Losing a job is traumatic. You have rent to pay. You have bills to take care of. And you have to put food on the table.
It’s even more traumatic when you lose a job during an economic downturn.
Thousands of people have lost their jobs in India in just a few weeks since the coronavirus pandemic shut down businesses across the country. The Center for Monitoring Indian Economy released an alarming statistic this month: The unemployment rate rose to over 20% in March as the nationwide lockdown took effect.
The economic impact of the pandemic is devastating. But just as devastating is the psychological impact of unemployment.
We all probably know someone who is working at a 30% pay cut or has been furloughed or even fired. People in sectors like aviation, hospitality and media have been the hardest hit by this crisis. And jobs have also dried up for people in the gig economy.
It’s a setback that nobody was prepared for. But a setback is not the same as failure.
By their very nature, setbacks are unanticipated and out of our control. Losing a job is stressful and scary, but we must try not to personalize it as a failure.
Now more than ever, we need to tap into our inner resilience and respond to this setback in a way that helps us overcome it. Harappa course on Embracing Change has an interesting framework to respond to setbacks — We need to reframe the setback as a problem to solve. This will help our minds navigate the way forward.
To reframe setbacks as problems to solve, follow the three A’s: Accept, Assess, and Act.
Here’s how we can do that:
1. Accept: We need to accept that job markets and economies at large are set to go through some massive disruptions in the wake of this pandemic. By the end of the month of March, over 3.3 million Americans had filed for unemployment claims. The data from India is equally disturbing. In some cases, entire industries such as tourism and aviation are at risk.
On some level, we are all sailing in the boat of income uncertainty. Accept this reality and invest some honest time in processing how you feel about it. Do you feel angry? Vulnerable? Insecure? Well, it’s most normal to feel these. If you accept this reality and process your emotions, it will help you get on the problem-solving track.
2. Assess: While the economic crisis might be national or even global, your challenges will be more localized. And so will the solutions.
So, assess how the industry you’re in is likely to be affected by COVID-19. What are your skill-sets and level of experience? What kind of financial responsibilities do you already have? Who can you reach out to for guidance and help? You will need to assess your situation from all these angles before you make an action plan. We may not have been prepared for this setback to hit us, but preparedness in response can go a long way.
3. Act: This is a crisis and it will need a response. Once you have accepted the situation and assessed your options, it will be time to act. In the short term, this might mean reworking your monthly budget and cutting back on some expenses.
In the long-run, it means learning new skills and moving to another sector that isn’t so badly affected. So, if you’re from the hospitality sector, you could consider switching to the tech business which is one of the winners in this crisis. As part of the job hunt, you could also take steps like improving your resume and reaching out to your network and friends for guidance. At the end of the day, you will need to make decisions that realign your commitments to your goals.
It will probably not be easy, and it will surely require a lot of perseverance. When faced with setbacks, we are all pushed to step out of our comfort zones. But with the right approach and optimistic mindset, it can also bring out the survivor and fighter in us.
Listen to the example relationship consultant and counselor Nivedita Singh has to share, of the power of an optimistic mindset and how it can be just the difference you need. Other than that, just trust in your effort. You might be made of stronger stuff than you think.
Ragini Thakur is a Specialist with the Curriculum Team at Harappa Education. She is a postgraduate in International Relations from Jawaharlal Nehru University. She enjoys old Hindi songs, books meant for kids and all things food.
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