Majority of people lost their jobs to COVID
Many people have lost their jobs since coronavirus was announced a global pandemic. In Kenya, many companies had to lay off casual workers as the need to ‘keep safe, stay at home’ became more and more essential. At first, even matatus could not move and when they did, they were at half capacity and this meant most of the people who were relying on the industry for upkeep had to remain jobless. These were not the only people who lost their jobs to COVID.
All the people who visit the industries to scrap for day jobs on-demand were rendered jobless. Most of these industries shut down or were forced to reduce labour. The other problem that came with covid19 lockdowns was the closure of social gatherings which led to reduced circulation of money. We all know someone who lost their job during the coronavirus pandemic.
Other reasons people lose their jobs
Apart from COVID lay-offs, there are massive lay-offs in our country every now and then. Media houses, banks, and other manufacturing factories have been downsizing their workforce mainly due to automation and disruptions that render some roles redundant.
Professor warned that we’d lose our jobs before the end of the MSc programme
Back in 2015 when I enrolled for an MSc programme at the UoN, several professors predicted that the majority of us would lose our jobs within a year. True to their words, most of the people we were writing group projects with were no longer working by the end of a year. I also lost my Editor job approximately one year after enrolling. I was working in a media house where a week would not end without running a story about a company that was folding up, both at home and abroad.
I did not lose my job at a time I did not expect. A former colleague had lost hers too, and one of my colleagues was rooting for my firing at that time. I had several friends who had been without jobs for a while, not because they were not trying but because they were not getting.
My friends said I lost my job because God was punishing me
Majority of the people I was talking to and hanging out with were from my church, and the rest we had schooled together during our undergraduate years. I had responsibilities, but also had some money I had saved up that did not last long enough because I set up a small business as a broker of sorts, and also paid over 100k fees to fund my MSc studies. When this money threatened to run out, I turned to some of the people who had leaned on my shoulder before.
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Many people are filled with shame when they lose their jobs, and they end up not telling anyone. I am the quiet type, but on this occasion, I chose to share with some three ‘church’ people I thought would advise me. One said I had a secret sin that God was punishing me for. Two said that I had turned my back on God. So I chose to deal with my problems alone.
How Kenyan colleagues behave after you lose your job
This is not unique to me. Professor Ndemo was my professor at the UoN and has never shied away from sharing his plight when he lost a PS position. In Kenya, it is common for colleagues to treat you like a plague when you lose your job. Your former juniors will mock you and others will not even answer your phone call out of spite. Many people have shared their plight after losing their jobs. I am however thankful for two friends who held my hand during that time and gave me some hope even as I was building. One even loaned me money to boost my business that I did not pay until last year, and he even said he had written off the debt of over 50k!
Signs that you will lose your job soon
Back to the story, it is easy to know when you are going to lose your job. And I had many such hunches before the company I was working for eventually shut down operations in Kenya. Here are some signs that you will lose your job soon:
- Top managers start to leave the company. Within the year our company was closed down, most of the long-serving top managers left to find jobs elsewhere.
- Unusual changes within the company. The company had not hired a black to a management position before. We even did not have access to Google Analytics. But that year, they put a black woman in charge of our division, and gave us access to Google Analytics!
- Your boss is not making money. We had built a lot of traffic and many people wanted to advertise with us, but our bosses were not keen on it. When we asked what the plan for the future was, we were told that the company had a budget for a couple of years (that were coming to an end) and that we did not have any reason to worry. Deep down, I knew it is weird for someone to just pay you fat salaries when they are not making money.
- Company history. A former colleague had warned us that this company had the habit of closing down after 4-5 years. It was a pattern she had observed, and so I kept my eyes wide open.
- Mergers. Our company did not merge with any other, but many people lose their jobs during mergers. If a bigger company is merging with yours, you must have great talent to keep working there.
- Frosty relationship with your bosses. For me, I had a colleague who was constantly driving a wedge between me and my good boss. We had been friends until this employee came. He would send funny accusations that made my boss not to even answer to my morning greeting on Skype. Thankfully, she did not fire me though the cold treatment and false accusations made the environment very uncomfortable for me. I quit very many times in my heart before they eventually closed down for good. I remember a friend turning me back to the office after I walked out and left everything behind ready to forfeit my salary for that month in exchange for peace of mind. The company was to close down 5 months later, and I continued working faithfully till the end.
