As cities look for creative ways to financially recover from the devastating economic impacts of COVID-19, many have already or will begin to impose furloughs or even layoffs as a last resort to balancing the budget. Many of us will be directly impacted by these necessary budget cuts either through our own positions or that of our colleagues and friends.
Sadly, a few weeks ago I was one of many impacted by pandemic related layoffs. I was only a year into my tenure with a city I loved and absolutely wasn’t planning on leaving any time soon, but my generalist position was non-essential and ultimately cut.
I’d be lying if I said it’s been an easy road, but I’ve learned a few things along the way that thought I’d share with anyone either currently or potentially looking at being furloughed or laid off.
You didn’t do anything wrong.
The sooner you accept that this is not based on your performance, the easier it will be to move to an action-oriented mindset. Write it on your bathroom mirror, cover your fridge with sticky notes that say it, repeat it to yourself every morning when you wake up.
Do whatever you need to do to drill it into your head that this situation is the result of a once in a lifetime pandemic with economic impacts that no one prepared for, not anything you did. I have to keep reminding myself that I am a public servant and my life’s goal is to improve communities and by eliminating my position, my former employer is able to continue to provide essential services that keep residents safe. Me losing my job is the ultimate act of public service.
Maintaining positive relationships should be your number one priority.
Your former employer is now a reference for any job you apply to, even outside of local government, so exiting the organization as gracefully as possible should be your top priority.
It’s okay to be angry and it’s okay to be frustrated but do not let those emotions control your behavior. It is absolutely imperative that you leave your former organization on good terms. You are going through a lot but imagine how hard it was for those in charge to make the decision.
Remain empathetic, humble and grateful for the time you had in the organization and all that you learned. You will take this with you to your next job.
Seek out someone that knows the industry.
One of the biggest blessings given to me during this challenging time was the advice to seek out a career coach. Immediately after finding out I was being furloughed, I began working with Nicole Lance of Lance Strategies.
Nicole has a wealth of experience working in and for local governments around the country and understands the politics and nuance required to be successful in this field. Not only has she helped me polish my resume and cover letter, she has been a sounding board and consistent force of support when I needed it most.
She’s called me out when I needed to be brought back to reality and has given me permission to mope when I needed it. And while you may feel like you don’t need a career coach, I can’t stress enough how important it is to have someone like Nicole is during this time.
For this one, I’m going to quote the very first email Nicole sent me. I refer back to it often, especially when I’m having a BLAH day (which still happens fairly frequently).
“Take some time to grieve, be pissed off, be grateful, veg out, get active, binge watch, journal, cry, paint, talk to friends, clean, don’t clean, feel good, feel bad… basically whatever you NEED to do at that specific time.
No self-judgment on that. No questioning it too much or overthinking it. Any time you hear yourself saying “I should…” remember that in this email I’m giving you permission NOT to “should all over yourself”. “I should” is a good reminder to consider what you REALLY want to be doing. (even if it’s nothing)
Continually ask yourself “what would make me feel good right now?” and then just do that next. Consider it a weekend of cleaning out brain space and emotional clutter so we can turn energy and attention to what’s next. Keep track of what feels good, as these will be good indicators for ongoing maintenance work.”
Get to work.
Yes, you’re now unemployed which sucks a lot, but the only way to find a new job is to get to work. Start reaching out to your network to let them know you’re looking; put out feelers for potential positions coming available; update that resume; make a weekly list of things you will accomplish.
Job hunting while unemployed is extremely hard in normal circumstances, let alone during a pandemic so you’re going to have to be intentional about how you stay motivated.
Find productive ways to stay busy, even if it’s just informational interviews with peers in other organizations. My best days are always ones where I have things scheduled on my calendar, even if it’s “job search” from 1:00-2:00pm or “take a walk around the block” from 9:30-10:30am.
Fill up that calendar with items you will achieve for the day and find opportunities that help you continue to grow as a professional, even if it’s participating in an online webinar or reading a related article.
Nothing about this is fun, in fact it sucks quite a bit. You’re going to have good days and you’re going to have bad days but you’re going to get through it.
You will find a new job and you will be okay. Talk to your friends and family, remind yourself of the good things in your life and wash your face every night before bed (I’m not joking. Washing off the good and bad from the day has magical powers).
I am more than happy to be a sounding board or ear to listen should you need someone. We are all in this together!