Losing a job is hard for anyone. This year has been difficult for many, with job losses and redundancies rising sharply. 695,000 workers dropped from company payrolls in the UK between March and September 2020, and redundancies are currently at their highest level since 2009. A huge number of people are now facing financial uncertainty and insecurity, which is frightening for anyone – but even more daunting when you have a family relying on you.
Frighteningly, mothers have been bearing the brunt of these job losses. In the UK, mothers are 50% more likely to lose their jobs during the pandemic than fathers, and globally women are nearly twice as likely to lose their jobs than men. Women are also struggling to manage the majority of domestic and family work, whilst trying to do their jobs – 70% of mothers have taken on responsibility for home-schooling, and, since women already perform 70% of unpaid care work, it’s no surprise that mothers are the ones disproportionately having their working days interrupted by children and struggling to manage full-time childcare and a full-time job. These difficulties are leading to an increasing number of women feeling pushed into leaving their jobs.
Facing the shock of job loss
If you have lost or been pushed out of your job during this crisis, your first thought might well be how you will provide for your children. The government’s current demonisation of those parents who have found themselves unable to provide adequate food for their families is rage-inducing to many of us who know that we are maybe one or two pieces of bad luck away from being in that situation ourselves. Not being able to live the life you want is distressing enough, but not being able to give your children the quality of life you hope for is devastating.
So what do you do if you find yourself suddenly without the job that you rely on? The first step is not to panic. The feelings of fear and confusion can be overwhelming, but they block your rational brain from finding solutions, so the more you can do to keep calm and stay in the moment, the better. It’s easy to let ourselves start thinking weeks and months ahead, and catastrophising by imagining disastrous situations. But that won’t help, it will just lead to more panic. You’re not there yet – think about what you can do right now. Deep breathing techniques, meditation and mindfulness all help to pull your brain back to the present and focus on your current options.
Next, reach out for help. There are a number of organisations that can signpost you to resources, support and legal advice – Pregnant Then Screwed and Citizen’s Advice are two key ones. But also reach out to your personal networks – let friends and former colleagues know that you are looking for work, and tell them what support they can offer you, whether that’s introducing you to useful connections or pointing you in the direction of any opportunities. Look for Facebook and LinkedIn groups for your particular sector or specialty and network big time – the old saying is true, who you know is often more important than what you know.
Building a fresh start
Initially, you’ll probably be in fire-fighting mode, looking for some work to pay the bills, unless you have a savings cushion to buy you some time. But when you have managed to create some breathing space for yourself, this is a great opportunity to think about what you really want to do next. It might not feel like it right now, but this could be the start of a whole new chapter in your life.
One in ten mothers who return to work after maternity leave do so in a self-employed capacity – and I don’t think that’s unrelated to the fact that 54,000 women lose their jobs every year due to maternity discrimination. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all, and when the job they previously had thought was secure is yanked out from under them, a number of women decide to forge their own path and create something for themselves. Perhaps this is your opportunity to start a business around something that truly matters to you.
Alternatively, if entrepreneurship isn’t for you, it might be a chance for a career change. Maybe there’s something you’ve always wanted to do but thought it would be too difficult to start again with something new? Well, now’s your chance. Or maybe you don’t know what you want to do, you just know that you don’t want to go back to what you were doing before. Let this be the catalyst for you to find a new path that will bring you greater joy and fulfilment.
What do you want to do next?
If it currently all feels completely overwhelming and you don’t know how you’ll ever work out what to do next, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
What experience do you have?
Don’t just think of this in terms of your job history – you have a whole wealth of transferable skills that could be useful in a new venture. What hobbies and activities have you done previously? Have you taken part in any voluntary or unpaid projects? What skills do you show in your friendships, your relationships and your parenting? These are all things you can draw on to find not only what you might be qualified for, but where your key skills might lie.
What makes you feel most energised and joyful?
What are the activities, either in your work or in your personal life, that most light you up? What types of projects do you enjoy working on, and how do you most like to approach tasks? Think about the things that, even though they’re hard work, really stimulate and excite you. This is the type of work that you’ll want to be doing in future.
What passions did you have previously?
Before life and kids and general adulting got in the way, think about the things you used to love doing. Your hobbies, your passion projects, what you used to daydream about doing for a living. Could you bring some of those things, or elements of them, back into your new path?
If you want to dive deeper into what your next steps might be, download my free Rediscovering Your Sense of Self worksheet to explore what your ideal future might look like.