutions to this seemingly terrible transition and we make decisions based out of fear rather than from a place of love.

I remember as I was walking through the hallway back to my cubicle, I couldn’t help thinking about what was coming next.

How am I going to pay rent?

My car?

Credit card bills?

Student loans?

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Groceries?

Chipotle with extra guacamole?

I need to apply for new jobs, interview like crazy, and take the first job offer that comes to me.

These and many other thoughts were running through my head all at the same time. I acknowledged them and let them flow without presenting any resistance. I realized all my thoughts were coming from a place of fear, leading me toward finding the most comfortable solutions.

Instead, I remained calm and did NOTHING!

I avoided the temptation of trying to find a quick fix and took it as an opportunity to really choose myself for once in my life. For years I held corporate positions in the mortgage and finance industry, making good money but not feeling fulfilled — and a part of me knew it was time for a change. I saw this as an opportunity to be intentional about my next step and find what makes me come alive.

I asked myself: What is the worst that can happen if for once in my life I decide to do something that I’m passionate about and try it out for one month?

I decided to give intentional experimentation a try, know more about myself, and figure out the kind of person I want to become. Adam Poswolsky, author of “The Quarter-Life Breakthrough”, mentions how it’s important to develop a breakthrough career mindset, becoming intentional about the kind of job opportunities young adults want to take on where every opportunity takes you closer to your true purpose and interests. The reward of intentional experimentation is to find meaningful work while experimenting with a variety of opportunities until you find that one thing that makes you fulfilled.

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Here’s what happened once I decided to experiment with different opportunities after losing my job:

Traveling

Traveling has given me a new perspective on the world. It has also given me the opportunity to sit back, meditate, and embrace life for what it is and not for what I want it to be. Too many times, we get caught up in the everyday hustle and sometimes we forget what’s really important.  I first learned about meditation during our Costa Rica retreat back in October when I took my first-ever yoga class surrounded by fresh rainforest air, an abundance of local flora and fauna, tropical birds singing, gentle breezes, and the sound of the rushing river. One of the most important benefits I get from meditating is learnign how to organize my thoughts and emotions, helping me decide what really matters.

The people I’ve met throughout my travels have made all the difference. Being surrounded by people passionate about life, traveling, and refusing to settle inspires me keep pushing forward towards what I want out of life.

Writing

I fell in love with the power of the written word a long time ago, but I never really developed a writing habit. Ever since being laid off, I’ve been writing more often and getting my ideas out of my head, reflecting on things that matter to me, and sharing them with the world. I even started my own blog where I write about personal development, crafting stories from my own personal experiences and interviewing other people going through their own transitions. While developing a daily writing habit, I have learned how to be vulnerable, honest, and transparent.  Lately, I’ve been developing a habit of meditating through writing where I get to write about the highlights of each day and things I can do to improve for the next day. It’s so rewarding, and I’d encourage anyone to write a little bit each day.

Learning about myself

This is perhaps the most valuable outcome I’ve received from getting laid off: the opportunity to better understand who I am and what I want out of life. Most people rarely take the time to truly learn about themselves, instead following predetermined scripts that society puts upon us. Go to college, get a degree, get a high-paying job, big screen TV, white-picket fence house, work for 40-50 years, climb the corporate ladder, and then retire. Even if you want to climb the corporate ladder, how do you even know that you have it leaned against the right wall? I have realized that learning about yourself is a natural process that is ongoing, and there are no hacks or fast tracks.

A few days ago, I shared my big intention for life, business, and career with the universe in a single tweet. Here it is:

My big intention is to truly serve others in their journey within by writing, dancing, spreading smiles for miles and positive energy, creating and participating in transformative experiences that serve as a launching pad to help young adults figure out their next step.

The word is out!

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There are moments when I feel fearful and doubtful, and start to question myself about my decision to follow my own path, but I recognize it and don’t give control to doubts and fears. Instead, I remember that I’m being intentional about what I want by doing things that allow me to fully express myself.

I thought that losing my job was going to be a disaster, but it became the biggest opportunity I’ve ever had to change my life.

I accepted my situation. I embraced it. I got in touch with my inner self.

What resulted was definitely not on the script I had been given for years.

I don’t know where this path may lead, but what matters is that I’ve made a conscious decision to live a life aligned with my true gifts and talents to make a meaningful impact in the world. If I hadn’t been laid off, I probably would have stayed at the same old job, living a life of average and conformity. Sometimes what looks like a hardship is quite often a blessing in disguise.

What transition are you going through in your life right now and what are you learning from it?

Featured photo credit: h.koppdelaney via flickr.com

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Last Updated on April 9, 2020

5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

5 Types of Leadership Styles (And Which Is Best for You)

It takes great leadership skills to build great teams.

The best leaders have distinctive leadership styles and are not afraid to make the difficult decisions. They course-correct when mistakes happen, manage the egos of team members and set performance standards that are constantly being met and improved upon.

With a population of more than 327 million, there are literally scores of leadership styles in the world today. In this article, I will talk about the most common types of leadership and how you can determine which works best for you.

5 Types of Leadership Styles

I will focus on 5 common styles that I’ve encountered in my career: democratic, autocratic, transformational, transactional and laissez-faire leadership.

The Democratic Style

The democratic style seeks collaboration and consensus. Team members are a part of decision-making processes and communication flows up, down and across the organizational chart.

The democratic style is collaborative. Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek is an example of a leader who appears to have a democratic leadership style.

    The Autocratic Style

    The autocratic style, on the other hand, centers the preferences, comfort and direction of the organization’s leader. In many instances, the leader makes decisions without soliciting agreement or input from their team.

