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by SixFigureStart | February 20, 2009

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When you're at a party and you meet someone new, invariably one of you will ask, "So what do you do?" Mostly, it is asked mindlessly; just another piece of small talk to throw out there. But if you've been laid off, it suddenly becomes a source of existential angst. Because for many people, identity is wrapped up in how you make your living. So says the Wall Street Journal:

"The deepening recession is exacting punishment for a psychological vice that masquerades as virtue for many working people: the unmitigated identification of self with occupation, accomplishment and professional status. This tendency can induce outright panic as more and more people fear loss of employment."

Maybe it's because a job title can serve as social shorthand, revealing clues about your income bracket, skill sets, proclivities, whether you're artistic, scientific, or a numbers person. But unless you're passionate about your job, why should you necessarily define yourself by it? My title is Producer. Producer of what? News and Commentary. Well, ok. I am indeed lucky to have a job that I enjoy (or in this climate, have a job period), but to be honest, "Producer" doesn't much match how I see myself. It sounds so mechanical, prosaic, and, I don't know, practical. Would I feel better matched to the title "Provocateur"? "Pimpstress"? "Pachyderm"? Whatever. A person cannot be distilled into one descriptor. Likewise, you are more than the sum of unemployed parts. Have a great weekend!

--Posted by Linda Petock, Vault News & Commentary

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