Career Development

How to Start the Healing Process

My morning routine: I wake up naturally without using an alarm clock, and slowly realize that I have no job to go to and nowhere to be. For a few blissful moments my mind is at peace, enveloped in a delicious every-day-is-a-Saturday feeling. Then reality sinks in as I remember all the worries that kept me awake the night before. Does that sound familiar to you? I’ll bet it describes a lot of people’s mornings right now. My fear biggest fear right now is that this is only the beginning.

What are the odds? That is the question I continually ask myself as we collectively wade through the muck that is 2020. What are the odds that the world would be riddled with areas that are politically/racially divided, while fighting a pandemic, and undergoing an economic collapse – all at the same time? What are the odds that urgent global warming issues would take a backseat, as we focus on simply surviving day to day?

Right now, I should be entering the home-stretch of my career. After 30-years in the field, I planned to take a victory lap or two before sliding gracefully into retirement in the next 10-years. My life before the quarantine was wonderful, but not easy. I worked 70-hours a week and traveled the world at a pace many 20-year-olds could not tolerate. You know the saying, “Life happens when we are making other plans?” Now, due to this confluence of issues, we are expected to cobble together a new plan.

Because this is not my first day at the rodeo, I have seen all of these crises before, just never all at the same time. Normally, if there was an epidemic outbreak in an area I was about to visit, I would cancel the trip and reschedule when it was safe. Normally, if a client went bankrupt, I would replace them on my roster and work with a different group. Normal has nothing to do with the current situation. Airlines, retail, hotels, spas, restaurants, cruise lines, sports/entertainment venues, and more are shuttered as we all wait to see what the next normal will be.

What to do when the world is on hold? This is the trillion-dollar question. As I write this from my comfortable corner of the world, my thoughts are with the people who have been directly impacted from COVID-19. Last week, a former co-worker of mine passed away. I attended his zoom funeral yesterday, but it is still difficult to accept that he is gone due to this virus, and that zoom was the only way we had to say goodbye. There was no other choice left for his family. It is a tragedy in the truest sense of the word.

Well, as long as I still have choices, I plan on using everything in my power to continue on. When the quarantine started, I did a series of videos recommending the following three actions to try while people were quarantined at home:

  1. Spend time thinking about your current career path and soul-search if it is still the one you want to be on. Also, spend time with your partner or family to ensure that everyone’s life journey is in alignment.
  2. Use the time at home wisely to build up your resume and career skills. This could involve taking a course on-line, getting certified in a specialty, or networking on Linked In. Whatever you had the time, need, and money to do – the past five months could have been used to improve your future.
  3. Look at your expenses and overall financial situation. If there are changes that need to be made, this time at home is an opportunity to evaluate if you are living within your means. If you found it impossible to save before the pandemic, then either spending or earning habits need to be altered.

Have a look at my videos for more detailed information on the points above:

Now we are looking at the situation five months later. For many, the short-term furlough became a temporary lay-off, and is now a permanent termination. I suggest you still complete the first three steps, but now I want to offer the following tips to continue the recovery process:

  1. Thank your former company and boss. This suggestion is tough to do, but crucially important for YOUR career. It is true that some employers are taking advantage of the situation to clean house, but most are letting people go because they cannot afford to pay them anymore. Whatever the reason, remember that it is a small world (getting smaller by the minute). The people you meet along the way in your career will be the people you see again. – Trust me, I learned it the hard way. Being gracious doesn’t mean you need to be totally fake or a kiss-@$$.

Here’s what you might write in an email or note:

“Dear (name),

Thank you for the information regarding my termination from the company. While I am very sad to know I will no longer be working there, I want to thank you personally for the opportunity you gave me and for all that I have learned while working for you. In the future, I may use your name as a reference when searching for employment, and appreciate anything you can do to assist my efforts. I hope our paths cross again, until then, be well.

Sincerely, (your name)” -Keep it classy and keep your head held high.

  1. Forgive your former company and boss. Another tall order but hey, if you have gotten this far, you can do this! I have been reading posts that come up on social media as people lose their jobs. Anger is by far the most popular emotion, followed by sadness, bitterness, then disbelief. What you need to know is that your ex-bosses might be reading these posts too, and if you said anything that could be considered unprofessional and they need to hire more staff back, you will not be one of them. Also, most recruiters and potential bosses will google search your internet profile. Don’t ruin your chances for a future job by complaining about the old one. You can share your upset with friends, but not in writing. Finally, try to remember that this is a company that gave you a job at one point. Perhaps you worked really hard for them (as was expected) and hopefully they paid you what was agreed on each day. That’s it. Unless they owe you money, make a clean break with the note above. If they do owe you money or have done anything that was unethical – talk to them directly or take them to court legally – not in the court of public opinion. In these matters, I remember the quote that is usually credited to Buddha, “Holding on to anger is like drinking poison, and expecting the other person to die.” Let it go and let it inspire you to move on to better things.
  2. Come to every interview with a positive attitude and say something nice about your former employer. Last tip – Potential employers ask seemingly simple interview questions like, “Tell me about your last place of employment?” or “How did you like working at your last company? What did you like best?” They are asking to get to know you, but it is easy to fall into the trap of saying that you did not like your old boss, or you were working too hard there, or it was an unprofessional place. Any of those statements could put your future chances of being hired in jeopardy. No one wants to hire a new employee who sounds bitter from their last job. What they hope to hear? Something like, “It was a great place to work, but as you know, the pandemic resulted in a lot of lay-offs. I am really interested in your company however, especially (say something smart here that shows you researched the job you are applying for).” or “It was a wonderful experience. I learned a lot there and look forward to using these skills in my next position.”

Healing takes time and is different for each person. As we all work to accept what has happened, we need to balance that acceptance with the ambition it takes to recover. These tips focus on making a professional impression to help you succeed in the future. It will not be easy. You may have to act as though you forgave your ex-boss long before you actually do so in your heart. No matter, success is the best revenge. Be safe and live well.

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