The global pandemic has brought anxiety and uncertainty among many. As much as every country tries to solve their dire medical situation with enforced lockdown, international borders barred, travels halted. This has impact, more than one way, to you and me. One of the impacts is losing your livelihood: affecting putting food on the table, paying off necessary bills and with the unknown looming as each day passes, it can be difficult or even impossible to stay positive.
Patty and I decided to collaborate via this article, with the intent to bring relief and a shining light at the end of the seemingly never-ending tunnel. To those, who are facing, or going to face, unemployment due to business closure or retrenchment.
We both selected questions to ask each other during our conversation and we genuinely hope our insights will contribute to uncover answers to questions you might have.
First, please allow us to introduce ourselves.
Over a decade, Patty Wolters worked in the industrial world, starting in jobs taking care of easy administration tasks like shredding documents. Soon climbing the secretarial ladder and before choosing to retreat from these kind of jobs, Patty worked as management assistant at high level. After about a year sabbatical, during which she re-educated via online programs, Patty became an animal therapist. Due to relocation and later on emigration, she re-educated again, resulting in now being a blogger (over a decade), master coach (since 2018) and counseling practitioner (since 2019). Via her website – www.pattywolters.com – she aims to inspire people to Connect. To Life, To Others, To Yourself.
Having more than 20 years as a manager in various industries, Kally Tay founded a career website to help others to thrive in their jobs. Featured on numerous platforms such as WordPress Editor’s Pick and AllWomensTalk, her website MiddleMe.net discussed difficult and sensitive issues like workplace abuse and discord among coworkers while providing practical advice on how to handle those situations. As a freelance writer & recruiter herself, she helps others find success in freelancing and thus striking a balancing between work and family.
Patty: Hi dear Kally. Thank you for this collaboration. We’ve been connecting for many years and I really appreciate the friendship we build. Even miles apart, I feel we are proof online connections can be meaningful!
Kally: Hi Patty, I think it is awesome that we have this opportunity to collaborate on a piece together, especially on something both of us feel so strongly for. Likewise, I treasured our online friendship where sometimes, I seek a listening ear and helpful advice from you. Now, I believe that this article will help many people overcome this economic recession.
So, are you ready to dive into the questions?
Kally: You know instability and uncertainty creates a lot of conflicting emotions. In your experience, what is the normal display of emotions during this difficult time?
Patty: Normally, I would respond and state that it depends on your personality and situation. However, this kind of severe change in daily life, the lockdown and thus feeling kind of trapped, can make even the mentally strongest person lose their mind.
They maybe recover more quickly and be able to pick themselves up faster, however, you are not a weirdo if you feel down, stressed, overwhelmed, sad, shame, anxious, angry or fearful.
Being a freelancer, I assume you can relate to some of these emotions? As I came to understand, it is even tougher if you’re brought up in an Asian culture?
Kally: I am fortunate that I chose to leave my career to focus on building my new family. Freelancing is something I chanced upon early into my foray into parenthood. My family and friends are extremely supportive of what I am doing. But there are many others who are ‘forced’ into freelancing because they are laid off from their companies and freelancing gigs are a form of survival until a new job comes along.
Not having a job in Asia is a big no-no unless you are a stay-at-home mom. A job somehow forms a part of your identity and sometimes, there are times people are identified by their jobs like John the Engineer or Paul the Lawyer. During family gatherings, one of the first questions will always be asking how you are doing at your job.
I do know of ex-colleagues who hid the fact that they had lost their jobs by pretending and lying to their families that they are still working. On one hand, they do not want their families to worry. However, on the other hand, the male gender roles are generally held responsible to bring home the bread, they will lie and pretend everything is alright, just to save themselves from embarrassment and unwanted questions.
So yes, it can be very stressed if you lost your job.
Talking about stress and feeling shameful, are these signs indicating depression relating to unemployment? I mean what should we watch out for?
Patty: Let me first explain the difference between depression and as I like to call it being depri. We all have those days, periods of time, we have low energy. Physically, you can experience symptoms similar to the flu. Or have issues with sleep, appetite and even become very emotional.
Seeing the so called silver lining can become tough and you rather stay in bed all day, or mindlessly watch tv on the couch. When this occurs occasionally, per example, after ending a relationship, losing a beloved one (even a pet), getting fired, etc. it is normal to feel sad, stressed, frustrated. After a few days, maximal a week or two, most people will find a way to boost their souls again and find solutions to their issues. The depri period will be over.
When you notice you can’t get yourself out of the darkness and thus low energy, both physically and mentally, you could have slipped into a form of depression.
Losing your job, well if that isn’t killing your mood, I believe, THAT is not normal 😉
Kally: How can someone help him or herself in mitigating the stress, anxiety and negative feelings associating with unemployment?
Patty: First of all, acknowledge your emotions. As said, it is normal to feel what you feel after losing your job, or not being able to find a (new) job. Even before COVID, people had trouble finding a job, got fired
Unfortunately, this is not a new problem, being unemployed, around the world. Write your feelings on a piece of paper and examine which are related to your unemployment. It is possible, emotions arise from events of the past or that you experience feelings related to other current issues.
In addition, create a list of your current situation: do you have financial room to explore new job opportunities, do you need to find a job as soon as possible, do you want to find work in a similar field, is your education up-to-date, etc.
Lastly, all those thoughts in your head… they come automatically. You have the power to respond or not respond to them. Choose wisely and ask yourself the question; how do I know these thoughts are true?
Kally: These are very actionable things we can do to move ourselves away from negative thoughts. What about shame associate with unemployment or retrenchment?
