Articles and News

Who are you when you’re not at work?


In our current times, many people are facing redundancy.  A lot of the people that I work with have been working full-time in busy roles for a number of years.  When the work context is suddenly taken away, one feeling they commonly experience is “who am I?”

In our society, our work persona is a very large part of who we are.  How often do we ask people “what do you do for a living?”, “what job do you do?”, “where do you work?”.  I feel that the 2020 lockdown has also made our work and home persona even a bit more blurred.

If we’ve thought of ourselves, for so many years, behind the idea “I’m a lawyer”, “I’m a leadership coach”, “I work in marketing”, how do we learn to re-engage with our deeper self when that is either stripped away or no longer aligned to where we want to be?

Wallow in Discovery
I work with my clients through the DREAM process (Discovery, Research & Refine, Equip, Action and Mindset).  Whatever your reason for re-examining your career, it is worth spending a good long time in the Discovery phase.

I’ve just looked up the definition of wallow and found this description: “indulge in an unrestrained way (something that one finds pleasurable)”.  This is what I encourage you to do.  Strip away all the trappings of your work persona and re-engage with the person you are at your core.  And enjoy the process.

Clues from the past
I often get my clients to work on a career timeline so that the highs and lows from their past can help to analyse the present and inform the future.  But what about going a step further back?

Who were you before you ever started work?  The chances are that the person you were then, is pretty similar to the person you are now but perhaps overshadowed by the work persona.

At school, for example, I did well and wasn’t seen as a troublemaker by those in authority.  However, I did like to bend the rules just so far that I didn’t get into big trouble (only one trip to the headmasters’ office for me but a few close calls!).  I still like to test boundaries as well as have flexibility and autonomy in how I do things.

What were you known for at school?  Were you the class clown or were you more studious?  Were you a “social butterfly” with lots of friends or did you have a few very close relationships?  Did you like to stick to the rules or bend them?  What would your school friends, siblings or cousins say about you?  What are these clues telling you?

Clues from your hobbies
Another area to think about is what you enjoy (or enjoyed when you had time) outside of work.  A couple of weeks ago, my article talked about “Flow” which occurs when you’re employed in activities that absorb you completely.  What are those activities for you?  And, most importantly, what do you enjoy about them?

Do you love the creativity of crafting?  Do you love the satisfaction of building or fixing something?  Do you enjoy the freedom of surfing, the discipline of training, the relaxation of yoga or the concentration of playing a musical instrument?

So many times, I hear clients say “well I’d love to …. but nobody would pay me to do that!”.   After challenging the big assumption that person has made, I would then ask them to explore what it is precisely about that activity that is so rewarding.  More clues.

Clues from other people
Another useful part of the Discovery phase is to acquire some 360 feedback from people that know you well.  I use a simple tool called “Ask 5 people” which is a questionnaire that clients can send out to anyone they know asking for feedback on their achievements, strengths, and values.

It is interesting to see how consistent the feedback can be even when you reach out to a vast audience of people who have known you for varying lengths of time and in varying contexts.

You will find that the people you work with see the “real you”, the same one your family and friends see, despite you feeling that you’ve lost touch with that persona.

A final area to look at is any personality, strengths, behavioural, EQ, values, or other assessments you may have done.  These can often give you a more “data-led” perspective on who you are, and many assessments will even help you to compare and contrast your work and your natural personae.

What you can do now
Whatever your current situation, take some time out to really step back and think about yourself outside of the work context.  Use some or all of the ideas above to really re-engage with that “inner you” and start to think about how you can bring them more into all of your current life streams.

If you would like to explore some of the ideas above in more detail, please feel free to book a call with me to see how we can work together in the Discovery phase.

If you would like this weekly blog sent directly to your inbox, as well as receive a copy of my “Top 3 Ways to Boost Your Career Happiness Right Now,” please click here.