The power of our stories

Updated: Jul 9, 2020

When you start out your business as an entrepreneur you know it’s going to be tough. There is a certain degree of resolve, some gritting of teeth and lots of deep breathing that goes on as you open the envelope with that certificate of business registration, and you realise that this is it. There’s no going back now.

So this was me last November. I had already run a successful business so I knew just how much work I would have to put in. Not only that, but I had run a successful business that I had to walk away from due to circumstances beyond my control and I knew only too well the grief and pain associated with that. What I didn’t expect though, was that three months into my journey, Australia and the rest of the world would be hit by a Global Pandemic.

You would think that I would be devastated. You would think that I would be shocked. Sure… no-one could see a pandemic coming their way, but honestly, I didn’t feel that it shook me as much as it should from a business perspective. I think when you face your worst fear as a business owner, it makes you resilient (whether you like it or not!) regardless of your business outcome. To paraphrase Brene Brown, I had been in the arena. My face had been marred by sweat, dust and blood. I came up short again and again and continued to strive to do the deeds and know great enthusiasm.

I run the risk of sounding trite, but what got me (and continues to get me) is the human element. So many people impacted by this unprecedented occurrence and so many stories untold. I have been a consumer and interpreter of human stories for my entire career, and I am overwhelmed to think of the myriad of awe-inspiring stories going untold right now. I believe stories are humanity’s superpower. It is through storytelling that we see our potential and strength.

When I saw news footage showing thousands of people lining up outside unemployment agencies all over the world, I recognised the stunned, haunted expressions on their faces. “How can this be happening to me? This is not where I should be.” I felt the anxiety, fear, and desperation that they felt as they somehow tried to grapple with how they could protect their families and all they had worked and sacrificed years for. I had walked down that road 3 months before. In that moment, somehow, I couldn’t bring myself to make topical online banter, or post pictures of my pets. It was all just too raw.

Having spent nearly a quarter of a century coaching people about careers and transitions, I knew that some organisations would be able to support their people as much as possible on this inevitable change journey. I also knew that while HR managers everywhere grappled with the complexities of a turbulent landscape, many organisations would just not be able to provide people with the support they needed. The hardest thing for me, as a consultant, was sitting on the sidelines knowing I could help but also knowing many HR managers could not justify my services when their work forces were being stood down overnight.

I have spent the last 3 months working with amazing organisations and leaders (some who could pay me and others who couldn’t), to try to cushion the blow as much as possible for their people and that is what has kept me going through the pandemic. It’s not the money, it’s not the esteem or the job title, but rather the ability to help people and see the impact you can make. It is the ability to write your own story that is so important.

Let’s be frank though. We haven’t even started to see the impact of COVID on the job market. I believe this is an event that will send shock waves through our industry for years to come and we will never be the same. The work that I and hundreds of my respected colleagues can do to coach and support people through career transition and change doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what is really needed by hundreds and thousands of people. It shouldn’t only be people who work for large organisations who have budget to spend on career transition who should be supported. The tsunami of COVID has hit hospitality, tourism, entertainment and the arts with full force here in Australia – all industries which would never traditionally have the funds to invest in expensive Career Transition programs for employees who are for the most part casual or contracted. Further, the advice we have traditionally given candidates is fast becoming obsolete as the job market changes.

I do not know the answers. I do not believe anyone does. In fact I am highly skeptical of anyone who claims to right now, but I do think that my recruitment, career transition and HR partners are in a unique position to reinvent our job market.

For years we have talked of “candidates” and “applicants” but at the end of the day, we are all participants in this employment community. It is time to break down hierarchy, share knowledge, inspiration and guidance from the extraordinary demonstrations of support and community we have seen throughout this global crisis. There have been some beautiful examples of this already which fill me with pride in our profession but we must always look beyond the confines of our profession and strive to reflect our broader community.

We need to continually remind ourselves of the lesson of quiet resilience, humility, and dedication that Captain Tom Moore taught us in Britain. The lesson of enduring humanity and generosity of spirit we have seen from health care and front-line workers all over the world. The lessons of vulnerability and honesty we have seen from so many people of all ages, races and religions who have overcome a fear of technology to reach out and share kindness and support to others in a virtual world.

Mine is a minuscule contribution on this global scale, but as a starting point please join me in the Facebook Group at the below link to help debunk job market myths, hurdles, and mindset blocks which stop so many of us from living out our career hopes and dreams. Join the conversation and activity on this free page and share with anyone you know who has been impacted by career change at this time who will benefit from a supportive platform as they navigate the employment landscape.

Human Trilogy Career Co-operative