6 Ways to Navigate Personal & Professional Change in the COVID Era
I’m grateful to my friend, Liz Freedman for sharing her story in this guest post.
2020 has been one for the record books, in nearly all negative ways. But up until a few weeks ago, my family had been mostly spared. I am fortunate that my husband and I have jobs which have mostly allowed us to work from home, and our twin daughters (thank goodness for a built-in best friend to play with!) can be home with us as well.
That’s not to say that we haven’t had challenges. Earlier this summer, my husband was laid off, but it was somewhat expected. He was able to turn his part-time job on the side at a very small company into a full-time role. Sure, it was a big pay cut, but he is getting to make major decisions, wear many hats, and most importantly, it makes him really happy. And to be honest, the feminist in me thinks it’s pretty cool that I’m the major bread winner now.
So all in all, we navigated that first change pretty well.
Then, we decided it was time to move from Indianapolis to Grand Rapids to be closer to family. I wrote a lengthy proposal about why it would be in my company’s best interest to allow me to move out of state and remain a full-time remote employee, and they approved. We swiftly sold our house thanks to this wild seller’s market we are living in. Moving out of state would be a major change, but one we were confident we could handle.
Then, one more change happened.
On a Monday morning my supervisor put a meeting on my calendar for later that afternoon. I thought it was odd, but was too busy to dwell on it. Then, just before the meeting I noticed a name I didn’t recognize on the calendar invitation. After a quick Google search, I learned she was from HR.
Uh oh. This in no way would be a good meeting.
My boss, who was clearly and sincerely distraught, gave the explanation I know so many others have heard over the last several months. “It pains me to say this…the organization is going through a reorganization…this is in no way related to your performance…”.
And just like that, I experienced my first layoff.
So let’s recap:
- My husband had a huge pay cut.
- We sold our house, but can no longer afford to buy a house.
- And I lost the job that I love.
I am someone who loves a plan, especially when it comes to my career. I always prepare methodically for my next move. So needless to say, this transition has been a bit of a shock to the system.
Maybe all those articles I’ve read lately about Millennials being the worst-off generation economically are true. We graduated college right in the middle of the Great Recession, have tremendous student loan debt, and just when we started creating a solid foundation, a global pandemic strikes. Yikes. But it’s best not to feel sorry about ourselves. In all honesty, we don’t have time to waste.
My side gig (I know, another classic Millennial activity) consists of coaching folks through change and speaking/writingabout setting and achieving goals.
So I think it might be helpful for me to share some of the things I have learned about navigating change with anyone who may be in a similar situation as me:
#1: Feel it.
I am just going to say it. Being laid off sucks. I have volunteered with an organization dedicated to childhood grief for several years, so I know that grief can come in waves, be intense or mild, and can change dramatically over time. And I know that we grieve for any and all loss. When I first learned the news that I was being laid off I planned to take a day to wallow before beginning my job search. But that night I became antsy and ended up applying to a few jobs right away. In retrospect, the failure to allow myself to feel those early feelings caught up with me, and I soon became utterly exhausted. Be sure to feel what you feel – only that way can you process the loss, and move forward.
#2: Leverage your network.
First and foremost, your network can be used for support. While finding a job is crucially important, it is also important to be surrounded by people who will cheer for you when things get tough. Once that group is set, consider who you can seek advice from and who you can offer to help. The truth is, managing your network is something that should be done regularly – so if you haven’t revisited your network recently, it might be a good idea to do just that before you really need it.
#3: Treat this as an opportunity.
This year has been a wild ride, and it’s not over yet. Although it is scary, I am actually looking forward to a break. Granted, a break will only be possible for a very brief time financially, so I will in no way slow down my job search. But I will find time for a hobby, time to have fun with my kids, and time to focus on my physical and mental health.
#4: Follow your curiosity.
Being laid off is an opportunity to learn something new. These days you can learn literally anything you want, all while sitting at a computer screen. Whether you are using LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, or even YouTube, there is always more to learn. If nothing else, during this process you are bound to learn something new about yourself.
#5: Nourish yourself.
At the risk of sounding cliché, finding a new job is a marathon, not a sprint. Heck, for some of us it might turn into a triathlon, rich with a wide variety of hurdles to overcome. And just like a long race, this will take endurance. So please nourish yourself along the way. Feed your mind, body, and spirit to ensure that you have the energy you need for every interview, every networking conversation, and every opportunity that arises.
#6: Tell your story.
Take time to reflect on your story. And I don’t just mean the story of how you were laid off. I mean your whole story. Who are you? What motivates you? What do you want to contribute to your community, or to the world? What are the accomplishments from your career that you want to tell others? Think through these questions, and write down a list of themes and selling points. Then, you can share that list with the “influencers” in your network. This is advice I recently received from someone in my professional network, and it has proven to be helpful for both them and for me.
The bottom line is, we have faced unbelievably challenging times before, and we will again. But during these times of personal and professional change comes a chance to learn resiliency, a skill we just may need over and over again.
But that’s enough writing for now…it’s time to keep working on my plan. And of course, if you need help with yours, message me – I am here to help.
Shameless plug warning: And if anyone who works remotely or lives in the Grand Rapids area would like to learn more about me as an employee and as a talent development professional, I would love to share my story with you!
Liz Freedman is a talent development and instructional design professional who has spent more than ten years developing colleagues, adult learners, and students in higher education and healthcare settings. In addition to her daily work in training and development, Liz is also an award-winning presenter who speaks regularly at regional, national, and international conferences and universities. She enjoys providing training and development for large groups and teams, including facilitating workshops on goal setting and other professional development topics.