By Randy Hain

I am often asked questions by my professional and personal networks on career, life and leadership topics. I have noticed patterns of intensity over the years regarding certain questions and I will be sharing my answers to these questions in the form of short blog posts over the next several weeks in an effort to help others who may be dealing with the same issues. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I promise to share with humility and candor the approaches I recommend, drawn from my observations and personal work/life experiences over the years.

I recently received a question from a longtime friend that is similar to other questions I have been fielding for years about dealing with self-worth and identity issues after losing a job. My friend was part of a significant re-organization at his company several months ago and his senior leadership role was eliminated. He had been very successful in the position over the years and devoted himself to the company and his team. He is an exceptional husband and dad with a heart for serving the community. After leaving his job, he made the most of this period to invest heavily in quality time with his family, wrote most of his first book and stayed engaged with meaningful consulting work while seeking his next full-time role. He and his wife even bought a small franchise business as an investment. Six months later, he is still looking for a new job and reached out to me recently seeking guidance on how to deal with what he called a lingering crisis of identity about not being a senior executive leading a large team and all that comes with that responsibility.

With his enthusiastic permission, I am sharing my response below…


What you are facing is a very common challenge for a number of senior business leaders I know. When we are fortunate to enjoy success in our careers and hopefully do work we enjoy, losing our job can make us feel uncomfortable, unfulfilled or worse.  For many leaders, it can come down to understandable worry about finding a new job to support the family and maintain a lifestyle to which we have become accustomed. As you said in your situation, it can also often create a crisis of identity.

What you may be experiencing is an awareness that you had a lot of your self-worth and personal validation wrapped up in this last job. This is not unusual! You had a big role, built a great team and enjoyed a lot of success. Losing that job has possibly created some doubts about who you are and your path forward.  My encouragement to you is to recognize and connect more strongly than ever to your true priorities in life. Knowing you, they are likely God, family, health, relationships and work in that order (or something similar). Over the last six months, you have been steadfast in your faith, given a ton of quality time to your loved ones, have written (most of) an exciting new book that will change lives, engaged with a number of interesting people and purchased a new business.  All of these amazing faith, time, creative and financial investments are seeds you are planting to build a bridge to a brighter future that will more than replace what you are missing from your old role.

My humble advice to you:

Be patient. You will eventually feel less anxious about leaving your old role as you see new opportunities open up for you. It takes time to find a new opportunity, sometimes as long as a year, and you are doing the right things that will help you identify and land a new position.

Trust in God’s plan for your life. Consider St. Thomas More’s famous quote: “Nothing can come but what God wills. And I am very sure that whatever that be, however, bad it may seem, it shall indeed be the best.” Remember to be grateful for your challenges, not just your blessings.

What will be inscribed on your gravestone? Do you want to be remembered as a senior executive OR a great husband, father, man of faith, community servant and someone who positively impacted the lives of everyone he met? We should never want our gravestone to read “He Had A Great Career”. Let this idea re-connect you to a deeper understanding of where your identity, value and self-worth truly reside.

Recognize all of this as a gift and be grateful. The last several months have been a gift to re-calibrate your life, strengthen your already impressive personal foundation and prepare for the next opportunity. Be grateful for this time and reflect on the lessons you have learned in the years ahead.

Lean on friends. You have friends and relationships all over the country. Don’t be afraid to ask them for assistance with your search, just as you always help and serve them. Don’t let pride get in the way of activating a network of people who care for you and will do anything to help.

Design your ideal personal life before your career life and make sure the next role you choose conforms around the other more important priorities I shared earlier. Doing this will make you a better person, a better leader and even more successful at work. You are good at this now, but be even more intentional with your next job.

The bottom line is you are so much more than your old job. With God’s help, you have a built a values-based life filled with countless blessings. Every day that passes puts more distance between you and your old role. Savor this time, remember your identity and self-worth is not defined by the work you do and keep in mind that we should always be working to live and not living to work.