The COVID-19 pandemic has brought health and safety challenges. Yes. But the global nature of the issue is also causing economic setbacks. You might be hearing news of people losing their jobs, and industries shutting down. It might even affect someone close to you.

As researchers, Richard Price, Daniel Friedland, and Anuram Vinokur say, “Some people have jobs, some people have careers, and some people have callings. When they lose that, they lose a lot.” Why? No matter what people’s personal or emotional investment is in their work, jobs provide security, routine, and an identity for people to live through. Losing it in a time like this is highly stressful. How can you support a friend or family member through this daunting transition? What perspectives can you offer?

  • Encourage them to recognize the loss. Since our work meets our needs for identity and security, losing it could make us feel like we’ve lost control of our life. It is a big derailment, and scary too. Especially in times of global crisis, like the Great Recession of 2010, or the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020, where 37 million jobs could be lost. Hence, instead of telling people that it is all good or things will be just fine (which they will be), say it is okay to be sad and scared. Feelings of anger, hurt, confusion are expected. Help them accept and not avoid it. Some questions that you could ask: What is painful here? What is the hit you feel? How can you best manage the shock?
  • Support with reorganizing the pieces and taking stock. While mourning is encouraged, dwelling isn’t. You will know when the loss is dragging your friend/ family down. Given that it takes a toll on people’s mental health, we need to prevent further derailment. Nudge them to look at what they learnt in their past job, what they valued most about it, and how has it contributed to their growth. There will be plenty of that to reflect on.

According to research by Professors Eliana Crosina and Michael Pratt, based on what emerges from the reflection, people’s next steps tend to take on one of the two pathways:

  • One set becomes recreators, seeking out learning and opportunities in a job or field very similar to the last one. They look to recreate the experience they had, be it tight friendships with colleagues, or the texture of the role. That’s how they establish safety.
  • The second set becomes repurposers who leave organizational careers to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities in other fields. They look at transference of skills and take risks.

Consider these two pathways. Which one suits your friend/ family member better? Work with them to chart out their next steps accordingly. Note that in times of global crisis, processes of re-entry into the job market will be slower. A key perspective to share with people – rest, reskill, and connect with family.

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