As I said goodbye and clicked the "Leave" button to close my Teams video call, my head dropped into my hands. Redundancy had knocked on my door. Again.
For the second time in five years, I was being waved unceremoniously toward the Way Out. My role was surplus to requirements. However, in this most inglorious and unsettled of years, the news was not entirely unexpected.
As well as its devastating impact on human life, COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the global economy. As companies strive to survive, many workers on furlough are losing their jobs. Now I had lost mine, too.
It was a bitter pill to swallow. The only solace that I could take, if "solace" is the right word, was that I was not alone.
Many millions of us worldwide have had our jobs affected by the pandemic, but we've each been uniquely affected by it. We are, if you like, different ships sailing on the same choppy ocean.
There are those who've suffered layoff or been furloughed, and those who are streamlining their businesses. There are the self-employed, unsure where their next commission will come from. And the key workers, who risk their health to keep the rest of us in good shape. The list goes on.
The one thing that we all have in common is that we've all had to make adjustments. The fear, confusion, and countless other emotions of a life thrown into limbo can be a potent mix.
This "bit in the middle," the period of adjustment from the old to the new, is what change expert William Bridges called the "Neutral Zone." It can be an uncomfortable time – unproductive and directionless, even. And in these volatile and uncertain times, it's natural to feel a twinge of despair.
One thing that I've learned this year, however, is that we don't have to let these events and emotions scupper us. Not even redundancy. This was brought home to me when, in my new-found surfeit of free time, I read "Work Disrupted," by Jeff Schwartz and Suzanne Riss. It's a roadmap for navigating the future of work and a playbook for making the best possible job of it.
The book discusses how we can position ourselves to benefit from future opportunities, through building resilience and cultivating new mindsets and capabilities. It concludes with a host of action points, mindset shifts, tips, and insights from the author and others in the know.
It has profound relevance to anyone who wants to thrive in tomorrow's world. It's an enlightening read.
One of its most interesting sections looks at that "bit in the middle" – the transitions. People today will work for an average of 12 different employers during their lives, the authors say. So, whether we like it or not, we'll experience a whole lot more twists, turns and transitions in the future than we're used to. Even now.
Multi-stage, multi-chapter lives will be the norm. Returns to education, portfolio working, self-employment, paid employment, retraining, reinvention, exploration, and transition are already displacing the "one-and-done" career model.
The ability to pivot between these stages, to expand our capabilities and stretch adaptability, will be crucial. We must actively plan for longer, more winding careers, now and in the future.
In short, we have a choice. We can let transitions unsettle, slow or paralyze us. Or we can see their potential and prepare ourselves to hit the ground running when they arrive.
A growth mindset, an enthusiasm for being challenged, and a love of continual learning and development are all key components of a strategy for anticipating and managing our career transitions.
The authors' message is that creating such a strategy is not simply a matter of good sense. No, it's survival, pure and simple. If we fail to pivot and transition successfully through the chapters of our working lives, tomorrow's world will leave us behind.
As it turned out, I was fortunate. And especially so, given the awful circumstances of COVID-19. I landed a wonderful new job that has reinvigorated and energized me.
But the message from "Work Disrupted" was clear: we're already entering the future world of work. And it looks very different from what we've been used to. Longer, more varied, and potentially more rewarding careers are ours for the taking. If we can prepare ourselves for the twists and turns that lie ahead.
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Meanwhile, how do you cope when life throws you a curveball? What are your strategies or predictions for the future of work? Join the discussion below and let us know!
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