Picture this. You’re at a party (remember those?) and the host walks up to you, handing you a glass of cold Pinot Grigio. Next to her is a friendly, smiling woman that you don’t know.
The host introduces her to you and shares where they met. Then she turns to you, asking your name and the next super common but problematic question: What do you do?
I know well how this question can sting. From watching someone I loved tense at the question while they struggled through seasons of underemployment to my experiences coaching 30 unemployed people from 11 states and 4 countries. They hate this question. They shared that it reminded them how worthless and powerless they felt.
What if you are still reeling from job loss? What if you know what you do isn’t who you are… but you don’t know how to even detangle your identity?
I gently suggest making a ‘Life Resume.’ This activity was helpful for several of my clients and I hope it will help you as well. Here’s how.
How to Make a Life Resume
Like life, there is no one right way to do this. Here’s a basic template but feel free to make this your own.
Start with your name in beautiful big letters at the top.
They can be in script, hieroglyphics, whatever. You can treat it like a ransom note with cut letters from a magazine. It is your name.
List important dates.
Some examples of this are your birthday, the birthdays of special people in your life, and anniversaries. The only rule is that these dates aren’t directly related to your work identity or your job. (If you love your academic achievements like I do, you can include those even though they are usually somewhat connected to work.)
Write out your non-work roles and their responsibilities.
Say you LOVE being the cool Aunt to your wild nieces and nephews. Write out “Aunt to 3 wild, amazing kids, 2010-Present” and all your responsibilities as the cool Aunt like “take niece for manicures and pedicures” and “play endless games of hide and seek.”
Some questions to help you identify these roles: What roles do you play in your immediate family? How about extended family? Are you a mentor to anyone in your personal life? Do you volunteer your time somewhere? Who relies on you? Who do you love and how do you love them?
List your skills, no matter how silly.
Like you would on a professional resume, your Life Resume should showcase your best skills. Maybe you’re amazing at folding fitted sheets (if so — PLEASE share your wisdom with us, you unicorn!) or you are skilled at solving math problems or word puzzles. No judgement, this is your life and you have developed so many skills to manage it, stay alive, and make your world a better place. This is not the time or place to be shy. List these skills boldly! Your Life Resume has no pretentiousness and no page limit.
Create a section honoring your non-work achievements.
For non-work achievements on my Life Resume, I have things like completing a 5K SUP race and winning a giant Jenga competition at a bar. My clients include non-work achievements like running marathons, giving birth, renovating a kitchen, and joining a local choir. Don’t discount small achievements, too. Made your bed every day for a full week? Go ahead and add that, you incredibly well-adjusted adult!
Add your references.
Identify the people that love you and know your best self. I know this can be uncomfortable but ask them to be your personal reference. List the people you can call when you feel down, especially if you’re dealing with job loss or worthlessness.
Bonus tip: Actually get some reviews from these cherished people and include their responses on your Life Resume. For example, “Susan gets 5 out of 5 stars for always making me laugh. Her fashion advice is on point. She makes great margaritas. Highly recommend her as a friend.”
Some Final Reminders
Take the time to reflect on the full picture of your life. So many of us, myself very much included, have wrapped our identities and self-worth around our careers. The process of detangling requires intention. Make a Life Resume. Think about your life and appreciate its fullness as you read over this document. Hang it up somewhere you can see it for the rainy days where you don’t feel like you are enough.
And remember: Regardless of your employment status, you are worthy of love, belonging, and acceptance. Always.