There’s no doubt that for many people being without a job is like being without a part of yourself. It can be a very difficult period of time. For many, it’s a reason to avoid social events. And yet, when you don’t have a job is exactly when you should be with other people — for company, a few good laughs, support and possible connections.
So, vital to this period of time are things you can say about yourself. “I’m taking a gap year” is one way to make light of the situation. “I’m evaluating my options” is another comeback of this nature to the question “What do you do?” Also important, however, is thinking about what you do and who you perceive yourself to be. A job, even a career, is only a part of any person’s self-concept. Are you a parent? If so, that’s part of what you do. Do you decorate your home, sing in a choir, dabble in the arts, take courses or play an instrument? When people ask, “What do you do?” why not mention your creative side, how you’re engaged in developing some aspect? Why should that be any less important than a “real” job? Perhaps you’re working on translating your creative passion into a way of making a living. If so, you’re an entrepreneur. Why not say so?
A good part of who we are can be what others think of us. But it can also be what we decide to think of ourselves. Do you volunteer? Then you have a job. Do you cook, sew, build, repair/restore old cars, or quilt? Are you trying your hand at calligraphy or photography? Are you looking into teaching, a literacy program at the library or, like a friend of ours who is 63 and in his second year of nursing school, are you engaged in an entirely new venture? That’s exciting. Maybe you’re busy finding the job of your dreams and you finally have the time to do so.
The next time you’re asked what you do, give yourself some credit. You deserve it. The value of any kind of work is in the eyes of the beholder. Sure, it’s great to be able to tell people at a party that you’re an astronaut. But there are few of those. Most jobs and activities are as good as you decide to make them. If someone doesn’t think you’re worth his or her time because you don’t have a job with “caché,” then he or she isn’t worth your time. It’s as simple as that.