My heart goes out to you if you’ve been sick, have had to take care of someone sick, or lost someone to COVID-19. (((hugs)))
My heart goes out to you if you’ve had to shut down your business, or been laid off work, or kept your job but with reduced income … if you don’t know if you’ll be able to pay all your bills, whether or not you can make rent, or if you can even afford groceries.
My team and I understand how terrifying that is.
We’re either going through it or have gone through something similar in the past:
One member of my team is experiencing the financial impact of the pandemic, with her spouse’s income slashed.
Another team member got laid off work twice in less than two years.
As for me—I’ve never shared this before—at one point, my husband and I had to live on half of our household budget.
The worst part is the uncertainty.
Not knowing when you can re-open your biz or go to work again. Not knowing when your children can go to school again. Not knowing when you can workout in the gym or attend a concert again.
Not knowing when you can visit with family and friends again.
Not knowing when you can have your old life back ….
That’s why some of my team members and I decided to share with you our own personal experiences of uncertainty and insecurity and vulnerability—times when we were laid off work or had our incomes slashed.
We offer them to let you know that you’re not alone. We’re all in this together. And someday, hopefully soon, we can all look back on these times with awe and wonder because we made it to the other side.
Living on Reduced Income
Adrianne, our project manager, is one of those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Let’s hear her story.
The company my wife works for is considered essential, so they remain open during our statewide shelter in place. Nevertheless, like most businesses, they’re impacted by COVID-19 so they temporarily reduced their employees’ pay.
What was your initial reaction when you found out your wife’s income would be reduced?
It’s funny but I was surprised when we learned her pay would be reduced. I don’t know why…. I knew most businesses were struggling. Maybe it’s because of how fast it happened. Still, I felt like it was temporary and we could get through it. But her first paycheck at the lower rate made it more real. And who knows what “temporary” even means at this point!
What are your biggest concerns about the situation?
I feel more pressure to keep my business thriving because I want us to feel secure. I’m already at capacity in terms of the hours I work, so I’m revisiting my offers and streamlining the way I deliver my services so I can help more people without working longer days.
Because I’ve been at capacity for a couple of years, my marketing efforts declined dramatically. So I’m setting aside time every week to reach out for referrals and get myself in front of people. I’m also experimenting with new services that some of my prospects are requesting.
We’re in the privileged position of having savings and family who could help us if needed. Not everyone has that safety net, so I keep it in perspective and feel grateful for where we’re at.
What are the practical things you’re doing to cope with the situation?
Practically, we’re cutting expenses as needed. We already live below our means but still want more wiggle room. Our food expenses have been the easiest to cut, so we started there.
We also reviewed our recurring expenses, like those easy-to-forget subscription services, and canceled everything we felt we could let go of. I did the same for my business as well and found an extra $120/month there.
But I think what’s been most beneficial is our effort to keep our nervous systems in check. It’s scary to see her leave every day, knowing it increases both of our chances of getting the virus. The threat of the virus makes me more anxious than the money at times.
So we’re doing what we can to stay calm. We let ourselves feel what we’re feeling, take time to escape into a movie or show, give each other lots of hugs …. I write and meditate and let myself cry randomly.
I have friends and family who have lost jobs or are struggling to pay rent so, again, I try to keep it in perspective while also letting myself be wherever I’m at emotionally each day.
What lessons have you learned or are learning from this?
This is tough, almost like I need more time to process. I guess I’m learning I can live with less, on so many levels.Click to TweetSurviving on less: The Jenny Shih team bares all their survival tactics for everything from finances to mental health.
Laid Off Work Twice
Lexi Rodrigo, our copywriter, got laid off work twice in a span of 19 months. Here’s her story.
The day after Canadian Thanksgiving in 2018, I got laid off from a job I loved—and needed. We had a disastrous product launch and six employees were let go.
I was devastated. I loved what I was doing and the people I worked with. I had been doing a great job (I received a raise just months prior). Even though I knew it wasn’t personal, I still felt rejected and unwanted and useless. I was crushed. I cried in the shower.
I found a job three months later—but then I was laid off from that job after just seven months. My salary had been funded by a government contract, and it wasn’t renewed due to budget cuts.
