Identity and Grief

Life after redundancy

“Come in, car number 9, your time’s up!”

I’m grieving. It’s three days since my employment ended at Heathrow, and I’ve taken some time to reflect how this break in the thread of my career has shaken me, and found me wondering how healthy it is for us to have an identity so entwined with our workplace.

I can tell you right now that this question would never have entered my head two months ago. I was Heathrow. I led with the company’s values and culture in everything I did. It was also more than the prescribed slogans, though. It was the pride I felt being part of LHR. Being part of the aviation acronym ‘in-crowd’.

Now that I’m no longer part of that crowd, I have found myself a bit lost as to who I am as ‘just’ a generic leader – without all the aviation razzle-dazzle. I am questioning how I am to transpose HAL experiences and achievements into differently shaped competency boxes that will make sense to another potential employer.

I’m sure I can’t be alone in this. A 2014 Gallup poll showed that 55% of American workers get a sense of identity from their job. This number has remained steady since the nineties. I’m sure it would be similar today in the UK, and with unemployment rising, it’s not hard to conclude that there are many people right now wondering who they really are without the anchor of a job.

Reflecting on how far I have come over the last nine years, I can easily see how my Heathrow identity has positively impacted my sense of self, my leadership and my resilience. So, perhaps it is time for me to embrace this fact, and rather than try to shed my ‘Heathrowness’ I should celebrate the positives it has given me, and concentrate on articulating that to my next employer.

Who knows… this is just the start of the journey, and although it’s bittersweet, I know it’ll be a good one.

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