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September 1, 2020

#MTtalk Roundup: Lost Your Career Overnight, What Now?

Yolande Conradie

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Tomorrow. Tomorrow is when career dreams come true. It's when we get rewarded for things we did today and yesterday. And it represents more than just the day after today.

Maybe you've put in a lot of hard work this year because you're aiming for a promotion next year. Perhaps you're saving now for a holiday in six months' time. Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow…

COVID and Your Career

And then something happens that upends today and many tomorrows. Something like COVID-19.

One day during lockdown, my cousin and her fiancé made a list of all the people in their combined families whose jobs were unaffected by the pandemic. Between them, they were only able to name six people out of almost 50.

Jenna, one of our cousins, had a well-paying job and had just put in an offer to buy her first house. The seller accepted her offer two days before lockdown was announced. She was supposed to move in at the end of May.

Days later, Jenna's firm told staff that they would not be reopening after lockdown. Now she not only has to navigate the legal maze of extricating herself from the house purchase, but she also has to do it while jobless and without an income.

Industry Sectors Collapsing

Another cousin, Mary-Ann, is a commercial property specialist. She was steadily climbing the corporate ladder and was very excited about being promoted to a new position with a significant salary increase.

During the lockdown, she was told that her promotion was no longer possible, and that her salary would be halved until further notice. The commercial property sector has almost collapsed and Mary-Ann is in danger of losing her job. She doubts whether she'll be able to work in commercial property again.

My aunt Reena owns a high-end safari travel business. But international tourists are not yet allowed into South Africa, and no one knows when travel restrictions will be lifted. Will my aunt's business even be able to return to a fraction of its pre-lockdown bookings? Nobody knows. In the meantime, she's trying to keep herself and her employees afloat.

Time to Reevaluate Your Career?

I can't imagine what it must be like to lose your job and at the same time see the industry you work in being decimated. Losing your job is difficult, but losing your entire career must be doubly traumatic, especially if it happens almost overnight, with no warning and no way to prepare for it.

On the other hand, you sometimes get into a career and stay in it, even though you don't enjoy it anymore. It just seems like too much trouble to start studying again, or to learn a whole new industry and start at the bottom again.

An event such as the pandemic, which impacts so many jobs, careers and industries, may be an opportunity to reevaluate your career. Maybe it's time to think of the job you always wanted to do, but instead chose a more "secure" path. Or perhaps it's time to pay attention to your strengths and the things that other people value about you. How can you use that to forge a new career?

Maybe it's not only time for us all to reexamine our values and how we've done things in the past, but also the time for us to think about how we really want to spend our tomorrows.

"Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder."

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO

Lost Your Career Overnight, Now What?

During our #MTtalk Twitter chat last Friday, we talked about having to deal with suddenly losing your career. Here are the questions we asked, and a selection of your responses:

Q1. What sectors/roles do you see disappearing right now?

@_TomGReid We are already seeing the footprint of malls, department stores, and other retail areas shrink. Even if Amazon moves into old Lord and Taylor stores, the smaller stores that depended on the dept. store foot traffic will be hurt.

@PG_pmp Basically all jobs which can be easily accomplished without any manual intervention.

@DhongdeSupriya Difficult question as "total sector and roles disappearing" is too fast a statement. Maybe for the time being we'll just see a dip or lull.

Q2. What sectors/roles do you see emerging right now?

@letusthink2 Mental health professionals, life coaching, and any business with online capabilities of sending goods and products.

@sciencelabman Online retail had a huge boost, with sales going up massively. Anything where a shift online has been possible has done well.

Q3. What is/was the hardest part of losing your job?

@WonderPix Trying to find a new one with so many others in a global pandemic doesn't make it easy.

@TheCraigKaye For me, it was the immediate security worry of how I'll pay my bills, followed by a career bereavement and then reflecting what shall I do now. It's how we portray ourselves and the decisions we make at this panic point which defines our direction!

Q4. Your working identity might have been shattered, so who are you now?

@lsmurthy99 Working identity is incidental during professional careers, and intermittent breaks are part and parcel of corporate careers. Your competencies, capabilities, knowledge gained over years is your strength of character. You are a great human being firstly.

@J_Stephens_CPA We need to find our identity in more than our work. We should work to make a living rather than living to work. I'd rather be known as my son's dad any day over the tax CPA.

Q5. How do you balance financial pressures with taking your time?

@SizweMoyo For lack of a better answer, if you don't need it, don't worry about spending money on it. But move along as best as you can.

@ColfaxInsurance If you were lucky, you were able to save away for rough times. Cut out the unnecessary: do you really need Netflix/Hulu/takeout etc right now? You can catch up later. Take advantage of the time to reconnect with your family and find the right fit for you job-wise.

Q6. What do you dream of doing/being but always reject in favor of a "steady" job?

@jacharakis I'm working on my dream right now. Rejecting your dream leads to being miserable. Steady jobs are only steady with a plan towards the future.

@carriemaslen Losing my job as part of a major "workforce reduction" at HP freed me up to be an adjunct prof at @UMD, a dream I always wanted to try.

Q7. What do people value about you that you don't, and where could that lead?

@TwinkleEduCons My knowledge, experience & intuition. I forget how much I have done & learnt, and I think that everyone else already knows all the same stuff as I do! I assume everyone knows how to manage anxiety with breathing, for example.

@MarkC_Avgi I think the answer to that would best come from "those people," not from me. Others might be able to say what talents they think I have which they believe I have not optimized. At this time in my life & career, it might be being a mentor.

Q8. Think about your network. Who haven't you had the courage to contact, and why?

@MaryEllenGrom My personal mantra: connect the people, the dots will follow. I probably err on the side of over-connecting, but I rely on my network frequently for so many different things.

@Yolande_MT We don't ask because we fear rejection. No rejection is as bad as missing out on an opportunity that might have afforded you a brilliant career.

Q9. If you were recruiting to your company or team, who would you be looking for now?

@VardhanPande One who has the capability and the heart to work through the thick and thin.

@MicheleDD_MT Well rounded. Interpersonal & emotional intelligence. Problem solver. Collaborator.

Q10. What new skills do you need to learn? How will you do this?

@aamir9769 I need to upskill my leadership skill of managing people and getting the work done, & need more opportunity to speak on public forums.

@JKatzaman Most new jobs entail learning new skills. The key is having an open mind and the flexibility to learn and capitalize on what lies before you.

To read all the tweets, have a look at the Wakelet collection of this chat, here.

Our Next #MTtalk

Fear is a theme that is popping up in conversations more frequently. People fear losing their jobs, they fear the future, they feel uncertain.

One way of dealing with our overwhelming feelings is to remain in the moment, but that's easier said than done.

For our next #MTtalk, we'll talk about being present in a strange (new) world. In our poll this week, let us know which sign of "spacing out" you most often experience. To see the poll and to cast your vote, click here.

Useful Resources

In the meantime, here are some resources relating to attention and focus that we discussed on Friday. Note: some of the resources below may only be available in full to members of the Mind Tools Club.

9 Ways to Future Proof Your Career

Negotiating a Job Offer

Starting a New Job

Core Self-Evaluations

Working With Purpose

Life After Job Loss

Living With a Lack of Job Security

How Resilient Are You?

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