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I lost my job due to Coronavirus

You are angry. You are frustrated. You feel helpless. You feel worried, for yourself and your family. Mostly, you feel a primal cry of “Why me?”. I understand these feelings and emotions because I have gone through them. I, too, was furloughed once due to circumstances beyond my control. I felt rejected and devalued and hurt and impotent. Every human being encounters failure. Even the greatest of human beings we know and admire have struggled through stumbles and falls. What made them great is their response to failure. It is not the fall that defines us, it is how we pick ourselves up and move forward thereafter.

So, what should you do? Here are the steps I would take (and did take, many years ago).

  • First, spend some time feeling bad. Curse the world, fate, the virus. Stand in your balcony or terrace and scream your frustration (without disturbing your neighbours too much). Then, having done that and gotten it off your chest, put your frustration and anger aside. They have no role to play in your future.
  • Second, find something to do, something to contribute to, quickly. Do not allow your mind and body to idle. You could volunteer your services at an NGO. You could join a start-up as an pro bono advisor. You could offer yourself as an unpaid intern to a company. You could teach the neighbourhood kids math or art or football. When you do this, you continue to learn, to contribute and to grow. Even though you are not paid, you are learning new skills, meeting new people, developing new ideas.
  • Third, list all your connections and identify those who can be of help. Reach out to them. Don’t whine or complain. Be factual. Tell them what happened, tell them what you are doing, and ask them to keep an eye open for any opportunity that may come their way. Ask them if you can contribute in any way to their lives and do so.
  • Fourth, invest in yourself. When you were at work, you were busy all the time. You did not have time to sharpen your skills or learn new ones. Go into any of the many online academies and choose courses that will enhance your abilities whilst aligning with your career goals. Learn, reskill and upskill.
  • Fifth, spend some time reconnecting with your family. When you were at work, you had little or no time for them. Spend time with them. Speak to them, listen to them, understand what they are going through. Strengthen the bonds that will stand the test of time and crisis.
  • Sixth, review your career and life. Understand what went right and what went wrong, what different approaches could you have considered, how you could have prepared better, what gaps in your knowledge you need to fill. Has your life so far been full of purpose and meaning? If not, what can you do to change this? This exercise will make you stronger and wiser, and thus, able to grow and achieve faster and better when you resume your career journey.
  • Finally, exercise. Walk, run, lift weights, skip, play. The fitter your body is, the sharper your mind, and the more positive your outlook. If you need to, lose weight. If you don’t, develop your abs and pecs. Learn to breathe. Spend some time learning how to meditate.

A loss of a job is a severe blow. But, it is not the end of the world, unless you make it so. In fact, it can be an amazing new beginning – of a wonderful journey that you never noticed because you were too busy in your job.

Afterword: In 1985, when global shipping was facing one of its biggest downturns, my employer informed me that due to a surfeit of marine engineers and a shortage of vessels, it would be at least a year before they could re-engage my services. I was shattered. I knew I was a good engineer, and my company did, too. I felt betrayed. I felt like a victim.

I spent 2 weeks moaning and whining. Then, I picked myself up. I joined a Suicide Hot Line as a counsellor and an NGO that helped teach street kids English. I looked for jobs, but the eighties were a difficult time. I made many new connections, though, who are now close friends and mentors. Then, I was advised to do an MBA. I wrote the CAT, and spent two of the best years of my life in IIMB. I saw a whole spectrum of different futures, which I had no clue existed when I was sailing as an engineer. I moved from engineering into operations and then into marketing and sales. I found my purpose and my vision.

If that furlough had not happened, I don’t think I would have ever become a CEO. Or led the wonderful life I did…


Venkatraman Sheshashayee (Shesh) is an engineer, manager and leader. He has worked in shipping, manufacturing, services and offshore logistics. He has extensive experience in building greenfield companies and turning around distressed companies. He has worked in MNCs, family-run businesses and PE-owned enterprises. He has served as CEO/MD for over 10 years in three companies.

He graduated in Marine Engineering from DMET and holds an MBA from IIM Bangalore.

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