When I was a teenager, I remember my mother opening a small candy shop in a shopping centre. She had previously been working a number of years at one of Unilever’s factories as a process worker, and put her hand up to take a redundancy package. With a sizeable lump sum of money, she wanted to try her hand at a small business. As a migrant worker who didn’t speak fluent English, and had no experience running a business, she was so excited the day she and my father found this shop and decided to buy it. In retrospect years later even to now, I feel so much regret and sadness for my mother because she ended up closing the store after running it at a loss for a few years, and losing all of that lump sum she received leaving Unilever (and more). Mistakes bred from inexperience meant she was still paying out an enormous lease for the shopfront and other equipment costs, despite closing down the store. Far from the happiness and success she thought she would find in owning her own shop, she found herself unemployed and in financial distress.
I had always been an advocate for my parents. Migrant families usually anoint their eldest child with that responsibility. Along with calling the telephone provider helpdesk when the phone or internet doesn’t work. So, when my mother became unemployed and was looking for a job, I too found myself unceremoniously unemployed, and grieving.
The pain, grief and shock for many people who have recently lost their jobs thanks to Covid-19 is being felt all around the world, so you are not alone. And the supply and demand curve is not favourable to said unemployed. Trite, perhaps, but not at all facetious to say: it is simply a matter of time. Businesses will slowly recover – some quicker than others. And in the meantime, there is some waiting that cannot be avoided. The question is, what can be done during that uncomfortable, potentially long, and uncertain wait? There are three key things to focus on achieving if you find yourself in this current position: firstly, sustain and nurture your daily wellbeing, secondly employ a few short-term solves, and lastly be poised to jump into that new role the moment it becomes available. Here are some ideas to help you achieve those and hopefully emerge from the lock down ready for a do-over of 2020.
Nurture your wellbeing
Financial concerns and stresses were the hot topics that I remember my parents fighting about when I was a child. And as an adult myself now, I completely understand why – personal finances, particularly stretched household ones, can cause (sometimes an inordinate amount of) distress. But you cannot fix problems and come up with an action plan if you are not thinking clearly, emotionally distraught, and unfocused. Take a step back. Breath. And try to slow. It. Down. There isn’t a lot that you can do immediately right now about finding another job. Most likely the places you would be looking to work for are not hiring, they are all cutting. So park the job hunt for a brief moment.
If there is any silver lining to the global pandemic, it is that many people are blessed with the gift of time at home. Use that time to energise and replenish your needs. Remember and engage with the little things that spark joy in your life (sorry, Maria Kondo seemed so fitting right there). Some of the simplest things will calm and soften all the edges of life for a little while. Bake more, write more, read more – these are activities rapidly refilling my energy bucket as I spend each weekend and evening exiled from my treasured wine bars and omakase menus.
When you have spent some time shelving your worries – yes, some of us will only have that as a fleeting luxury whether it be a few hours, days or weeks – with a clearer head you can start to creatively put together that action plan.
Consider decluttering your belongings. With the gift of time, you can clear out those garage tools, old furniture, or book collection that you don’t need any more and sell them on online – jump onto eBay, Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist. There are still plenty of active buyers on all these platforms. For the fashionistas or wardrobe hoarders, the same goes for a nice big wardrobe cleanse. Make use of being at home during the day with natural light to take good, flattering photos of those cute vintage shoes you never wear anymore, and list them for sale.
If you own higher end pieces then designer resale platforms like Vestiare Collective, Reebonz, TheRealReal are meccas for people quelling their boredom with excessive online shopping. As they say, one person’s trash is another’s treasure – you might surprise yourself with how a little sorting and photography effort can yield a decent cash return. And if online selling is a bit daunting for you, there are a few physical consignment stores that are still operating that you can approach with your preloved wares – they’ll of course take a higher fee than you selling yourself via an online platform, but they offer the convenience of taking care of the sale for you and offering your item to their own loyal shoppers who also prefer to buy in-store over online.