Patty: Only if you did, or do, nothing to try to improve your situation, there is absolutely no reason to feel ashamed. It sounds maybe too simple, however, especially during the current global situation where companies are downsizing or even closing their business, there is little you can do about that. What you can do is choose how to deal with the situation you’re in.
As a freelance, you are mostly taking on jobs project-based. You might gain some returning clients, however, the projects differ. Now, during COVID, is it harder to find new offerings for freelancers?
Kally: It is harder to find new gigs and to retain the existing clients as well. I do empathise with my existing clients when they need to pause assignments during this period. One of my biggest clients had to suspend his business for 2 months. During this time, I do have new opportunity arising but most clients are just shopping around.
Instead of moaning and groaning my misfortunate, I tried to be positive and take this opportunity to learn new things and challenge myself like taking my scuba diving license. My specializations are writing and recruiting. So, I evolved in my services by exploring different avenues to bring in income like resume writing which is popular now since many are job searching.
At such hard times, it is important to evolve, adapt and perseveres. In your opinion, how does one push him or herself and be persistent during job hunting?
Patty: Put a note on your desktop, on your refrigerator, above your bed or wherever you will see it early in the morning, with a reminder of your goal. Why are you job hunting?
The answer to that is your goal and make sure that goal is the right reason to keep pushing yourself. And even if you have to take (temporarily) a job you are over-qualified for, remind yourself of the why. Let us not forget., every job is meaningful.
I know Kally, you have great articles on your website to help with those preparations. What is your golden tip to prep yourself for an interview?
Kally: There is a famous Chinese saying: 知己知彼百战百胜 which directly translate to Know Yourself, Know The Other Party, 100 Battles, 100 Wins. It means if you know yourself, your strengths and weaknesses. And if you know the Other Party (in this case, the company you are applying to). You will likely to succeed (win) in the interview (battle).
In other words, focus on presenting your best in the interview, work on improving your weakness before the interview and always do your background research on the company, the position and the interviewer.
Do you know how to pretend to appear confident during interview when one is wilting inside?
Patty: This might sound silly… The interviewer was born naked too. Don’t visualize that during the interview, hahaha. Seriously, you are having a conversation with another human being, not some kind of God.
Remind yourself, you applied for a reason, with a goal in mind. Hopefully, you prepared and all there is left to do is be yourself.
I know you have a lovely daughter and an amazing husband. Recently, I read an article from you, in which you reminded yourself that you are so much more. As we all are, by the way. So beside contributing to your family, what other reasons do you believe are important in choosing your next career move?
Kally: Many people think that unemployment is horrible. In some small ways, it can be the wakeup call you need in your career. A lot of us are complacent in our jobs, don’t rock the boat, they say. Once you are complacent, you stop learning. Once you stop challenging yourself, you stop improving and be easily replaceable by others.
If you find yourself without a job, ask yourself if this is something you enjoyed doing and if you can find work you have passion in at the same time earn income from it. This will determine your next steps in finding the career you will strive in because the more you love your job, the more you will find ways to be better at it.
Do you have any good suggestion on how to remain positive amid rejections from potential employers?
Patty: Oh, it can become so frustrating, right?! It depends on the financial urgency to find a job. You might have to consider taking a less payed job or even a job totally not related to your preferences.
I entered the corporate world via an employment agency, because at the time there were no jobs available for social workers. Earlier I studied tourism, however, those related jobs didn’t pay enough for my bills and I even didn’t live that luxurious. So, I needed to look outside the box, hence, my entrance in the administrative sector.
What would you, Kally, recommend, if someone can’t figure out which next step to take, career-wise?
Kally: The most effective way is to find yourself a mentor. A good mentor will help you to straighten your thoughts, declutter your mind and show you the right career path. He or she is often someone who has more experienced than you in the same industry, the same company or the same department.
You’ll be surprised to find that people generally are helpful and will step up if you ask them to mentor you. In fact, you just boost their ego a thousand-fold! A good leader will love to take on a prodigy. If someone turns you down, probably it is for the best. You don’t want a mentor who cannot guide and share.
Speaking of guidance, when does someone need to seek professional help?
Patty: The second you no longer see the point of being here on this beautiful planet. Reach out to someone, anyone! Immediately.
It is also a good idea to seek guidance, if you suspect you slipped into depression or get other health related issues.
Kally: How can family and friends help to support?
Patty: Listen and provide space. Don’t push, don’t give advice unless asked for. Only if you see your beloved one getting severe health issues (mentally and/or physically) you interfere. The best you can do is to just be there. Ready when needed.
That listening ear, we can all use it at times. Nonjudgmental and empathic. Even being an online guidance practitioner myself, I have my own support system. My husband, a few friends, some of them are fellow coaches, and a mentor. Do you have a support system in place?
Kally: Yes, I agree with you that a good support system is important. As an expat, I am away from my family but that doesn’t mean I can’t build my own village. I volunteer with a family organization that support my needs as a new mother. I have a group of mentors that support my freelancing work. I have wonderful friends both online (like Patty) and in real life that are willing to fly over (some really literary flew on a plane) to me if I need them.
Patty: We are through the questions, Kally. I tell you, even talking about this lifted my spirit. A good reminder, we all have our struggles in life. Again, thanks for this collab, dear friend.
Kally: Thank you for this wonderful collaboration. Lovely to have such an in-depth conversation with you.
We hoped that the above collaboration will bring some insight into your lives if you or your loved ones are facing unemployment or career hiccups during the pandemic. Should you have any further questions, we are happy to listen and help. You can always reach us at:
Patty Wolters https://pattywolters.com/connect-with-me/
Kally Tay https://middleme.net/contact-2/
Best things in life are meant to be shared, start spreading MiddleMe around, after all, sharing is caring.