The second time, I felt … relieved. It was a comfortable, low-pressure job, and it paid well. But I didn’t particularly enjoy it for various reasons. It was office-based and I knew I could do it perfectly from home. More importantly, I felt stifled. There wasn’t a lot of room for me to innovate and express my creativity.
What were your biggest concerns?
The first time I was laid off, my biggest concern was the loss of income. Our second child had just started university. We have a mortgage, credit card bills, oh and a teenage boy who’s outgrowing clothes as soon as we bought them.
Since I had neglected my side biz as a copywriter, that job had become my sole source of income. I had maintained my website and email lists through the years but had done nothing with them.
When I was laid off the second time, I wasn’t as worried about income, because I had kept up with my side business while I was employed. The biggest question for me was, do I look for a job or do I double down on my side business and turn it into a full-blown enterprise?
What did you do to manage?
After giving myself time to grieve (when I got laid off the first time), I sprang into action. I reached out to my contacts for leads on jobs and freelance work. I revived my website and got back into freelancing, affiliate marketing, and selling my own digital products. I actively networked again.
I kept this up even after I found a new job. Sure, it meant waking up at 5:30 am and occasionally working on weekends. But it was worth it to have that to fall back on when I got laid off again. By then, I had regular freelance work and I was making some affiliate and product sales from my list.
And of course, I applied for jobs. But only after I got really clear on what I wanted. I made a list of what I was looking for in a job and decided which ones were must-haves vs just nice-to-have.
I got really good at creating applications that were tailored to the job I was applying for. I researched the company, the people, and the position. I dug deep into my training, skills, experience, and interests to find where those aligned with each job.
I also used the time to take care of my physical and mental health. I started going to the Y regularly. I took long walks every day, spending as much time as I could in nature. And since I had the time, I dove into the area of positive psychology. I learned how to question my beliefs, reframe my thoughts, and nurture positivity and hope.
What lessons did you learn?
Relationships are some of your most important assets.
People can take away your money and other material possessions, but you’ll always have your relationships. My friends and family gave me moral support. And they gave me practical leads—including the one that led me to the Jenny Shih team.
Take care of your mindset.
I knew I had to get a grip on my mindset because an anxious brain doesn’t make good decisions. But when you have a success mindset, your positivity radiates and people just can’t help but get attracted to your energy.
Ironically, the more job rejections I got, the more my confidence grew! Polishing my resume became an opportunity for me to reflect on my strengths and the contributions I made in every job and client work I’d ever done. So when I got rejected, I figured, it was their loss, not mine! And besides, if it wasn’t the right fit, I truly would rather find out sooner rather than later.
If you look for the silver lining, you’ll find it.
I don’t want to romanticize hardship or suffering, but I really do believe that you can almost always find something good out of any situation. I’m the kind of person who makes the most of what’s in front of me. I try to be happy in every circumstance instead of waiting for everything to be perfect. I do what I can with what I have. I ask myself, “Right at this moment, right here, right now, what can I do to get closer to my goals?”Click to TweetLaid off from work? One of the Jenny Shih team members has been there, done that—twice! Here’s what she did, not just to survive, but to thrive
Giving Up A Secure Job
In my case, I decided to leave my secure job with a Fortune 500 company. It was my choice. This may not be the situation for many of you who lost income or got laid off work because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, as you’ll see below, the uncertainty, self-doubt, and fear may be familiar.
I became an engineer because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. My parents told me to get a degree that gets a job, and that’s what I did.
By 2007, I was working in Hewlett-Packard as an Engineering Manager. I had gotten really good at being a manager, dealing with difficult employees and challenging situations and all that.
But then I realized that I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to. Even though management was way better than being an engineer, I knew I still wasn’t in the right place. I thought, if I hit 55 or 65, and retire and all I’ve done is climb the ladder at this company, then I would be so disappointed in myself. I just didn’t see that as my future.
So I started doing some soul searching. I worked with a career coach and thought I wanted to be a life coach. I interviewed other life coaches and got a life coach for myself, to see what it was like.
I went to Byron Katie’s School for The Work. I thought, “Oh, my gosh, this is amazing. I totally want to do this stuff!” So then I signed up for Martha Beck’s life coach training, which started in March 2009. It was amazing and incredible. I felt that’s what I wanted to do.
So I submitted my resignation to my job in May 2009. After some back-and-forth with management—because my boss tried to keep me—I reported for work for the last time on June 14, 2009.
