Like many people amidst the coronavirus pandemic, journalist Abbey Lenton was recently made redundant from her full-time job. While it has been a difficult time for her, she’s learnt a few valuable lessons along the way.
Like thousands of Australians, I was made redundant recently. And it’s even more goddamn, unconscionably awful than I thought it could be.
I’m guilty and confused, bitter and downcast, terrified for my future and grateful for my health – a melting pot of feelings akin to the stages of grief. And if one more person tells me to turn my fractured livelihood into an opportunity to ~rise above and overcome~, I may just sink into a puddle and never come back.
But in and among the noise, I have picked up the occasional, genuinely helpful pearl of wisdom. And I sincerely hope it may bring you the help it has me.
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#1. ‘You weren’t made redundant, your role was’
Flip the script. Take the ‘me’ out of the equation and reinforce, in words and out loud, that your situation is not a reflection of your talent and skills. By replacing ‘I’ with ‘my role’, I harnessed the power of language t o remind myself that my redundancy was something that happened to me, not because of me.
Unemployment is frightening for all of us, but it’s especially devastating for those of us who approach our careers with razor focus. My job was a reflection of myself, and when it crumbled away I lost a major part of my identity.
To me, redundant was a synonym for useless. By saying ‘I was made redundant’, it felt like I was admitting that I’m a fake. I needed to create distance between myself and my job – by choosing the phrasing ‘my role was made redundant’, I’m slowly taking the power back.
#2. ‘Unemployment is a full-time job’
Bad movies and conservative politicians will have you believe that an unemployed person is a lazy person – some kind of down-and-out slob completing one job application per every 50 hours spent on Netflix. But now, at a time when I’m jobless, I’ve never worked harder in my life.
You will easily spend 40 hours a week trying to dig yourself out of the hole that someone else threw you into. There are unending job applications to fill, paired with all the life admin involved with organising your finances and budgeting for a worst-case scenario.
Pair that with the exhausting emotional labour involved. Nothing feels more gut-punchingly ironic than writing cover letter after cover letter detailing how remarkable you are, when you’ve never felt so pathetic.
Add all those tasks up, and you’ve got yourself a nine-to-five devoted to finding you a nine-to-five.
#3. ‘There’s no shame in Centrelink’
The pandemic has taken a wrecking ball to many of the ill-founded truths our country built itself upon. None more so than the notion that if you have a go, you get a go. Because that’s rarely the case.
The devastating state of today’s workforce has proven that sometimes, sadly, success has less to do with hard work, more to do with sheer luck. Those who rely on government financial support, pre or post-pandemic, are not bludgers or thieves – they’re just doing what they can to keep their heads above water. This is honourable, not reprehensible.
Even two months ago I never would have fathomed that I, someone with a University education and the work ethic of a clydesdale, would be applying for Job Seeker. But these are the cards I, and so many other driven, skilled Australians, have been dealt.
It’s an extraordinary wake-up call and a lesson that will stay with me forever.
And the one thing you should never say to someone who’s been made redundant…
‘You’ll be snapped up soon’
You won’t be. We’re in a pandemic.
In a good-hearted attempt at comforting me, I was told by countless people that I shouldn’t fret – that every employer out there must be tripping over their feet to hire someone as talented and tenacious as me.
But they weren’t. Of course, they weren’t. Amid the pandemic, entire industries are dropping like flies. It’s grim out there, and no one is in a position to sweep you up, no matter how wonderful you may be.
I understand that saying ‘you’re great, you’ll be fine’ is completely well-intentioned. But the moment it fell on my ears, my defeated inner monologue interpreted it to mean that my ‘greatness’ was thinning every day that went by that I remained jobless.
There’s no skirting around it, these times are truly unprecedented – unprecedented, uncontrollable, and bloody unfair.
But if you’re going through what I’m going through, take comfort in the knowledge that this isn’t our fault. There is no easy fix, but to give up is to do ourselves a disservice.
When life gives you lemons, squeeze them in your frustrated fists. It’s not inspiring or ideal, but it’s certainly one way to make lemonade.
More essential coronavirus reading:
Read up on what the government lockdown means for you, understand why Aussie doctors are up arms, be aware of the ‘hidden symptom’ of COVID-19 carriers, prepare yourself for the long-term mental health effects of the pandemic, get your sweat on at home with these free online workouts before reviving your over-washed hands with this DIY balm, and then console yourself with these unexpected joys.