4 weeks? 5? into quarantine, I am find myself discovering the the love language behind the word furlough- A word I had never heard before March 2020, but one I now embrace because it encompasses gift.
For the last few weeks, I have been trying to find my voice. I am someone who claims to #leadwithlight. I am someone who asks to #collectivelyrise. I am someone who has always been too honest with clients, too patient with candidates, too human in my work. I guess I was guilty of bringing my whole self to work a decade or so earlier than it became a trend. Some days, I feel lucid and hopeful. Others, I look at my inbox and think- I have been at this for 16 years and I have received about 10 professional emails this month. Total. Its soul crushing and yet who am I to complain? We are all being selfless. We are flattening the curve. We are working together, but alone. We are all in this together. We are all feeling all of the feels at every stage of life and career.
Here is my vulnerable truth. There are some days I feel ready to tackle a list. And others I don’t feel motivated. Yes- truth From someone who has hustled for almost 20 years. Its hard to feel the hustle right now when nothing makes sense and we can not control the end game. And our tone. What should our tone be? Are we hopeful? Are we supportive? Are we invasive? Are we tone deaf? How can we help our clients? How can we help our staff? Whats our strategy? Mine is and always has been honesty and warmth. But now=that word furlough. What does it mean? How does it apply to us? To our clients? To an industry that relies on other industries to succeed? The simple definition of furlough is that your role is safe, but you won’t be on our payroll for a while. Its almost like a “time freeze”… it ironically mirrors our current climate. Many firms are keeping benefits in place and many people are taking advantage of unemployment benefits while resting their minds about having a job to return to when we “can return to the life we left behind”. But here is my heartfelt epiphany- being furloughed is as close to a professional hug that our employers can gift us in a time of uncertainty. It is a note of we care about you, we want you here, we didn’t see this coming. It is a note to say- if it feels good to work so you feel sane, go ahead… we want to have a business to come back to… we just can’t pay you at the moment. Its admitting and showcasing vulnerability. Its allowing us all to embrace time with our family and hunker down and look within and trust the process. Being furloughed means that when things amend, we can return to our work the way we remember it. Perhaps a furlough gives us all a positive time travel moment to our favorite internship- we worked, we learned, but we didn’t earn. Perhaps a furlough allows us to feel as supported as possible in times that are unstable…and with that support, we can sign on to a new course or take on some professional education in our free time. Perhaps furlough is synonymous with opportunity or even sabbatical? Please know, I am not naive. This is rough and I continue to step in with clients… and coax them to encourage the love language of the world furlough. We should not underestimate this gift of time. It is coming to us unexpectedly but powerfully. Instead of focusing on what we don’t have… especially now, we should be focused on what we do.
I ask all of you struggling with your focus to list what you know you do have:
- Yes, I am furloughed. And I didn’t know what that word meant before Covid-19. But, I have a team and a staff and a community that I trust and admire.
- Yes, I am furloughed, but I can contribute and work if it makes me feel comfortable as when I am working and on a schedule, I feel sane.
- Yes, I am furloughed, and I trust that when the ship rights, I will have a place to go back to. I am valued. I am part of the firm. If i was not- I would have been laid off.
- Yes, I am furloughed, and though my job is safe, I am not getting salary. However, I can elect unemployment and spend time with family and connect in ways I have not for years…without guilt.
- Yes, I am furloughed and I can ask my manager for lessons, learnings, things I have wanted to tackle but didn’t have time for in normal life.
- Yes, I am furloughed and I can use this time to network the most when I need it the least (wink!). I can have virtual coffees, I can go out to those I have been meaning to connect to professionally because guess what= chances are they are available.
- Yes, I am furloughed, but I have the gift of time and stability to gain perspective and inspiration in my work. Hammer out my why.
- Yes, I am furloughed and I can watch Tiger King.
So by creating this post, I have found my voice- the one that reminds all of you… my fellow professionals who are confused and living in this upside down- to be thankful for our health, to pledge our loyalty and support to the first responders, and rather than being filled to the brim with economic and mental stress… lets remember to have some professional perspective. We are okay. We will be okay. We are in this together. And remember, we are safe. And frankly – that is all that matters. And because I am “home ontime” for dinner, I can take pictures of my children dressed up with no place to go. I am present in my family for the first time in years. Thank you, furlough- for my giant cup of lemonade. xx Marissa*