How did you prepare for leaving your job?
I was the primary breadwinner, so once I realized that I was going to quit and do something else, I started saving. I just decided, these things I’m just not going to spend money on anymore. We’re just going to change our habits. My goal was to save one year’s worth of living expenses.
I put the pressure on myself to make all the money that I made in my corporate job. I prepared by really looking at saving a lot of money, making a plan, and figuring out how to get health insurance along the way (which was incredibly hard and expensive because of my health issues). I figured, “Oh, I could get my business up and running to my previous corporate salary within one year”—which is hilarious, but that’s what I thought.
What practical things did you do to cope with the loss of your previously stable income?
We cut everything. We cut our household budget in half. We did not eat out, we did not buy any new clothes. We kept the house cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer. We clipped coupons and watched sales. We went to the bent-and-dent grocery store. We shopped the cheap food stores for stuff that was on sale. We cut our cable and changed our cellphone plans. There was no more travel, no more movies, no more massages and other self-care activities. We just slashed everything.
I was willing to go even further—sell jewelry, furniture, our house, or rent out our spare bedroom. I was willing to do some pretty drastic things.
That’s how committed I was to my business. It was my decision to leave my job and, to make my dream happen, I was willing to make these choices.Click to TweetCould you live on half your budget? Jenny Shih had to, for a couple of years. Here’s how she did it.
Were you ever tempted to find a job again?
Oh yes! There were so many times I thought, “This was a bad decision. I can’t believe I did this.” At the same time, I really didn’t want to go back to a job. I would be so embarrassed.
I would sometimes search for jobs on Craigslist. But there was this hard balance, because I needed all my brainpower to build my business and I needed money coming in. But the jobs that paid the most money were the ones that required brainpower.
Or, I could just go to Starbucks or get a $12/hour office job and get health benefits and make it work part-time. It wouldn’t really take brainpower.
I was looking at all those options. They were all on the table at one time because we were running out of money.
What scared you the most during this time?
I had this fear of having to go, terribly embarrassed, and crawl back to my company and ask to get my job back. The likelihood of that happening was impossible, but that was the scenario playing in my head.
My biggest fear was that I would do this and it wouldn’t work. And I would give up on this dream forever. I was terrified.
What lessons did you learn from the experience?
Learn how to let go of worry.
I needed time to detox from the corporate environment and reset my system, and I didn’t know how to do that back then. I just felt so much urgency to replace my income, that I couldn’t think straight. It’s taken until now to learn how to do that.
And then there was this constant stream in my head playing: “What if this doesn’t work?” “Oh my God, will we have enough money?” It was incessant. I was in this constant fear cycle.
No wonder it took me a long time to get the business off the ground! I spent so much mental energy stressing out, that every ounce of that energy was unable to be spent on thinking about my business, effectively taking action, and being creative. I was spending so much time worrying and stressing and in anxiety, that it was completely impossible for me to be as productive and grow my business as much as possible.
The number one thing I want to say to my earlier self is,”You’ve got to get out of that mental fear cycle. Yes, you might run out of money. Yes, things are really hard. But worry is an unproductive, useless emotion. Worrying does nothing. It provides zero value and only creates extra stress and anxiety.”
You have to go all in.
You have to go committed, 100% all in to see if something is going to work for you. I think most people quit too early. They don’t go all in. There are exceptions when people are beating a dead horse, but more often than not, people don’t give it enough effort. They have one foot in and one foot out with the attitude that, well if it works that would be really great.
By quitting my job, I had to go all in. I had to put myself in that extremely stressful position. This is not for everyone, but I learned for myself that I had to go all in because it was going to be so hard and scary.
You don’t control the timing.
There’s our commitment to go all in, there’s the willingness to do the work, there’s putting our asses on the line, there’s managing your own mindset, and then there’s the tending of the magical timing.
And that’s beyond our control. There are other forces beyond our abilities as humans to decide when things are going to happen. And so, there’s also an element of surrender to the timing and circumstances.
Although my business worked out, it didn’t do so on my timeline and the way I thought it would. And so there’s a lot of surrender that has to happen as well.My Personal Recommendation for YouWhat to Do When You Have to Make a Leap but You’re Scared Sh*tless