COVID-19 hit people and financial markets like lightning from the sky.
No one expected 2020 to be the year we experienced a massive global pandemic. The worldwide consequences in the labor markets were also unprecedented. Small business owners and employees alike experienced a loss of income.
In just 18 weeks, nearly 53 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance. That’s more than the number of claims filed during the Great Recession.
As one of the many made redundant by COVID-19, I thought it might be good to share some tips with others who might experience the same:
>> Your feelings are valid.
It’s okay to fear an invisible virus that no one had even heard of less than a year ago. Recognizing and acknowledging your feelings is the first step to healing.
That includes recognizing the feelings of, “Why me and not x, y, or z?”
Unless your employer is bankrupt, some will be kept on pay, while others are put on leave. You’re not a bad person for wanting to keep your spot in the group, even at the cost of a colleague’s spot. Your feelings are valid.
>> Seek the help you need.
The immediate reaction for many when losing income is cutting all costs. While it might make sense from a financial perspective, from a mental health perspective, it doesn’t.
Don’t cut off therapy. Don’t cut off doctors’ appointments. Don’t cut off medical treatments. But also, don’t avoid seeking the help you need for navigating the new situation you’re in.
Outsourcing tasks you find overwhelming is necessary. Some are privileged with friends and family who are professionals in relevant fields. Most are not and would have to depend on others’ charity or the (paid) services of working professionals.
What that means differs from person to person.
For some, that means seeking career advisors. Being laid off is often not something you can prepare for mentally. “What am I going to do now?” is often not an easy question to answer. There is no shame in seeking professional guidance for your next step. Career counseling is self-care and should be recognized as such.
For others, that means learning new skills to develop your next income stream. Have you always dreamt of being a yoga teacher or a meditation teacher, but lack the skills to do so?
If you have done the necessary research and taken the steps required to prepare yourself for the responsibilities of being a freelancer or an independent business owner, you should allow yourself the luxury of developing the new skills necessary to do so.
For me, there was an unexpected and slightly surprising need for legal guidance. Given that I have graduated law school and am fairly up to date on rights and rules, it was shocking that I felt the need to consult someone else on the most basic things. However, when I was the one who needed help, I felt paralyzed. Find experts you can trust and be up-front about your budget to avoid uncomfortable surprises down the road.
Seeking out professionals who can handle the parts you feel are out of reach might save you money in the long run. Trauma and mental exhaustion can be financially lethal as well as burdening your life permanently.
>> Give yourself time.
Losing your job can leave you with a wound that takes time to heal. If you can and feel you need it, give yourself the time you need. If that means dipping into retirement funds, sleeping on the couch of a friend, or having to sell-off valuables, so be it.
The most valuable thing in your life is yourself (unless you have dependents). Take care of yourself first, then help others.
And so what if a sabbatical year will set you back financially?
So what if you have less when you’re older?
You can always make more money, but you can’t go back in time. Protect yourself. Allow yourself to heal. Give yourself time.
>> There is always a job somewhere.
And after you’ve taken the time to heal, consulted the professionals you felt were necessary for your situation, and decided on a new path, don’t be disheartened if things take time. There is always a job out there; you just haven’t realized or found it.
Maybe you’re not cut out for what you think you’re supposed to be?
Maybe you would excel at something else?
Maybe you would thrive doing something completely different?
If things take time, it might be because you’re looking in the wrong places. Maybe writing isn’t what you should do to make money. It doesn’t mean you should stop writing; it means you should stop forcing yourself to write at others’ mercy.
Or maybe it’s not the job, but the place.
Maybe it’s time to move and explore a new place. Find somewhere else—somewhere new. It has been said that “Moving on is messy, hard, beautiful, & brave—it is all of this.”
Yes. And sometimes it is also necessary.