My coaching clients grew exponentially as the pandemic continued to take its toll. People are taking a step back and thinking about who they are, what they do all day, and what really matters. There are also a lot of people getting laid off, not just from minimum wage jobs now, but from the “white color jobs” or more properly described office jobs. Now that unemployment is trickling upward, you would think it would get more attention. Congress failed to find a compromise to address this and now we have some executive orders that may or may not be binding. For me, our inability to respond to this crisis of unemployment on a moral level gives me great concern about social equity. This is a vulnerable time for many, and when we are vulnerable, we are more open to change. How can we take advantage of this opportunity to make more meaningful career choices, think about more inclusive employment, and a healthier society?
Since the pandemic started our lives have shifted weekly. Just as we got used to one pattern, something would change, it feels like we are living inside a kaleidoscope, the same pieces just mixed around in different ways.
Fear not, because there’s a method to the madness.
Pema Chödrön says that grasping for permanence will always leave us wanting more because it’s not possible. We have to learn to live with the natural cycle of things, coming together and falling apart. It made such an impression on me that I have it tattooed on my body, “Embrace change.” It’s an important idea but really hard to hold onto each and every day, especially during a time of social upheaval. This idea has been percolating in my mind for years, what’s really important? How do I feel valued, needed, relevant? I hear pieces of this in my conversations with clients, and as we weather COVID and see the ugly face of racial injustice, I’m hearing/seeing people shaken to their core and talking about it more.
Lean Into the Suck
It’s much easier to not have these difficult conversations. It would be easier to turn off the news. For some reason, I have always leaned into them. It’s another premise that Pema Chödrön writes about often, and my husband paraphrases as “Lean into the suck.” As I speak with my coaching clients, they are having more emotional conversations these days. Maybe I’m imagining it, but the issue of meaning on the job and in their careers seems to be a more powerful motivator. Also, balance in their work/life and the ability to make a difference in the world is another topic I hear more about. As most of us work from home, because kids are also home or entire families are trying to work from home, we are seeing places where we have gaps and places where we thrive. Think education, health, access.
The Stress of Life Compressed at Home
While we are at home and don’t have a daily commute to decompress, other things in life become more stressful: juggling children, working remotely, no school or camp, fear of eviction, lights turned out, or how we feed our kids. Typically we don’t have time for this kind of contemplation when we are super busy or in survival mode. But if you aren’t working, or working less, you do. You have too much time on your hands. And too many things to worry about. Some are “champagne problems,” others are life and death matters. My social equity study group met today via Zoom and we came to the conclusion that the most important thing is that we need to talk about race, equity, gender, and more. That by not discussing the tough stuff, we are actually contributing to the problem and being racist/sexist/biased. This goes for career satisfaction and personal fulfillment too. We must move the conversation to action.
Identifying Skills & Feeding Our Souls
After teaching my clients how to cut through the noise and identify their true talents, the next step is to describe where they want to contribute their skills. To think about the environment where you will thrive, the corporate culture really matters. The last step in creating a person’s “30 Second Elevator Pitch” or sometimes it’s a manifesto/mission statement, is talking about how you add value to an organization. These are the mechanics of creating a strong starting point, but now we can take this even further. We can be more aware of what makes a company socially responsible, which makes a company diverse and inclusive, and how we really want to contribute our abilities to our next opportunity. Plus, we don’t have to find all our fulfillment at work, we can turn to volunteerism as a truly healthy outlet for ourselves and something we can do with loved ones. Sometimes, when we are shaken up from our beliefs and our regular routines, it can be a good thing. We can press the restart and make major changes in our lives, our careers, and divert energy to build more inclusive stronger communities as well.