Bloom Stories is a content series sharing the good — and bad — of your job experiences. For years we’ve felt like undercover investigators learning about the good managers, not-so-great workplace experiences and some of the heartbreaking reasons why folks leave seemingly great places to work. We want to share the revealing stories behind everyone’s career journey, not just the people who make it to the 30 under 30 list. We’ve been listening to your career stories now; we want to share them with the world.
We know that there are genuine implications that come along with sharing your lived experiences. There are power dynamics at play that prevent folks from sharing their story. We are on the receiving end of experiences that make us feel a whole range of things from joy to anger. We want to share your story to help people feel less alone. We hope that these stories will guide readers to more affirming, empowering and good workplace experiences.
After making a move from the American South to Toronto, Taylor Connell* dedicated much of her life to her new job. Her job became her identity, and her co-workers became her friends. The nine-to-five gave her joy, but then she experienced two consecutive layoffs in the span of a year. It took that harsh experience for her to realize the real problem had nothing to do with the companies she worked for and everything to do with how she viewed work in her life.
Falling in love with the job.
Taylor worked in the tech industry as an office manager and loved her work. She considered herself the “office mom” and was committed to making the company she adored even better in every possible way for its 40 employees.
About nine months into her job, Taylor noticed the CEO having back-to-back meetings with the board of directors — seven in total. That’s when she knew something was wrong. By the end of the day, Taylor and seven other employees were told that they were being let go by the company. The experience crushed her.
“I was so attached to the company and position,” said Taylor. “It was my identity — which hurts to have something like that ripped from you.”
It luckily didn’t take long for Taylor to find another job — she was let go from job one in April and started job two in June. This time, she would be an account manager for a recruiting agency. Still in the HR space, though a bit different from her previous role.
The company Taylor joined was small, having less than 10 employees. Working with a close-knit team, Taylor once again became attached to her role, position and coworkers. Despite the role not being as rewarding as her first job, she still gave it her all. Eventually, she found herself in a similar position to her first role: she identified herself with her job and derived a lot of her self-image through her employment.
A cruel twist of fate.
A few months after starting job number two, the COVID-19 pandemic hit Toronto. Terrified from her experience the year before, Taylor became concerned the company might downsize, and she’d be laid off again. That said, she didn’t expect any problems because she’d been delivering good work and had built strong relationships within the company.
“I figured because I was so close to the team (and especially CEO), I would be secure,” said Taylor.
Unfortunately, history repeated itself. Nine months into her second job, Taylor was again laid off. This time though, she was the only employee cut. Confused and hurt, she took this layoff harder than the first: the fact that she was the only person laid off made it sting a little worse because she had no one to commiserate with.
Further, the experience made Taylor realize she hadn’t fully processed the first layoff. She’d always associated her identity with her job (and her ability to perform), so she threw herself into her second job instead of doing introspective work to move past underlying issues that made the first lay off so painful.
You’re not a corporate machine.
After two layoffs from jobs she deeply identified with, Taylor felt defeated, underappreciated, and undervalued. She kept thinking about what she could have done to earn her right to stay but came up short each time because she gave both jobs all she had.
“It was dark for a couple of days,” said Taylor.
Instead of jumping to another job, Taylor decided this time would be different. She’d already considered seeing a therapist to help move through a few issues in her personal life and decided to talk through her layoff experiences as well. Eventually, she began to see how detrimental it was for her to associate her identity with her job fully. She realized that wanting to do great work and valuing your company are great traits, but it’s unhealthy to fully associate your personal worth with how good you are at your job.
One of the biggest lessons she learned was to develop her own hobbies unrelated to work. That way, she could cultivate a stronger sense of self and self-worth without attaching it to her job. Taylor decided on blogging and art, two things she enjoyed doing that were entirely disconnected from an HR professional's day-to-day tasks.
Loving her hobbies but realizing she needed a job for financial reasons, Taylor kicked off her job search again. She was unemployed for four months after the second layoff but found her dream job working as a recruitment specialist for a much bigger company — nearly 200 employees. But this time, she kept her hobbies and approached the role with more self-confidence, not letting her job performance dictate her identity or self-worth.
“My worth does not equate to a job title,” said Taylor.
The third time’s the charm.
After going through the highs and lows of her own job experiences, Taylor sits on the other side of the table as a recruiter. She’s now the person who can make someone’s day with a job offer or deliver crushing news with a job rejection. However, Taylor’s personal experience armed her with a deep sense of empathy for what candidates are going through. She knows how much a rejection (or layoff) can hurt, so she’s always mindful of delivering bad news as kindly as possible.
The double layoff experience taught Taylor the importance of boundaries between your work and your identity, something she advises everyone to think about. You can love your job and give it your all, but make sure you cultivate hobbies and friends outside of work so that your identity is never inextricably tied to one job.
*names changed to protect anonymity.