I originally posted the story of my first furlough on my LinkedIn profile the day before I headed back to work. I was surprised by the response I got in the comments and overwhelmed by the private messages.
It gave a voice to many who had similar experiences. Those who had lost their balance, boundaries, and understanding of their worth to the organization.
TODAY I share this with you as a reminder that you deserve a job you LOVE, but your job should not define who you are in life.
The world is changing, and everyone has their own experiences. Every experience is real; the fear and pain is real—this is my experience of spending 30 business days on furlough – and mine alone.
Here is how it went down - I got the news on Wednesday that I would be starting furlough the following Monday. I am one of those crazy people that loves to go to work EVERY DAY. For someone who has worked consistently for as many years as I have, it was hard news. My leader handled it with compassion and kindness, and even though I saw it coming, it was hard to think it was happening to me & our team.
The first two days, I kept myself busy making spreadsheets for home school Zoom classes and assignments, trying to convince myself that I would be fine. Day three and day twenty-six were my hardest days.
On day three, it became evident that I like going to work and, even more, LOVE contributing to a team. At one point, I practically hung up on someone as I was grappling with no direction, and I decided I needed to go out for another run – that put me up to about nine aimless miles that day.
But after day three things began to fall into place for me for a few reasons:
(1) My friends and family never flinched.
(2) My peers and leaders stayed close – working or furloughed – we were checking in on each other.
(3) My vendors went above and beyond – checking in every week. If you ever want real vendor partners looking out for your best interest in good times or bad– here is my shortlist: @304 Coaching, @Hireclix, @SkillSurvey, and @Gr8People. They checked in regularly – which was above and beyond.
(4) I kept a few office hours every day to feel productive, even if it was just active on LinkedIn with advice and encouragement.
BOTTOM LINE – I stayed BUSY!
Here is what I learned:
(1) My job is not my identity. As much as I love to work, there are other things I can do. I was lucky enough to pick up a little side hustle and enjoyed trying new things. I still can't cook – but I did develop a few new skills.
(2) Exercise was critical to keeping my sanity. My running partner, an essential worker, stepped up our routine from three days a week to five days a week and six feet apart, allowing me to "run out" my uncertainty.
(3) Homeschool is hard – and I feel for everyone involved. I struggled, so if you are working AND figured it out – I admire you.
(4) Some days are better than others; it is okay to feel sad. Figure out who your cheerleaders are or who can help pick you up out of the dumps and point you in the right direction. I am so lucky to be surrounded by amazing people who believe in me.
Here is what I would recommend:
(1) Leaders - stay in touch with your teams! Many of my industry colleagues have not heard from their company in weeks. We want to hear from you – even if you say you do not have any news. Hearing from you is comforting.
(2) Update your LinkedIn profile, it makes you feel like you have some control, and if there is a possibility that you will not go back to your current job – you are one step ahead.
(3) Tell everyone you are on furlough or have lost your job. It is human nature to want to help others. You never know who will be there for you – but they cannot help if they don't understand your circumstances.
(4) Remember, you are not alone trying to figure out the unemployment – ask for help. Every state has its issues, and there is someone out there with advice on how to work the system.
(5) NETWORK. Times are crazy – but send thank you notes, leave quick voicemails, but make a list of all those people who have played a critical role in your career and thank them.
(6) Re-write the story you are telling yourself. If you really don't know the answer, don't t your mind run wild with a story that may or may not be true. Realize that there will be a lot of uncertainty, and do your best to live with it and make decisions that are best for you with little or no information.
(7) Take some time for yourself and those around you (while socially distancing). Do the things you have wanted to do.
· I slept in on the weekends
· Laid out by the pool
· I ate LOTS of dinners with my family
· I walked 3 miles with my husband almost every night
· I read the book that has been sitting on my nightstand for months
· I searched out podcasts to learn new things
· I found peace in the quiet time (kind of)
· I spent more time with my parents
· I journaled all my crazy ideas (maybe I will share that later)
· I spoke at a national conference and was a guest speaker at a workshop all virtually
· I enjoyed social distancing zoom happy hours
· I joined a professional group of women I have admired for years
· I took my boys to the top floor of a vacant parking garage, and we danced in the sun
Last week I got the call to go back. It is scary. Monday I am walking into a situation that I do not understand. My job will not be the same; I will be expected to work harder than ever and flex in ways I have not experienced. We all must remember, when we go back to work, we will all be different. If you stayed behind, you have worked harder than we can imagine. You had to make decisions for situations we had never faced. We know you did the best you could every day. I cannot express how thankful I am to you for everything you did to keep the lights on! Some of you have guilt because they stayed behind, and we have guilt because you have worked so hard and we did not contribute. But it will take all of us to fix what is ahead of us. We must remember to assume every decision is made with good intent, and we must all remember to practice grace.
It will be hard out there for a while, and we have to be there for each other. If you are not working - you will get your call, maybe from your current employer or perhaps something new and exciting. If you have not allowed yourself the moments you need to let it all out, do so. You will feel better. You deserve to explore all of your emotions, so don't keep it in. Be patient, be brave, practice putting yourself out there, don't be afraid to ask for help- there will be someone there to support you. Let me know if you need it to be me.
And most of all - look for that moment where you can let go, no matter what is going on around you, and enjoy the moment. It took me 27 days to have this moment of peer joy on the empty parking garage rooftop with my boys. I hope you find yours.
My wish for you - I hope you find your happiness. Work to live.