How an Unexpected Employment Break Will Help Me Survive Covid-19 Part Two
If I can go back in time and change the way things went, I will still choose the nine-month gap over the two months.
October 30, 2019 — I ended my accounting career. Bad call.
I left the firm where I spent more than five meaningful years as an auditor. I’m planning to restart in a new country. All those busy seasons drained my energy and passion. A two-month break will be enough to recharge, I thought.
Little did I know that the two months would extend to nine. A pandemic will be at the heart of it.
The longer employment break broke me into smithereens.
By January 2020, I was getting ready to start my overseas work when my exit requirements got into a hitch. A fellow expat would understand how bureaucracy and age-old immigration laws will sometimes make you feel that it’s better not to leave the country at all.
My stopper was in the form of the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC), a country-specific requirement that takes a ridiculous amount of paper work and patience.
Of course, I was frustrated because the lack of OEC led to a delay of my start date. I can’t leave the country even if I’ve already got a work visa. Technically, I can go out as a tourist. But, I face the risk of being offloaded when I’ve got a work visa stamped on my passport and no OEC. I played it safe and waited.
By February, I was still hopeful that things will work out.
Then, Covid-19 happened.
Lockdowns ensued. Business operations stopped. The whole world came to a halt. And inside the home which was supposed to be a safe zone, I was dealing with a family crisis that I was not prepared to handle. I broke into smithereens.
By March, I was anxious, broke, and unemployed like many others.
No cash was coming in. People were not coming out of their houses. The tallies of COVID-19 infections kept piling up, along with my expenses. When there’s trouble, you’re supposed to stick together. But two of our family members were far from home and the lockdowns made it impossible for any of us to travel.
It was a hot, quiet, and stifling summer with a raging pandemic in the background.
No matter what horror stories you hear from auditors’ busy seasons, my out-of-audit-season experience did not compare. It was a different kind of struggle, one that I was happy to survive and write about much later.
But what if there’s a part two? Who knows just what kind of troubles the future will bring? You and I should be more prepared to handle Part Two of Covid-19 or any other cataclysmic event, when it happens. Right?
Here are my top survival tips if there’s a COVID-19 Part Two.
- Tough situations can make or break you. But once you’re through that phase, you’re stronger and more capable of handling obstacles. Do not underestimate your moxy. You may not feel it in you but you have that inner strength or mental resilience to get out of trouble. Train that resilience by exposing yourself to challenges outside your comfort zone. When there’s a need, mine that strength and release automatically.
- Build an emergency fund especially during those times that you are well-off. As an accountant, I know how important it is for a business to have a steady cash flow. Treat your life like it’s your most important business. You cannot be caught unprepared in times of emergencies.
- Speaking of business, a period of unemployment is the worst time to start one. You don’t have a lot of leverage. You face internal and external pressures. That shouldn’t stop you from becoming an entrepreneur anyway. If you’re bold and risky, do it. But do know that you’ll face disappointments and frustrations.
- Start small. Think big. Be consistent. Pandemic or not, if you want to start something, do it small first. You’ll be amazed at how tiny steps can later snowball to larger impact. One example is the story of a Filipina who started a community pantry that later spread across many communities and sparked a collective spirit. Consistency is also a key factor here. If your actions are leading to positive change both within yourself and the people around you, keep doing it.
- Unexpected employment breaks can lead you to major breakthroughs. I rediscovered my passion for writing during my break from work. I thought that my well of creativity has dried up. But the lack of action and lots of introspection made me realize how writing helps me release all those pent-up thoughts and emotions. I broke through my accountant mold and re-invented my definition of a career.
As of writing this, I’m finally pushing through with my employment in another country. The pragmatic accountant in me needs the stable paycheck to rebuild my finances. Plus, international exposure has always been part of my career plans.
But I know that the pandemic changed me, just as it changed you and the world around us. For better or for worse? Time will tell.
To end this, let me quote one of my favorite poems. Whenever you feel that you’re losing the battle, may these lines from Invictus comfort you:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
You are the “master of your fate”. You are the “captain of your soul”.
Follow my adventures as a millennial expat accountant/auditor as I navigate the tricky and exciting workspace of diverse cultures and international teams. Support me in this journey by subscribing to my email list or get access to more of my stories by becoming a Medium member.