On the 26th of October 2016, my then boss called me into her office and informed me that I had been affected in a restructuring exercise. It was 2.00pm on a Wednesday and I was preparing for my evening TV show, The Business Centre. In a matter of minutes I had lost a very well paying and prestigious job as a TV host in the country’s leading media house.
It was a difficult time and I cried every night, wallowing in self -pity and anxiety.
I realised pretty quickly though, that even though I was emotionally broken I needed to face the truth and to deal with the feelings of betrayal, rejection, denial, and the anger that I felt. I knew that I had no choice but to focus on what the future held for me and my family.
As a sole breadwinner, I was completely anxious about the future. I had a bank loan, school fees, rent etc that I needed to take care of. I was scared! That was the first time I truly understood what insomnia was. I couldn't sleep well , I stayed up crying and wondering how I was going to make it without a salary.
I had however started two businesses a few years before, one is Scarlet Digital and the other is a skincare business Keyara Organics. I focused my time and energy in ensuring these two businesses grew and gave me some much needed income. These businesses not only kept me busy, but they taught me serious lessons about the importance of having alternative sources of revenue.
Looking back to 4 years ago, I realise that there is always a way out, no matter how bleak your future seems.
The last couple of years have seen a disruption in different industries. The COVID-19 Pandemic is leaving a trail of massive and painful job-losses along it’s distructive path. In Kenya alone we have seen purges happening across different industries including the media, with Royal Media services, Nation Media Group, MediaMax among others sending people home.
Airlines have also announced downsizing, thousands of security guards have been sent home and the hospitality industry has sent huge numbers of staff on unpaid leave. The butterfly effect of a closed down and ravaged economy has hit everyone hard.
So what happens when you lose your job?
For many the feelings can be very intense, and confusing. The Shock, Betrayal, Anger and even Denial very quickly toss us into a world that’s constantly spiralling. I was a bundle of nerves and my mind was thrown into in an unending contemplative mode and distressed about what would happen when the salary stopped checking in.
So I’d like to share some of the key lessons that I have learnt over the years and what it took to get back to my feet.
Take Control of your budget
This includes writing down every cost, including your rent, food, house supplies, transport/fuel,and every other thing you spend on every month, including eating out and entertainment/drinks. Have your budget at your finger tips.
Once you look through your budget, cut out all non-essentials, such as eating out, drinking at the bar, manage the food properly, only buy what you need, get a cheaper place to stay, basically down-size on everything you can down-size. We moved to a cheaper house. We also had a traditional family lunch out on Sundays and I cut it out, after of course explaining to my family why it was necessary to manage our costs until we are back on track.
Restructure your Debt
If you have any bank loans set an appointment with your bank immediately and ask to set up a payment plan. If your loan is insured you may get a couple of months to organise your self, I got 9 months from my bank as per my loan contract. Ensure you are in touch with everyone you owe and let them know your financial situation. Do not switch off your phone and do not stop picking up their calls. Communication changes everything.
Health Insurance / Savings
Whatever you do, try to ensure that you have a health cover for your family. Keep your NHIF payments on track as this can be a real life saver once your medical insurance from your employer runs out. Once you get some sort of income coming in, Begin to slowly put some money aside for savings/pension. Mobile payments now allow us so much more Flexibility. Make a choice to save any amount of money per week/ month. However difficult this time is, it is also a chance to really pay attention to your financial discipline.
Re-write your own strategic plan
This is perhaps one of the most important steps to take with a job loss. Before you start looking again for jobs you will need to evaluate your life, your career and what your strengths are. Write everything down and do a projection of where you want to get to in 5 - 10 years. Once you do that, evaluate opportunities that you can engage in immediately in order to generate an income. I’ ve seen people who started to Bake in the evenings and sell cakes/cookies etc while still looking for a job, I’ve also heard amazing stories about people who saw a gap in providing affordable food to office people, and sometimes these can turn out into a full time business as it has for very many people out there. What can you do to generate an income?
Update and Clean up your CV on online presence (LinkedIn)
This is a perfect time to re-do your CV, touch it up, get active and noticed on LinkedIn and let people who can help know that you are actively searching for a job. Because you have extra time on your hands, set aside time every week to create some compelling content about trends in your industry, share some captivating stories so that your industry peers can see that you’re still active and visible.
Network with Industry Peers
This is an important time to find out the influential people within your industry and begin to knock on doors. Attend industry events, though during these corona times, you can attend online forums and ensure to have done your research in good time, prepare a question or two in advance as well as some key points that you can raise, or global trends and standards that can be emulated. The point is to ensure you are heard and that you stand out as intelligent and engaged.
Build your personal brand
Your personal brand is what people think about you. Are you reliable, effective, ready to help? Are you Visible? This is a great time to begin to offer mentorship, create a schedule that allows you to really focus on personal brand building. Use your social media posts to elevate your personal brand. Take some good, professional photos, research on trends and share articles that will provoke conversation and engagement.
Get Physically active
Physical activity gets more than just our bodies in shape. It is a great way to re-energise both your body and mind. Working out improves our Brain health and memory, as well as help keep chronic diseases at bay. Start slowly, perhaps with a 30 minute walk every-evening, a jog, join your local gym or use YouTube workout videos in the comfort of your home. Try to commit to at least 30 minutes of a physical exercise daily.
Tell your story
I remember being at a cocktail event one evening and I didn't know how to introduce myself. I always introduced myself as a News Anchor and now the introduction itself was always followed by questions about what happened. No matter how uncomfortable it might get, you must tell the truth. Go over it until you are comfortable, tell it until you feel better about sharing the story. Your future employers will almost always ask as well, so ensure that you have though through your job loss story and you can tell it well and comfortably.
A job loss is never easy, however, understanding that it happens to many people in their career and accepting it for what it is allows you to bounce back faster. Acceptance will allow you to keep your eyes open to new opportunities, and no matter what, stay positive. For those in employment, think through and plan for the possible eventualities. Save up, build skills and knowledge and if your job allows, begin to create additional sources of revenue.