“Good afternoon, Sir, is this a good time to talk?” I asked. “Not really can I call you back?” He answered. This was a midday morning call to a gentle man who had been referred to me for career coaching and counseling following a job loss through retrenchment. These are some of the most delicate calls that one has to make. Most of the people are marred with confusion, anger and self-pity. This call was however different.
He called back later in the evening. “Sorry madam, I was held up in a long day meeting,” he said. This got me curious. The information I had, indicated that he had been laid off a month earlier. Most people in this situation would still be at home trying to find themselves. He mentioned that he had been assisting a friend to run a certain project and had offered to accompany him to a meeting where they were reporting on the project progress. This is a step in the right direction, I thought.
As the conversation unfolded, he also noted he had been to two interviews already. He did not succeed in one of the interviews and was waiting for feedback from the second interview. He also had an interview coming up the following day. This was impressive progress made within a month. In the 1-hour conversation, I did not hear any form of self-pity. He had analyzed what transpired in his previous workplace and he had made peace with it. He was ready to move forward within a week of losing the job. He had reached out to friends, former colleagues, HR managers in his network and anyone else who mattered.
This was clearly not a case of counselling as the former employer had expected. This was a coaching conversation. He was clear on what kind of help he required. He was determined and committed to make the next move. Three weeks into our coaching engagement he had a job offer. The most interesting part is that a day before reporting to the new job he had another interview scheduled.
This experience was very different from an old colleague who had reached out around the same time. She had been out of work for months. She had been to two interviews in a span of six months. She did not succeed in either of the two. As I listened to her, I picked a number of things. She took four months to make a decision to move on after the retrenchment. In the four months she was in denial, she believed she would find a way back to her position. As time unfolded, she became bitter, frustrated and fell into self-pity. Unfortunately, these feelings are easily picked even in an interview room. She did not reach out for career coaching, she reached out because she felt discriminated by the interview panelists; another indication of self-pity, self-blame, and blaming others.
Restructuring and retrenchments have become common place in the wake of Covid- 19, heightened inflation and sometimes workplace politics. No one is immune to the consequences. You can however make your transition less painful by preparing for the eventuality.
- Build networks when you do not need them – Your network is not just someone you know or who knows you. It is someone who knows what you are capable of and can vouch for your skills, competence and character. They range from former colleagues, your juniors, clients and other industry players.
- Nurture your adaptability – One of the major challenges to change is complacency. If you have been with the same employer for a decade, you develop emotional attachment and a level of entitlement. This heightens your uncertainty in case of job loss. If you are used to changing jobs a job loss feels like just another shift. It makes it easy for you to detach and move on.
- Embrace your reality – Each person has a background that is unique to them. Do not act like you do not need a job or start a big venture just to spite your former employer or colleagues. Analyze your finances, your life goals, your options and make the most prudent choice.
- Focus on what you can control – The secret to change is not on focusing on the old but in putting all your energy in building the new. The more you focus on the loss the more frustrated you get. You may not turn the tables with your former employer, but you can make strides to your next employer.
- Start where you are and use what you have – The earlier you start the better. You do not need an office in a major business zone to start that venture; you probably need a corner in your house to start off. As my coachee above mentioned, I am willing to take even half the salary I was getting to start off, I can use my car for taxi services, I can support a friend’s project, but I will not sit and wallow in self-pity or blame others.
“You are not responsible for the actions of others. You are only responsible for yourself. Life may throw bricks at you, people may dishonor you, but you are in control of how you show up in the world. Take full responsibility over your actions.”
Photo by Pavel Danilyuk: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-in-business-attire-carrying-a-laptop-8424941/