COVID-19: Three mistakes to avoid if you have lost your job

By Obadan Gbeminiyi

When news of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) hit mainstream media, it was firstly thought to be a virus in far-away China and most people falsely predicted that it wouldn’t hit Africa.

To our dismay, the disease has not only hit Africa but swept through Nigeria, and has taken many casualties within several industries.

The barely thriving employment industry in Nigeria has felt its fair share of COVID-19 casualties. A few weeks ago, the news waves went agog with news about a popular bank sacking some of its staff members. As usual, there were varying opinions about the actions of the bank. I felt pity for the bank who was at the mercy of the courts of public opinion, especially by many who aren’t abreast with the intricacies of running a business.

I have spoken to many people who suffered unpredictable job loss in this season, and from my conversations with them, I have come up with three mistakes anyone who lost their jobs in this season must avoid.

The first mistake to avoid is to wait for everything to return to normal. I have heard a lot people say, “I can’t wait for things to return to normal”. It is understandable that in this part of the world, we are largely religious and hopeful, but it doesn’t hurt to snap out of the bubble of false hope and be pragmatic once in a while. Anyone waiting for everything to return back to normal is being very unrealistic.

Certain organisations have realised that they do not need the five storey building they rented in that exclusive part of town, because staff and client meetings can be held online at a far cheaper price. Many have realised that they do not necessarily need a front desk officer, or a receptionist, and would willingly move on without one in order to save over-head costs. Many job roles which were once considered important are quick becoming holes in the pockets of organisations therefore becoming redundant. So, if you are one of those waiting for things to return back to normal, I hate to be a bearer of bad news, but this may be our new normal for quite a while. It would do you a lot of good to begin to adjust your thinking, patterns and behavior to this new normal. This means that your lack of employment may be your new normal, and your current skill set may have no place in this new order. It’s time for you to upgrade yourself.

The second trap to avoid is to stay in a state of fear paralysis. Fear paralysis is a form of reflex that emerges in the embryonic stage (while a baby is still in the womb). During this stage the embryo reacts to stress and stimulation by withdrawing and freezing. For many individuals, this was their initial reaction to the loss of their job. Because we are emotional beings, we are allowed to feel a measure of fear, what we are not allowed to do is stay in this frozen stage. The biggest mistake anyone who has suffered job loss is to stay withdrawn and frozen. What happens when a person is in fear paralysis? Fear, Anxiety, Worry, Bleakness, Lack of creativity, Lack of will power and Un-resourcefulness

The characteristics listed above are the biggest recipes for disaster. Any person who chooses to stay in a state of fear paralysis, lacks the mental creativity to plan for the next step. He is unable to look within himself to adequately plan and prepare and they soon realise that life has long passed them by while they stayed in a state that should have only been temporary. What you can do to break this paralysis is not just action, but consistent action. Consistent action towards a way out of unemployment will soon move you to a resourceful and creative state. The question to ask yourself at this stage is what is the simplest, yet significant thing I can do to get me into my creative zone so I can start thinking ahead?

The last mistake to avoid after losing your job to COVID-19 is to play the blame game. This is not the time for you to blame your boss, colleague, your educational background or even yourself. The best analysts and forecasters couldn’t foretell that the world would be in a pandemic due to a virus, so there is no way you could have planned for it. The best thing you can do for yourself is to accept yourself and situation and take full responsibility for your life and future. It is only by doing this that you can carefully map out your next steps.

According to J. K. Rowling, “Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” If you want to recover, you must first accept your situatuion.

According to the Becker Friedman Institute of the University of Chicago, 42 per cent of job losses due to this pandemic will be permanent. This statistic is alarming and scary, and the best thing you can do for yourself is view statistics as ammunition to plan the next phase of your life, not as a death sentence.

My article next week will focus on steps to take after losing your job as a result of COVID-19.


  • Obadan, a lawyer, certified executive coach and H. R. consultant. Questions and comments can be sent to [email protected]

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