Sunday, November 16, 2014

The possibility that you will look back on this as one of the best things that's happened to you

When I parted ways with Microsoft, a former co-worker said "All good things must come to an end." His trite declaration really irked me because no matter the circumstances, leaving was hard. Working at Microsoft had become a major component of how I identified myself. Leaving meant mourning that element of my identity.

You don't really realize it when it's happening but you become accustomed to the association between who you are and for whom you work. Somewhere in my 12 years there, I became "Heather at Microsoft". I mean, it was my job to be "Heather at Microsoft." The recognition you receive and the reaction of people is part of the deal; you get used to it. It becomes comfortable to the point that you start to think of yourself the way people introduce you. You are more than what you do. But you rarely give yourself the opportunity to step away and dive into the other aspects of your identity.

When you combine the deep association between your ego and your employer with a need to actually go and do something different, things get complicated. For me, it meant staying in a job that was making me unhappy and offering myself up should another round of layoffs be coming. I was scared to leave (I mean, who would I BE if I wasn't Heather from Microsoft?) and I was miserable staying.

This article explains how I was feeling in so many ways. "My heart wasn't in it anymore. I knew it, but I still couldn't leave."

I suspect that it will take a little bit of time for some folks impacted by the Microsoft layoffs to acknowledge that this is also their story - knowing that there is something else out there that they would love to do, but being afraid to go after it because they are so accustomed to having the word "Microsoft" attached to their identity. And then the layoff happens; painful at first and then a relief and an opportunity to explore.

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