2020 was a year of transition for the world and more specifically for the thousands who found themselves out of work due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Being in a field like international education that was hit particularly hard, I dealt with this firsthand. After weeks of anxiety around what the pandemic meant for my job, last year, on Thursday, March 26, 2020, I was sent an official “Restructuring Notification.” I was being let go.
As an Indian American born to immigrants, I was taught that if I worked hard and treated everyone with respect, I would be successful. I never imagined that I would ever be “let go”. It took me some time to even comprehend what this meant: “Was I chosen to be let go because I didn’t do a good job? Did I do something wrong? Did someone not like me?” The questions and thoughts went on until I was able to reconcile with the fact that this had nothing to do with my abilities or how personable I am. My entire department, along with hundreds of others, was let go. Once I was able to come to terms with this and not take it personally, I was able to begin to move forward.
Beyond the general wrap up that was occurring at work, my first step in the process of accepting what had happened was to post on LinkedIn. Because my organization was on the earlier side of mass layoffs, it wasn’t quite as common yet to see #covidlayoffs so I had some shame and doubt about whether I should be advertising to the world that I was laid off. I soon reconciled this with the fact that my community wasn’t going to be able to support me if they didn’t know I needed them. The amount of love and support I felt after I came to this decision was nothing short of amazing. They showed up and for this I am thankful.
Taking a step back from this moment, I realized how much I had inadvertently set myself up for this exact situation. One of my goals when I first began the position that I had been let go from was to connect more with the international education community - to build relationships and to continue to learn and grow. Yes, in the professional world they refer to this as networking, but I’ve never liked that word. I’m an extrovert. My top strength on my CliftonStrengths Profile is Woo’ing or “winning over others” which, in a nutshell, means I love meeting and connecting with people and, yet, I’m not a fan of the word networking. It comes off as a “I’m only talking to you because I want something” word and that’s never been my intent. I genuinely want to connect with people and so, with the support of my supervisor, I did. I joined organizations, sat on committees, presented at conferences, and formed genuine relationships - relationships that I continue to cherish. So, when it came to that moment in my career that I never thought would come, these are the people that stepped in to provide support and share their wisdom. I had colleagues reach out to provide emotional support but also to ask about whether I would be interested in supporting them in their projects. Not necessarily full time positions or even paid positions but projects that would keep me connected to the field. Projects that would make sure I was continuing to grow while I tried to determine what was next. Projects that I was grateful for during a time of uncertainty. What happened next? Read my next blog “Moving On – Careers in Transition”#COVID19