Airtasker and freelancing sites like Upwork are great channels for you to offer your skills for discrete (or possibly even ongoing) tasks and work. Start by browsing listings created by users on Airtasker who are looking for help for their tasks and then bid for ones you are comfortable completing. The beauty of these platforms is they serve as online marketplaces for service buyers and service providers to come together and broker a deal. From resume writing to help with a house move, the variety of tasks the collective community needs done is far and wide.
For those feeling supercharged and creative, now is also a great time to think about potentially launching that online business you have had bubbling in the back of your mind for so many years. The greatest value of the digital revolution we are living in is the elimination of global borders – barriers to entry for many businesses now are lower than in the past and access to a worldwide audience is readily proffered through the www. Whether it be that organic goods store or cup-cake baking classes that you have dreamed about starting, do the research now and ponder how you might get things rolling and set up right now online.
Reset, reframe, and relaunch into employment
With a focused and energised mindset, now is when you want to plan for your career re-entry. Recognise that competition will be high when job supply starts opening up again. You want to be in prime positioning when you start applying for jobs. Even if your job loss is intended to be temporary at this stage and your employer has said that once lock-downs are lifted they plan to bring you back, the uncertainty in how quickly businesses will recover means you really need to be bringing your A game back to your workplace.
Temporary stand downs and returning back to your employer
Start your planning by putting yourself in the shoes of your employer and what the biggest business challenges are that they face. Try and really map it out. For restaurants for example, the biggest issue is going to be re-building the lost revenues of diners by bringing them back in and attracting new customers. How will a restaurant do that? Is it by increasing their advertising presence on social media? Offering dining deals and promotions? For the corporate folk, professional services firms like Deloitte, KPMG and PwC have had to scale down employee hours and remuneration for divisions where they have experienced significant drops in revenues from the pandemic. How will they be recrafting their value proposition for advisory work when businesses start ramping up again? Perhaps for the consulting arms of these firms, they might anticipate a greater focus on risk governance by corporations – meaning they will target their service offering in risk consulting and pitch their expertise around that. When you think through the detail of this you can then start working out where you can add value as an employee. Do not be defined by what your role was previous to the pandemic. Businesses will be different when they emerge, which means your job is likely to be changed in some way too.
Hunting for a new job
In a similar scenario to returning to a current employer, if you find yourself job hunting afresh, start by thinking from the perspective of a prospective employer and what they are going to be looking for emerging from a pandemic. It almost sounds surreal, but how will businesses operate upon surviving a global health crisis? It is certainly going to be more than the usual business as usual activity that companies were used to pre-Covid. There is value in spending time thinking very broadly about all the skills and experiences you bring to the table, that are going to need to be uniquely applied to a business in the latter part of 2020 and beyond.
Next comes upskilling and research. Keep yourself aware of the news going on in your industry to understand trends and challenges. You’ll want to ensure you are ready to come back into the workplace with all the knowledge you need rather than interviewing for something only to find out you’re missing a key accreditation or important knowledge about industry regulations that you could have spent your lock-down time learning about, achieving or at least working towards.
Read more. Find out about potential growth industries and which companies, based on their business plans, are likely to be hiring sooner than others. Target those sectors if you can.
And finally, again with the gift of time, have a look at many of the online courses, workshops and seminars that are being offered at discounts or even complimentary – utilise what is available to continue your development at your leisure. You can come out of this spat of being jobless as a clear-headed and enhanced version of your former self.
It is daunting. And losing your job whether temporarily or permanently will have an enormous emotional impact on you. Make sure you set aside the fear of the financials for a little bit so you can allow yourself to process those emotions before you try to spring into action. Making that time to nurture your wellbeing is vital to sustaining yourself through this period, and to being able to take positive steps towards becoming re-employed. You are not alone. Try and find some solace through undertaking those valuable steps to achieving your emotional health, and equipping your return to work strategy.