What Do I Do Now?
“In this time of darkness, let us choose to see and be the light for others.”
Dr. Michael R. Lovell, President of my undergrad alma matter, Marquette University, recently said those words in his video on Marquette’s response to COVID – 19.
His words really stuck with me.
While there is so much of this pandemic that I can’t control, one thing I can do is to try and be the light for others. As an adult, I have already weathered several of the collective tragedies and economic downturns in the United States.
- I lived through the dot.com bust and the ‘pink slip parties’ that accompanied that time.
- I remember, as clearly as this morning, where I was working and what I was doing on 9/11.
- In 2008 when the financial crisis kicked off, I was working with Finance majors at The University of Texas at Austin and coached and comforted college seniors who had their full-time offers revoked.
Now, I’m weathering this pandemic as a small business owner who is trying to keep my team members employed while also working to help all of my clients navigate this uncertain time. And with all that historical perspective, this time feels different. This time is different.
Despite that, one thing isn’t different. . . there are plenty of things in your control that you can focus on to get through the challenges we are facing. Below are some ideas to help those who have lost their job in the economic tsunami we find ourselves in.
Focus on what is in your control
When I work with any client, in any career or leadership situation, we always look to the things that are in our control and try to set aside the things out of our control. Sometimes, though, there are things you can do to mitigate things that are out of your control.
For example, you can’t control when the stores will have the necessary staples you need, but you can try to mitigate the situation by shopping at different stores or going earlier in the morning. You are not in control of the store’s supply chain and, in the end, may not be successful in your hunt for supplies on any given day. The focus, though, is not on the things out of our control. The focus, as with all other times, is on what we can control.
What we can control
One of the ways I am working through this uncertain time is through a meditation course with Deepak Chopra. Many of his comments strike me, but one in particular stayed with me well after the meditation was over:
“Make uncertainty your ally, not your enemy. All leaps forward depend on reaching into the unknown. Once you see the unknown as the source of creativity, you no longer fear it. Instead, you welcome the fact that life renews itself in unexpected ways.”
My take-away from this was that the unknown is not your enemy; it is an opening.
We don’t know what will happen next week, next month, or in the next six months, but we can choose to make this uncertainty our ally and not something to fight or struggle against.
Our Inner Work and External Actions
In our coaching business, we talk to our clients about the ‘being’ and the ‘doing’. The ‘being’ is the inner work and the ‘doing’ are the intentional actions we take from that inner being work. Both sides need to be in balance for us to move forward. There are things we can control in each space.
- We must start with compassion. Be compassionate with yourself and others. We are all doing the best we can right now. No matter what people are posting on social media, most of us are not at our most productive at the moment. We are bombarded with stress, uncertainty, fear, social isolation, too many roles to fill, etc. Be compassionate with yourself. Lower your expectations.
- Allow yourself to grieve. Grief may be what you are experiencing at the moment, whether that is the loss of a job and your income, or simply the loss of our normal, everyday lives. Harvard Business Review recently published a great article that talks more about grief in the context of COVID-19.
- Now is a great time for reflection. Reflect and ask yourself some questions related to your career:
- What do you really want out of your career?
- Is this the path you want to stay on or is it time to think about transitioning to a different career field? Now is the time to get clear on how you define what you want out of a career and to explore if your current path is the right one for you short-term and long-term.
- Given the current economic reality, you may not have a choice but to switch to a different career path. What different paths exist for you with your current skillset? What are some paths that you could transition to with some training or obtaining some new skills?
- Review what gaps exist between your current skillset and a different career. Are there online classes you can take to address any of these gaps? Right now, if you have the time/space/energy use it to learn a new skill. Many technology platforms are offering free courses right now, and it could be a good time to take advantage of the opportunity.
- Examine the state of your resume. Now is the time to update your resume with your most recent experience and truly highlight the impact you have made in your last position. Take the time to also review your LinkedIn profile. Now is the time to update all of your branding collateral.
- Continue to connect with individuals in your network or establish new connections. Networking is all about building relationships. That doesn’t need to stop now. While you may not be able to grab lunch or get coffee to have in-person conversations, there are a lot of ways to connect through technology.
- Take small actions to avoid getting overwhelmed with what is in front of you. Break down tasks into achievable steps.
- Find ways to help others during this time; to be the light for others. We are all suffering. Perhaps running errands for more vulnerable populations is an option for you, or sewing cloth masks, or simply checking in with friends and family to see how they are doing. There are many ways we can help others.
- Don’t forget about the myriad emotions you are experiencing right now. The emotions and the stress need to be processed. Find a way to work through them that works for you . . . laugh every day, dance it away, meditate, find ways to exercise indoors or safely outside.
We will get through this. Life will look different, feel different, and be different on the other side. Through everything, our team will be with you and will be your partners in navigating through this uncertain time. We are resilient. We will emerge stronger.
“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.” ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning