I’ve Been Unemployed for Most of the Pandemic — This 1 Thing Helps Me Cope

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Brooke63
Fundraising Pro/ Non-profit Leader

Were you laid off due to COVID-19? If you have, you’re in good company. According to a recent Pew Research Study, 25% of U.S. adults say they or someone in their household lost their job because of the coronavirus outbreak. Young adults (ages 18 to 29) and lower-income adults are among the most likely to say this has occurred in their household. 

While we’re in good company, we all cope with job loss and unemployment in different ways. Many of us binge watch our favorite shows, or indulge in sweets, snacks and alcohol. Maybe we sleep too much or struggle with not getting enough sleep. While there’s no best way to cope, I’ve found a successful personal strategy—something I call my “furlough buddy.” 

Let me explain. For the past ten years or so, I have worked in the nonprofit sector in the area of fundraising. I met my “buddy,” Bonnie, while we both worked as Major Gift Officers at a large urban university. We got to know one another as colleagues at first, and then we became friends. Bonnie and I went through a professional development training and would often talk about everything and anything: donors we were working with, dealing with difficult bosses, and finding that elusive work life balance. Bonnie confided in me that she and her husband were going through in vitro fertilization and she had suffered several miscarriages. Bonnie became pregnant and went out on maternity leave. I left my position after having been there for six years, ready for something new. 

She decided to leave the university and start in a new role at a museum. I did the same thing. We were both excited about our new roles and often met for lunch or coffee to check in. 

Fast forward to March 2020: the world literally came to a full stop and everything shut down. My museum went into full virtual mode and was able to keep the staff on until mid-May. At that time, they let most of us go. Bonnie was let go in June. 

As we had been good colleagues, and then close friends, we soon became “furlough buddies.”

What does a “furlough buddy” do? At first, we emailed each other job opportunities, and actually interviewed for several of the same positions! Then, we checked in with each other by text, by phone, and we actually got together in person towards the end of the summer. We sat in a park and just talked and vented about the job search, kids, our spouses, finances, therapy, intimacy— you name it!

It’s been a lifesaver for both of us. Our relationship is special and unique because we work in the same industry: we understand the jobs we’re both applying for, we’ve both worked hard to get to the level we are at, and neither of us wants to “go backwards.” But we also talk about things that are affecting all of us, including working remotely for the foreseeable future — and how we’re missing our commute, having colleagues, and going into an office and out for lunch. 

Bonnie has secured a part-time position that might result in a full time role. Is it her “dream job?” No. Is it ok for now? Absolutely. She puts her toddler in daycare, she goes into the office once a week, and the rest of the time works from home. She’s getting along better with her husband and she’s getting back into her groove. 

For me, I have probably had 50-100 interviews, Zoom meetings, calls and conversations. Do I think I’ll land a position soon? I think so. Until then, I know I’ll have Bonnie to call, text and vent to. 

My advice is if you have been laid off, furloughed or downsized, find yourself a buddy, ASAP. 

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Brooke Schostak has over 10 years of fundraising experience in the non-profit sector and also served as campaign manager for a school board candidate in her community (she won!). During her COVID-19 job search, Brooke was featured as a guest on The Development Debrief podcast. Please feel free to reach out to her on Fairygodboss and share in the comments how your job search is going!