Furlough Story - We’re Not Really Sure What the Future Will Look Like

For almost 17 years, I’ve gone to bed each night knowing where I will work tomorrow (or, at least, where I was going to be working next). The hardest part of being laid off for me? The uncertainty.

When will I find a job? Will I find a job?

On February 24, I was in a Lyft returning from the airport after an amazing adventure to India to celebrate a wedding between two of my dear friends. My manager insisted I call as soon as I made it home. Guessing it couldn’t be good news, I called as soon as I settled into the back seat and buckled up.

At this point, I had no idea what was coming. My layoff was surprisingly due to good old fashioned cost-cutting, rather than a result of COVID-19. After taking some time to process things, I found I was far more cheerful and optimistic than one might expect from someone who knew she’d be losing her job.

This was an opportunity, after all. I could move back into healthcare, always an area of passion for me. I had strong networks, and if I started right away, I might even line-up my next opportunity before my official last day. So I got to work scheduling coffee meetings and registering for networking events. I brushed off my resume. I was ready to find my next adventure!

Slowly at first, and, then, in what felt like a blink of the eye, everything changed. I was still employed but sitting with the spectre of the layoff on my shoulder when we were ordered to work from home. The first day happened to coincide with a milestone birthday for me. Celebrations were muted for many reasons.

My last few weeks as an employee went by in a bizarre whirl of video conference calls and awkward goodbyes over email. Networking events were postponed, then postponed again. All those thoughtfully scheduled coffee meetings became Zoom calls, and almost all those calls ended the same way: “We’re not really sure what the future looks like; we’ll just have to wait and see.”

When I am most overwhelmed by the perfect storm of everything happening, this statement is enough to spark anger, even rage: I don’t have time to wait and see. Even when I do my best to muster patience, the words still fuel my uncertainty, doubt, and anxiety. At times, it feels as though the stomach-churning sense of constant unknown might never end.

So I try my best to focus instead on the first part of the statement: We’re not really sure what the future looks like. Sure, you can read that in an ominous tone… or you can choose to see the inherent potential.

Take, for example, healthcare: the uncertainty and change that we’re all navigating is ushering in advances in telemedicine and at-home care that have been waiting in the wings for a long time. I’m tickled every time I see a healthcare startup that I’ve previously coached finally taking center stage and making a real difference.

All of this, just in the past few months. There is no denying that we’ll continue to see major shifts in how we live and work. How might we use the inherent uncertainty to finally drive changes that need to happen?

I would be lying if I said that uncertainty doesn’t still keep me up some nights. In those moments, I think about what that uncertainty is telling me. Where are the opportunities to change?

We’re not really sure what the future looks like… but I’m ready to help paint the picture of what it could be.

Post written by: Maureen Rinkunas

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