As I get ready to celebrate Labor Day this weekend, I was thinking about this holiday. My natural curiosity led me to look up the history, which began with a workers’ march in New York City in 1882. Congress made Labor Day an official holiday 12 years later in 1894, spurred by an American Railroad Union strike in June of that year.
Why do we still celebrate today? I believe it is because work is important. Aside from the last barbecues and outings of summer, the holiday celebrates the value of work and those who perform it. Labor Day gives working people the opportunity to pause and reflect on the value of what they do.
That value is not only measured in what hard work means to businesses and to our country, but to each person. Each of us must define our individual worth in some measure, and for many, that measure is the work we perform. Promotions and salary increases are tangible measures of our work and our worth to our employer and to ourselves. Work defines us, provides a source of self-esteem, and gives a sense of pride in job well done.
What happens when a person no longer has a job to define his or her value? Losing a job is devastating, not only financially but in terms of a worker’s self-esteem and self-value. Job loss can be especially hard if it is a result of circumstances beyond the worker’s control, having nothing to do with performance. A worker who is used to being rewarded for a good job, performing his or her best, and gaining self-respect as a byproduct will need some kind of support to maintain drive and the will to move forward.
This is where a career counselor or outplacement provider can help. Support to move forward to a new opportunity can maintain a person’s sense of worth and value, which in turn will make it easier to find a new position quickly. Employers, if you need to lay off workers, please consider this as the best thing you can provide to help them transition to a new place.
Work is important. I hope everyone celebrates the opportunity to work this Labor Day!