After what felt like an eternal flight, I was reunited with my extended family at an apartment in the heart of Manila. Amongst the joyous celebration, I sat anxiously on the floor clutching my smartphone, as it reached out in desperation for droplets of data, trickling from the weak stream of a wifi signal.
Success! One unread email. When it finally loaded, a sickening feeling washed over me.
My manager had emailed to let me know not to expect him to be around next year, and that all positions in our team had been disestablished. Only two of us were invited to apply for new positions that resembled our current roles, and although our manager fought for it, he was unsuccessful in having us directly translated to the new roles…
This is a glimpse of my first restructure experience at MQ, from December 2015.
With current job uncertainty looming over the university, I can’t help but be reminded of my previous experience of restructure and the toll it takes on the community as a whole. Given the general unease and negative lens often applied to these large shifts in organisational direction, I’m compelled to share, and attempt to take, a more Stoic approach to the situation.
Here’s a question we could ask ourselves during this time: What if we reframed our thoughts around current (and future) organisational restructuring as opportunities?
This is an opportunity to be an example for our students
It’s no secret that restructures occur for various reasons every few years – it’s almost cyclical and often coincides with change of management. To what extent and impact varies from one to the next, however we’re no strangers to organisational change in the sector. In fact, we can come to expect it.
We talk about the importance of ’employability’ as one of the key hallmarks of student success, as we strive to prepare our students for the future world of work.
Well, I’d hazard a guess that the future world of work is just as uncertain as the present world of work. How we respond to these current challenges is a prime example for our students.
As mentors and guides through our students’ learning journeys, it is an opportunity, through our actions, to demonstrate to our students what it is to be a resilient, resourceful, professional, and competitive member of a workforce.
What can you do? In the short term, maybe brush up on your presentation techniques, learn rudimentary digital media production skills to improve your teaching materials, discover new ways of engaging audiences, revamp your CV. There are many avenues for self-study available that can help broaden and strengthen your skillset. LinkedIn Learning, for example, is a resource freely available for MQ staff and something I found personally useful.
When my position was disestablished in 2015, I learnt new skills to be hired for a part-time writing job, and devoted more time to improving my small photography business to prepare for the loss of my full-time income. A challenging situation no doubt as my children were pre-school -aged at the time. I’m grateful that I eventually managed to secure a full-time role in the then-new structure. I found that being proactive and taking control of my own income situation by leveraging new skills was honestly better for my self-esteem than waiting for the axe to fall, or spending valuable time and energy worrying about impending change that was out of my control.
As the lifelong learners that we encourage our students to emulate, we can choose to use the resources we have at our disposal to confidently navigate the rough seas that one can expect along their employment journey.
This is an opportunity to reset your compass
Being in a position of potential job loss can certainly be humbling. Having a sense of appreciation for what we currently do have (a momentary position of employment) and knowing that it cannot last forever allows one to choose to entertain other possibilities. Such situations are a chance for us to revisit our true callings or passions that we may have put aside in pursuit of paying the bills.
We could ask ourselves – what is the next best thing you could do if MQ was no longer an option?
My mentor (and of countless others across the MQ community) Dr Albert Lim stressed the importance of mapping out career goals interdependently with your personal aspirations, and constantly revisiting these with the aim of achieving a rewarding and fulfilling life as a whole.
This approach invites us to adapt and change to the situation. You can choose to accept the external decisions being made that affect you but you have no control over, in order to discover clarity in what you can control. The challenge then is to reflect deeply about your life’s direction and have the courage to take the next steps suited to your vision of your life and the lives of your loved ones.
By working in your current role are you taking steps in the direction you want your life to be? If not, well, it’s never too late to change course towards wherever it is you’ve always wanted to go.
This is an opportunity to build and strengthen your relationships
What I’ve found extremely valuable over the last decade of a ‘career’ in the higher ed sector is working in a place that allows one to be surrounded by brilliant people with a wide variety of expertise and knowledge. It’s the strong relationships built between such people, as colleagues and friends, and as mentors and mentees in learning, that are crucial in challenging and uncertain times.
I’d say it’s an opportune time to leverage these relationships for support and guidance. It’s a chance to learn and grow with people from different disciplines, faculties and offices. Lend an ear to someone who needs to vent. Review and strengthen someone’s CV. Help facilitate new professional connections and networks. Have coffee and an honest chat with a colleague. Don’t be afraid to ask for mentorship from others across different disciplines, and be a mentor to your colleagues, too. As cliche’d as it is; you are not alone, we’re all in this together.
Help each other to find the opportunities rather than indulging in resentment for difficult decisions that, thankfully, are not yours to make.
There are opportunities in these challenging times, if we make the choice to seek them.