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    The autocratic style is not appropriate in all situations at all times, but it can be especially useful in certain careers, such as military service, and in certain instances, such as times of crisis. Steve Jobs was said to have had an autocratic leadership style.

    While the democratic style seeks consensus, the autocratic style is less interested in consensus and more interested in adherence to orders. The latter advises what needs to be done and expects close adherence to orders.

      The Transformational Style

      Transformational leaders drive change. They are either brought into organizations to turn things around, restore profitability or improve the culture.

      Alternatively, transformational leaders may have a vision for what customers, stakeholders or constituents may need in the future and work to achieve those goals. They are change agents who are focused on the future.

      Examples of transformational leader are Oprah and Robert C. Smith, the billionaire hedge fund manager who has offered to pay off the student loan debt of the entire 2019 graduating class of Morehouse College.

        The Transactional Style

        Transactional leaders further the immediate agenda. They are concerned about accomplishing a task and doing what they’ve said they’d do. They are less interested in changing the status quo and more focused on ensuring that people do the specific task they have been hired to do.

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        The transactional leadership style is centered on short-term planning. This style can stifle creativity and keep employees stuck in their present roles.

        The Laissez-Faire Style

        The fifth common leadership style is laissez-faire, where team members are invited to help lead the organization.

        In companies with a laissez-faire leadership style, the management structure tends to be flat, meaning it lacks hierarchy. With laissez-faire leadership, team members might wonder who the final decision maker is or can complain about a lack of leadership, which can translate to lack of direction.

        Which Leadership Style do You Practice?

        You can learn a lot about your leadership style by observing your family of origin and your formative working experiences.

        Whether you realize it, from the time you were born up until the time you went to school, you were receiving information on how to lead yourself and others. From the way your parents and siblings interacted with one another, to unspoken and spoken communication norms, you were a sponge for learning what constitutes leadership.

        The same is true of our formative work experiences. When I started my communications career, I worked for a faith-based organization and then a labor union. The style of communication varied from one organization to the other. The leadership required to be successful in each organization was also miles apart. At Lutheran social services, we used language such as “supporting people in need.” At the labor union, we used language such as “supporting the leadership of workers” as they fought for what they needed.

        Many in the media were more than happy to accept my pitch calls when I worked for the faith-based organization, but the same was not true when I worked for a labor union. The quest for media attention that was fair and balanced became more difficult and my approach and style changed from being light-hearted to being more direct with the labor union.

        I didn’t realize the impact those experiences had on how I thought about my leadership until much later in my career.

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        In my early experience, it was not uncommon for team members to have direct, brash and tough conversations with one another as a matter of course. It was the norm, not the exception. I learned to challenge people, boldly state my desires and preferences, and give tough feedback, but I didn’t account for the actions of others fit for me, as a black woman. I didn’t account for gender biases and racial biases.

        What worked well for my white male bosses, did not work well for me as an African American woman. People experienced my directness as being rude and insensitive. While I needed to be more forceful in advancing the organization’s agenda when I worked for labor, that style did not bode well for faith-based social justice organizations who wanted to use the love of Christ to challenge injustice.

        Whereas I received feedback that I needed to develop more gravitas in the workplace when I worked for labor, when I worked for other organizations after the labor union, I was often told to dial it back. This taught me two important lessons about leadership:

        1. Context Matters

        Your leadership style must adjust to each workplace you are employed. The challenges and norms of an organization will shape your leadership style significantly.

        2. Not All Leadership Styles Are Appropriate for the Teams You’re Leading

        When I worked on political campaigns, we worked nonstop. We started at dawn and worked late into the evening. I couldn’t expect that level of round-the-clock work for people at the average nonprofit. Not only couldn’t I expect it, it was actually unhealthy. My habit of consistently waking up at 4 am to work was profoundly unhealthy for me and harmful for the teams I was leading.

        As life coach and spiritual healer Iyanla Vanzant has said,

        “We learn a lot from what is seen, sensed and shared.”

        The message I was sending to my team was ‘I will value you if you work the way that I work, and if you respond to my 4 am, 5 am and 6 am emails.’ I was essentially telling my employees that I expect you to follow my process and practice.

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        As I advanced in my career and began managing more people, I questioned everything I thought I knew about leadership. It was tough. What worked for me in one professional setting did not work in other settings. What worked at one phase of my life didn’t necessarily serve me at later stages.

        When I began managing millennials, I learned that while committed to the work, they had active interests and passions outside of the office. They were not willing to abandon their lives and happiness for the work, regardless of how fulfilling it might have been.

        The Way Forward

        To be an effective leader, you must know yourself incredibly well. You must be self-reflective and also receptive to feedback.

        As fellow Lifehack contributor Mike Bundrant wrote in the article 10 Essential Leadership Qualities That Make a Great Leader:

        “Those who lead must understand human nature, and they start by fully understanding themselves…They know their strengths, and are equally aware of their weaknesses and thus understand the need for team work and the sharing of responsibility.”

        The way to determine your leadership style is to get to know yourself and to be mindful of the feedback you receive from others. Think about the leadership lessons that were seen, sensed and shared in your family of origin. Then think about what feels right for you. Where do you gravitate and what do you tend to avoid in the context of leadership styles?

        If you are really stuck, think about using a personality assessment to shed light on your work patterns and preferences.

        Finally, the path for determining your leadership style is to think about not only what you need, or what your company values, but also what your team needs. They will give you cues on what works for them and you need to respond accordingly.

        Leadership requires flexibility and attentiveness. Contrary to unrealistic notions of leadership, being a leader is less about being served and more about being of service.

        More Leadership Tips

        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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