How to Take Back Control If You Unexpectedly Lost Your Job or Internship

May 12, 2020

As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to spread throughout the world, millions of people have filed for unemployment and thousands have lost internships or promise job opportunities. Especially for young professionals and graduating students, this sudden shove to a new S Curve may well be accompanied by some measure of apprehension.

In times of uncertainty, it’s easy to let ourselves be controlled by our situations instead of taking control where we can.

If you are one of the many who have lost jobs or internships, here are six ways that you can take back control.

1. Set a Routine

Wake up at a reasonable hour, shower, get ready for the day, and eat breakfast. Simple routines give us a sense of security and control and can help nurture positive habits, providing a basis from which we can move on to larger tasks.

2. Get Perspective

Take a step back and get a bird’s eye view of your situation. Gaining perspective prepares you to know what you can do now.

Try posing these questions to yourself:

  1. What are my career goals? Have they changed since COVID-19 started?
  2. What can I do now to achieve those goals? What are other directions I can take to get there?
  3. How do I want my life to change for the better? (Remember, we either disrupt ourselves or we get disrupted.)
  4. What do I need at this moment to make those changes?

3. Be Open to Different Jobs

The current door to your desired career  may be shut right now due to the loss of a job or internship, but other doors will open that can lead you to where you want to go without taking you too far off the path. It’s true that many people aren’t hiring at the moment—but some are, such as tech, food, health care, or delivery. Explore different opportunities and consider how potential positions could expand your knowledge and propel you forward in the future.

Consider contacting your university for potential jobs/internships. Harvard and Brigham Young Universities, for example, have reached out to their extensive alumni networks requesting opportunities for their upcoming graduates. If that isn’t an option, look for opportunities in your community. Jim is a great example. As a dentist, he hasn’t been to the office in weeks due to quarantine. Though he enjoys the extra time with his young family, sitting around is not in his nature. He recognized the high demand for food delivery and applied to be a “DoorDash guy.” This job is a far cry from dentistry, but Jim knows that the experience on a new S curve will benefit him in the future.

4. Volunteer

If you can’t find a job, volunteer. Volunteer work is much needed right now, especially for hospitals, nonprofits, and other essential services. Offering your skills allows you to gain professional exposure while using your unique capabilities, insights, and experiences to benefit organizations in need.

What problems do these companies need solved right now? SEO help? Accounting? A new website? Someone to just run errands? Regardless of whether you find opportunities that require what you’ve studied in school, reach out and extend your services—paid or unpaid. Think of this like an unexpected gap year you may (or may not) have thought about taking.

Your ROI may not be monetary, but your service will prove valuable to many, including yourself. Volunteering allows you to gain professional exposure while using your unique capabilities, insights, and experiences to benefit people and organizations in need.

5. Pursue Upskilling Opportunities

Many universities are currently taking students without standardized test scores or have pushed back admission deadlines for the fall. Were you planning on eventually pursuing a higher degree, but have been unsure of when to take that step? As you gain perspective, you will be able to evaluate whether to take this step sooner rather than later.

If on-campus schooling isn’t an option, think about online courses or training. What skills would be helpful for you to learn to get to your ultimate goal? The need for coding skills, for example, is growing more prevalent in the increasingly technology-focused world, and it doesn’t take much to get started.

6. Develop Good Habits

Habits take twenty-one days to form, and with so much change happening around you, now is a great time to nurture the positive habits you’ve wanted to incorporate into your lifestyle. Here are a few suggestions: Exercise daily, learn to cook healthy meals, meditate/pray/reflect, read more, and pursue productive hobbies.

The difficulty and disappointment of lost jobs, internships, or future employment opportunities can make you feel stuck and without purpose. To aid you through this uncertainty, ask yourself, “What do I want my story to be when I look back at the events of COVID-19?” The people who will be successful in the future are not waiting for things to return to the way they used to be. Rather, they are choosing to be constructive now and look to the future with new ideas.

By: Whitney JohnsonJennifer Brotherson Brigham Doxey

Copyright: HBR Ascend; All Rights Reserved. 

chicago river
  • “Chicago Legal Search was able to deliver even with hard to find criteria for our in-house legal needs. CLS took time to fully understand our business and exactly what we were looking for in a great match, not just from a technical aspect, but also from a company fit. I appreciated their flexibility and consistency in providing top talent for our company in a timely manner.”

    Sarah Wahlstrom, Human Resources Manager

    Dyson, Inc.