Navigating Uncertainty and Workplace Insecurity

I recently found out that I’m losing my job. Which honestly didn’t come as a surprise given the economic impact that has hit higher education institutions across Australia. And whilst I am so grateful to have maintained my job throughout the pandemic, and realise how fortunate and lucky I have been to have a consistent income throughout this time – especially when millennials have been disproportionately impacted by job loss across Australia – it still sucks.

I’ve been working at UOW for almost 7 years, which is crazy to say. I studied there, worked there, created a network, friendships and a second family there. So it’s pretty crushing when you hear that the rug is being pulled out from under you. At this time, we’re still figuring out what this all means, and logistically what it will look like. One thing is for certain, there will be job cuts and our little work family is being broken up.

So how do you navigate times of immense stress, especially when your job and associated income is on the line? With so many questions, and little to no answers, how do you know which way is up? Unfortunately, I don’t have the answers, but here are a few things that have helped me over the past few months navigate job insecurity and shifting uncertaintly.

Talk, rant, express yourself

Keeping all of these thoughts, feelings and emotions in, no matter how big or small they may seem, will not help you. If you have a colleague or friend that you trust and know that you can be completely open with, this is the person to call.

It’s important to do this because once you’ve said everything you need to say on the topic – you can move on. You’ve released it into the universe, let the universe take that stress from you now.

Control what you can

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that there’s a lot in the world out of our control. And whilst decisions are being made around you and it feels like you have no control over your career, life and path, realise that you do have control over what you do next and how you react.

I won’t lie, I spent several days being incredibly upset and in shock processing these changes. But after speaking to a friend, she reminded me that all we can do is control how we respond and carry ourselves forward. By shifting my attitude and perspective slightly, to look at opportunities available, it completely re-framed how I felt about the change.

Support your colleagues

While it might seem overwhelming being bombarded with Webex messages or emails with ‘are you ok?’ it’s nice to know that I have not only colleagues, but friends out there who care about me. It makes me feel like what I have contributed and what I bring to the organisation matters and hasn’t gone unnoticed.

So reach out, even if you’re not sure what to say, just knowing that someone is there to listen and is going through it with you is sometimes enough to not feel alone.

Have a day or two off

Sick leave and mental health days exist for a reason. When you experience change and an overwhelming sense of what feels like rejection or ‘not-good-enough-itis’ the emotional response results in physical responses. After I was told the news I was absolutely exhausted for several days afterwards. My body flooded with adrenaline and then crashed. I took a few days to feel it all, put things in perspective, and think about what was important to me.

This meant I could come back to work feeling more positive and inspired and actually motivated me to bring my best self to work.

Get sweaty

Go for a run, walk, swim, anything to get your heart pumping. I’m always surprised at how good I feel after a run and how I’m actually not able to think about all the stresses in life because I’m too busy concentrating on breathing.

Plus, channeling your energy into moving your body, physically releasing that stress that’s built up is hugely beneficial.

It’s shit and it’s ok

I’ve come to realise that anxiety, stress and shit times aren’t an Olympic sport. There’s no ‘winner’ (or in this case, loser). While yes, I can realise and acknowledge my luck and privileged position within society and be grateful for that, it doesn’t mean that I’m not allowed to complain, cry or be affected by such a significant change in my life.

Change + challenges = growth

While it might be hard to see at the time, challenges and change we go through make us stronger, more resilient and help us grow. I know that it can sometimes feel like you’re running uphill, not making any progress, but maybe this hill will be even bigger and better than the last one.

*

At the end of the day, when all of this is said and done, I am more than my job. I am a whole, complex person with interests, hobbies, friends that actually define me.

There’s always a time to dig deep, work hard and hustle, but during times of stress and change, your own goal should be prioritising your health and wellbeing. Take time to reset, focus on what’s important to you, think about your next move, control what you can and let go of what you can’t.

To all my friends and colleagues who have been through, and are going through change, we’ve got this.