- You are doing something wrong. When you are employed, you are governed by some code that you must adhere to. You should only break it when you are ready to lose your job. This includes disrespecting your boss, no matter how young or unqualified they may seem, absconding duty, always asking for unnecessary off-days, being late for work or not showing up at all without notice, faking disease, stealing among others. You will just see your boss’s attitude change, and then you will know that you are not far from the door.
- They hire your replacement. Many people have hired and trained their replacements before facing the ax. If your boss only needs two people and suddenly gets a third whose job isn’t clear, they could be your replacement. If you have been affected by number 7 above, you may even be asked to train them, and once they become acquainted with their new job, you will be served your firing letter. If it was a contract-based job, they will just fail to renew your contract at the end of the term.
- Your tenure is ending. Short-term contracts are the insurance employers use against bad or incompetent employees. Employers will give you a 3 month, 6 month, 12 months, or several years of the contract. Such employers are ready to hire someone new at the end of your contract but may retain you if your work is satisfying and they like you. If they don’t like you or feel you are not discharging your duties as expected, they will not renew your contract. Remember, you are not indispensable. At the end of each tenure, be ready to either keep your job or look for a new one.
- Your boss starts giving you a cold shoulder. In big companies, nobody will fire you just because they don’t like you. However, if you piss off key shareholders or company owner, you must start looking for employment elsewhere. In addition, if your manager starts behaving as if you do not exist, this could be the end of the road for you.
Whether your contract ended, the company shut down or you were terminated prematurely, there are several things you can do to cope with your loss of employment.
How to cope with job loss
Tip #1: Prepare for it early
Many people work as if they will always be there for the company. I am not saying you should stop giving your best; that is the only insurance you have for a prolonged contract. What am saying is, don’t commit suicide after losing your job. Work is very important because it gives us a purpose, but your job is not all you got to live for. Jobs come and go, and if you have the right skills and attitude, there will always be someone willing to give you a job.
Whether you are in a salaried job or self-employment, learn to always find your worth outside the office. Just like retirement, you need to always be prepared to sustain yourself and your dependents (if any) with or without your current job. You can lose your hands or feet, and you can become hospitalized. Does that mean you will stop to exist? Will your family die because you cannot work any longer? Find your purpose outside the office, especially a talent or hobby that can bring you passive income.
Tip #2: Build a strong social support system
Social support is very important when you are dealing with any loss, including job loss. Find close family members who really support you and have your best interest at heart. In the Kenyan set-up, even family can hurt you real bad. But as they say, family is not always blood. The people you meet every day, your neighbours, colleagues, and even drinking buddies can be your family.
All you need to do is ensure they are genuine because the majority of friends are not really friends. They run away when you need them most. If you cannot find genuine friends who can stand by you in good and in bad times, try looking for support groups. There is always someone who has gone through the same challenges and is willing to share, and also sharing with people who are going through the same can be therapeutic.
Tip #3: Talk to someone about it
As I mentioned before, most people are ashamed of talking about job loss. They feel like other people will laugh at them. I am not the sharing type but when it comes to job loss, I know that everybody experiences it in this lifetime. Yes, everybody loses their job someday. So tell them. If they want to laugh at you, it is their problem. It is through such sharing that you will get to know whom you can count on in the future, and whom to keep as a friend. Today it will be you; tomorrow, it will be them. Chances are high that one of the people you will share with knows someone who can give you another job.
Tip #4: Find something else to do
Do not spend too much time pitying yourself or thinking about your joblessness. Everybody has a talent, and our 8-4-4 curriculum has trained us to be Jacks-of-all-trades. Even if your field is highly specialised, there must be something you do to kill time. A hobby. Use this to fill your time.
Most hobbies can be turned into a full-time job. And if you do not have any hobby, get online fast and learn one. Before your money runs out, get the internet and a laptop if you did not have any. Learn to write, design, cook, knit, etc. Connect with people who can help you build your new hobby. If possible, enroll for a short course. Do not be afraid of starting afresh. If you must change your career midway due to a job loss, then be it. But if you do not want to change your job, start sending your cv to your friends. Upload to online recruitment websites. Before long, you will even forget that you ever lost your job.
Have you lost your job and how did your life change? How did you handle it, and what can you tell anyone who has lost their job for the first time? Share your comments below.