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Fear + the Dreaded Covid-19 Recession

Covid 19 recession burlington career coach

The word “recession” has been used a lot in recent days. What I’ve been recognizing is the impact this word has on me. I suppose it’s similar to how I feel about the word “pandemic” since we’ve now become so well acquainted.

Yesterday I heard a “job search expert” being interviewed on tv. The message I took away from the interview was that a recession was sure to have devastating consequences for job seekers, career changers, and businesses in general. The expert also noted that anyone lucky enough to have a job now should hold on tight to it. You know, listening to this, I could almost feel my stress hormones squirting out into my veins.

Not to say there wasn’t any element of truth to what she was saying. We've all seen businesses close, people getting laid off or furloughed, and the world of work as we knew it pre-March 2020 is gone, probably forever. I worked as an employment counsellor in a government funded program during the Great Recession, I was deep in the trenches. I saw masses of people lose their jobs and was tasked with helping them find new ones. I saw thousands of Manufacturing related resumes pass my desk. Did people suffer? Yes, they did. Before this, I had also been laid off myself in 2005. The company that employed me lost a big contract and that was that. My line of work meant I was at least somewhat prepared for this and I had another position lined up quickly but I still had all the feels! Did I still go through the range of emotions one experiences when they're told their job no longer exists? Heck ya. There was still denial, there was anger, there was bargaining and even depression before I got to the acceptance stage.

Aren't we scared enough?

When I see an expert use fear as a way to get peoples’ attention, it doesn't sit well with me. Aren’t people scared enough? Aren’t we already feeling uneasy? Hey, I'm no advocate for false positivity--I believe in getting real, I believe in getting uncomfortable but NEVER at the expense of hope.

When someone tells me that the only way I can be hopeful is if I pay them to help me, I want to run. When someone uses fear-based sales copy to position themselves as the expert I need to “save” me, I feel powerless. I feel helpless. I feel hopeless. When I start to believe that I can’t find work during a recession or rise above my fears, I’ll prove it to be true. Whether it’s true or not. That’s how it works. When I start to believe that I can’t change my situation because of a global pandemic, I’ll prove it true. Whether it is or it isn’t.

If you’re uneasy about your forthcoming return to work, you’re looking for new work, or you’re anticipating changes in your career or business of your choosing or someone else’s, words like recession or pandemic might be flashing in your mind. You might be thinking that these circumstances will make things more difficult for you, or worse yet, impossible.

The truth of the matter is, they might OR they might not. They might AND they might not. The truth likely lies someplace in between. But hasn’t it always? Pandemic or not. Recession or not, the truth always has and always will lie somewhere in the middle. This is where you get to choose how you want to show up. You get to pick a side. You can choose the steps you want to take or not take. You get to decide. The job search expert on tv or anywhere else doesn’t get to take away your hope.

Most best practices of job search still apply and work well.

So, if you lost your job and need a new one, you get to decide if you’ll let yourself be freaked out and paralyzed by what that job search expert said. I’m not saying this is easy. I’m saying it’s simple. You can wear the word RECESSION like a cloak of fear or you can recognize that myths abound when it comes to job searching during a recession. People get jobs during recessions, people recover from being laid off, some businesses continue to thrive, many more come into existence, and most best practices of job search still apply and work well.

Historically, recessions lead to innovation. I absolutely believe this. There’s a concept called “creative destruction” which became popular when a political economist named Joseph Schumpeter described a recession as “the foundation for economic progress”. He said “Simply put, the creativity, innovation, ingenuity and diligence of entrepreneurs is at the heart of prosperity and economies grow and prosper when entrepreneurs, in the pursuit of profit, experiment with new combinations of productive resources including raw materials, labour and perhaps most importantly ingenuity". He said it was this process of trial and error that was the engine leading to a brighter and wealthier future. So, can we come out of this a little more resilient? A little stronger? A little better?

How’s that for a re-frame, huh? It’s absolutely true that people are suffering. Women, black, and indigenous people, and people of colour are being hit disproportionately hard as a result of this pandemic and resulting recession. If I focused on only how painful this is, I'd likely never leave my bed. So, instead I want to do my part to support an investment in women, in BIPOC, in entrepreneurship because I believe this is paramount to helping get this economy back on its feet.

Settle on the grey and even learn to fall in love with the "unlovable" parts of life a little.

So, rather than use all my energy to hold on tight to everything I have now, (like that job search expert recommended), I try to remember how I want to look at things, what I want to believe. I can decide to hold tight or I can decide to let go. I can take in the information and decide. Not from the view of only "thinking positive" but by attempting to remain balanced, settle on the grey and even learning to fall in love with the "unlovable" parts of life a little. If I like my reasons for my decisions, I move on and try not to look back unless there's a very compelling reason to do so. I work on appreciating the moment in time I'm in...and yes, it's absolutely work. In my opinion, this is the work. I can acknowledge my denial, I can feel my anger, I can bargain and cry. I can feel all of that. I need to. Then I can come to accept where I'm at and decide what's next. I can show myself compassion as I slip back into the emotions I'd thought I'd gotten past when they show up again. They will. They always do. This is what it means to be a person.

On a final note, this actually reminds me of a conversation I had with a fellow I was in a post grad program with over 20 years ago. We were both aspiring career counsellors. I shared with him that I had a dream of starting up a private practice. His response surprised me. Actually, it felt like a punch in the gut at the time. He said “Christine, stop dreaming. By the time you get experienced enough to do your own thing, you’ll be too old to actually do it”. He really said this—while we were studying the equivalent of career counselling 101. I absolutely could have believed that. I could have decided right then and there to make that my truth. Was there an element of “truth” to what he said? Who knows? Perhaps. Does it matter?

Also, I ran into him about 5 years ago and guess what? He’s also in private practice and incidentally, we’re about the same age. So, there’s that.

Most decisions can be undone.

I like to say that most decisions can be undone. Sure, there will be consequences—repercussions even. I’m solid in my belief that I’d much rather take a misstep on my own terms then hand over my decisions for somebody else to make for me. I don’t believe in borrowing anybody else’s fear. You can decide to start believing this too. I hope you will. So, I'm going to decide how I want to show up this week. Work hard to practice what I preach. I get reminders everywhere. I decided what to about my kids school today. Do they go online? Do they go in person? I filled out a form, pressed send and it was done. It wasn't an easy decision for me but I reminded myself that that isn't how things work. Why? Because I'm a human doing my best. You are too.

So there is only one way to work with me and that is one on one for 6 months. This is how we learn and put into practice a new way of designing our life. It's how we become more agile and resilient and present. If you agree that this sounds awesome, set up a call with me.

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