When COVID-19 first hit, many businesses were forced to close, and we immediately saw its impact on the service industry. A late-night comedian joked that if he had known that the last time he would be in a restaurant was the middle of March, he would have ordered dessert.
As the pandemic progressed, many other companies and sectors of the economy began to feel the economic pinch and had to make difficult decisions. They lowered expectations, cut budgets, and reduced their workforce. They switched into “survival mode,” which comes with an array of consequences, including across the board layoffs, extended furloughs, and reduced wages. It has been reported that more than 33 million in the United States have lost their jobs. We all know someone who has lost their job; it might even be you. Whatever challenge you’re facing, it’s time to hit the switch on reinventing.
I have had to reinvent myself several distinct times in my career. Some of those were voluntary; others were not so much. I started my career as an electronic technician when silk shirts and bell bottoms were in style. (For the young people in the audience who aren’t sure what I mean, ask your parents or grandparents.) But as a young, enthusiastic electronic technician, I would take a defective PCB, troubleshoot it down to the component, replace the bad component, and put the board back in service.
Over time, changes began to happen in the industry, as they so often do. PCBs became so cheap that it was no longer economical to do repairs the old way. Simple board swapping became the new norm, completely revolutionizing the electronic industry and having a major impact on my field.
It was my first introduction to the cruel necessity of reinventing myself. But, as I’ve learned, it happens to all of us at some point. Maybe that is you right now, finding yourself laid off or furloughed from your work, leaving you disappointed, frustrated, and scared.
Choose to Let Go
Losing a job is a very traumatic and stressful experience. It ranks right up there with losing a loved one, divorce, and moving. It impacts every part of your life: mentally, physically, socially, and economically.
The first and most vital step to reinventing yourself is accepting where you are and how you feel. Yes, it is a terrible experience; it’s okay to feel the way you do, but do not stay there. Those damaging thoughts and feelings are an endless downward spiral, and they can eat you up. Many times, we play the mental games of “what if,” thinking that maybe if you had done something differently, there would have been a different outcome. Don’t fall into that way of thinking.
What makes it worse for many of us is that we derive much of our identity from our work. A Gallup poll recently reported that an astonishing 62% of us feel we get our identity from our jobs. It’s understandable because we spend more time at work than in any other part of our lives. Once it’s gone, it leaves a vacuum.
You must choose to let go, with “choose” as the keyword. We often feel when we’ve lost our jobs that we’ve lost control and have no control over our situation. While that may be partly true, you do have full control over how you choose to react to the situation. It all begins with choosing to let go of the negative and embracing the positive. By doing so, you let go of the past and can now look forward to the future.
Time for Personal Inventory
Once you win the mental battle of reinventing yourself, you can take an honest look at where you are. I would highly recommend not trying to do that before you thoroughly go through the first step of choosing to let go. It completely distorts the real person you are and what you see.
In the interim period between jobs, it is important to mentally and physically stay engaged. Use that time to get organized and conduct a personal inventory. Evaluate your skills, talents, and what changes you would want to make. Quickly identify those areas where you need improvement.
Some may find this whole exercise disturbing because it exposes the good and the bad, but don’t just brush over the “bad” characteristics to focus only on the “good.” The real change of those issues will happen only by honestly acknowledging them and being willing to make changes. Take a serious look at yourself: the good, the bad, and the ugly, as they say.
Shift From the Identity Problem
As I mentioned earlier, so many of us build our identities around our work. During your personal inventory, take the time to create a more profound identity in who you are rather than what you do for work. Jobs come and go, but who you are comes from the inside and provides a healthy balance for every area of your life.
Find Your True Purpose
To have and know a purpose is to have your why. In one of the early Space Shuttle missions, astronauts conducted an experiment with a beehive to test the effect of weightlessness on bees. The first day in space, the bees flew around as usual. But within a couple of days, the bees learned they did not need to fly everywhere but could float instead. This might have seemed like an energy saver for the bees, but it had the opposite effect; every single bee died. The only explanation researchers could determine was that the bees were not doing what they were supposed to do. Part of a bee’s purpose is to fly.
What is your purpose? Is it merely to fill a cubicle, put in the hours, and collect a paycheck every two weeks, or is there something more? You are worth so much more than any job. Find that purpose. I give that to you, not as a judgment, but as a challenge to know your why. When you combine your purpose with your passion, then you will know your true potential.
John Watson, CID, is a customer success manager at Altium.