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What to do if you lost your job…during a global pandemic

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What to do if you lost your job…during a global pandemic

With each week as the number of people infected with Covid-19 increases, so too does the toll the virus is taking on the global economy and in particular on job security. As I sit here typing this I am personally aware of many brilliant, former colleagues and other individuals in my network who are impacted by significant job losses. But the impacts have been far-reaching – millions of individuals have lost their jobs, their income and are anxious for their future as job losses sweep through industries during these challenging times.

Losing a job is widely-accepted to be one of the most defining, stress-inducing and harrowing life events that we can go through as human-beings. But losing a job in the midst of the crisis of a generation surely takes this to a new level, further amplifying this stress. Besides the straight-forward and practical anxiety of financial pressure, losing a job can also have significant impacts on our mental health, on our relationships, on our mood and also on our overall personal confidence.

The process of losing your job is as much as anything a process of grief. Kublor-Ross highlights five stages of grief including denial, anger, bargaining, depression and then acceptance. When we lose our job, we are in fact grieving for something that once was – a loss of the actual job itself, our workplace and our colleagues, of course, but equally important is the loss of something that feels like an essential part of our being. For many, work has, rightly or wrongly, become a core part of our identity, of who we are and of how we see ourselves. Often we link our sense of purpose and meaning to our paid work. So, losing our jobs or going through times in our lives when work isn’t at the forefront, we can feel adrift from ourselves and anxious about what the future might hold.

At the same time for individuals losing their job involuntarily, it is also common to feel a sense of betrayal by your former employer, to feel that you could have or should have done more, you might even blame yourself or feel like a small cog in a big machine. But we are all so much more than our jobs and our roles are not who we are. They should not define us but rather are a part of the many dimensions that make us unique.

“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity” – Albert Einstein

For individuals who have been the victim of involuntary job losses, here are some steps you can take to navigate through these challenging times:

  1. Give yourself space and time – You will undoubtedly have a strong urge to spring straight into action but take time to sit with the emotions of change and grief. Recognize the sense of loss and take time to really move through these stages to find acceptance before moving forward. This can sound like a lot of work and time, but quite often if we actually find the time to sit in these painful emotions, we will more rapidly move through them to the other side.

  2. Invest in yourself first – create the space to breathe, practice self-kindness and invest in your mental and physical health. Do things that actually feel like they nurture you, that make you feel strong, alive and supported. If you don’t already – find time to move your body – exercise and stay fit. There is a lot of research that points to the impact exercise has on our mental and physical health so devise a plan to integrate exercise into your day.

  3. Next spend time creating awareness and understanding of self – although it might seem counter-intuitive, there has never been a better time to look within to understand who you are, what you value and what you want. Our inclination is to go into action-mode, to quickly look for jobs that we know, that we’ve had or to seek out what is familiar. Now is your chance to discover, to ask questions about what you’d really like for yourself and to come from a position of deeply knowing what fulfillment means for you.

  4. Activate your network – with so many great individuals entering the job search market it will be crucial to connect with and activate individuals who know you and who can help you navigate this competitive landscape. Networks are an incredibly strong tool that we can draw from but they take time to nurture and invest in. Choose the individuals wisely who know you well and who can be of assistance. Be clear about who can help and about how they can do so, and then ask for what you need.

  5. Ask for help – it has never been more important to ask for help – in addition to what we shared about activating your network, it is also crucial to build the skill to ask for help. Whether it is asking for an extension for your rental payments, or asking someone to watch your kids whilst you speak to your network, or asking someone to help proof-read your CV. Whatever it is, most people like to be in service so build the muscle to vulnerably and courageously ask for help.

  6. Find a passion project – maybe you’ve always wanted to take up flower-arranging or wood-work, or perhaps you want to launch that side-hustle you’ve been procrastinating on, or maybe there’s some study you haven’t had time to complete, or maybe there’s even an opportunity to volunteer for a cause that really matters to you. Whatever it is, channel your energy and emotion into the learning and growing your skillset. It might even be your opportunity to pivot, to retrain or reskill in an area that has long been something you’ve wanted to do. There are now numerous online courses and educational resources are now free to support individuals during this crisis. Take this opportunity to lean into something that will bring meaning for you as you find your next role – you never know where it may take you.

  7. Find a partner to journey with you in this experience – There will undoubtedly be bumps in the road, ups and downs as you find clarity and certainty in whatever is next for you. Identify someone who can support you and walk alongside you during this time. This could be a friend, a partner, a mentor, colleague or someone in your family. Or it might also be a paid professional – a counselor, a coach, a psychologist. Regardless of who it is it will be really valuable to have someone objective who can be your partner, help you build your resilience and resourcefulness, and give you the tools to feel empowered as you navigate through these times.

For those of you impacted, know that you will get through these tough times and as you emerge on the other side you will do so with a resilience that will be envied by many. This is just a chapter in a much bigger story that is your life – it is your choice about the mindset you chose and how you equip yourself for this journey.

“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain” – Dolly Parton

Of course we’d much rather have sunny bright days with no rain, and lives with no diversions or speed-bumps but these are not normal times and the storms are definitely here. But whether it is us as individuals, or teams or businesses, know that we are all more resilient than we give ourselves credit for and are made of strong stuff. Just remember, diamonds are made under pressure!


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