I think it’s safe to say no one’s 2020 has gone to plan. I know mine hasn’t. To be clear, I consider myself extremely lucky to have my health and a solid support system to rely on every step of the way during these uncertain times. But I’m not supposed to be in Melbourne – I should still be in NYC with my friends, in an exciting job at a tech start up, in an apartment that I loved, in the city I had come to call home.
My partner and I moved to NYC in early 2019 after months of networking, hustling, hard work and Zoom interviews (back when this wasn’t the norm). A year into our big adventure and we were still pinching ourselves every day that we were in NYC, with a return to Melbourne not even on the horizon.
And then everything went pear shaped.
Things moved quickly from hearing rumblings of a virus brewing in February, to a mandatory WFH policy being implemented in early March. Then schools closed, Broadway shut down, Central Park became a cemetery, morgue trucks appeared in the streets, shopfronts were shuttered, our friends fled the city and suddenly the streets of NYC were eerily quiet. In late March, consulates closed, international flights were cancelled and suddenly we were packing up to fly back to the relative safety (at that time) of Melbourne.
Armed with a mask each and a pair of bright yellow dishwashing gloves, we commenced what would turn out to be a 40-hour journey back to Australia. At that exact time, Australia’s mandatory hotel quarantine rules came into play. And so, it was on the way to the airport that we learned we would not be flying home to Melbourne, but to Sydney, where we would be among the first travellers repatriating in hotel quarantine.
Hotel quarantine was tough, and I was fortunate enough to have my partner with me for company. Apart from being incredibly challenging for the obvious reasons, the added stress of being unemployed and unsure of my next career step made this time particularly stressful. I suppose the ‘silver lining’ was that, once confined to a hotel room for 14 days, I had plenty of time on my hands (in between Tiger King episodes), which I used first to avoid, and then eventually to confront, the dreaded question of “what next?”.
But I had no idea where to start. I was completely overwhelmed. It was my partner who helped me take that first daunting step when he said, “just pick up the phone and start asking people what they do and how they got there”. So, I started sending LinkedIn messages to legal recruiters, explaining my background and asking them if they would mind having a chat. And, to my surprise, almost every single person I reached out to was happy to jump on a call. Some even connected me with other people in their networks. I was shocked and pleasantly surprised by how generous people were being with their time, how willing they were to help out a relative stranger.
It was in this way that I eventually connected with my now colleagues at Sigma Executive.
COVID has shone a light on our need for human connection and interaction, how you only truly appreciate it once it’s taken away. With everyone sitting at home, feeling like the days and weeks are melting away, with “how was your weekend?” now officially a redundant question, and the discomfort and fatigue of living with uncertainty, the one thing that is certain is that people actually have the time, and the need, to talk and connect.
If you have suddenly and devastatingly found yourself out of a job in the midst of a pandemic, if you’re contemplating your next move, or even if you’re just feeling completely disconnected from your team (or the outside world!), pick up the phone and make a call.
Or better yet, set up a Zoom chat. It goes without saying that you will make a more impactful, memorable impression looking someone in the eye, even if it’s indirectly through your computer screen.
Send some LinkedIn messages, ask your friends to facilitate an introduction, be a little bit more forward than you would otherwise be, because now is the time for human connection.
I’m not saying you’ll make one call and secure your dream job just like that, but I am saying that it’s a step in the right direction, and that you have nothing to lose by reaching out, and everything to gain. It all starts with that first call.