Column: Succeed Through This Pandemic

May 25, 2020

[Opinion column written by Lorene Phillips]

Firstly, I would like to congratulate the class of 2020! I am sure with everything happening in regards to this pandemic, it may seem like a bad dream – in a flash your classes were hoisted online, dorms closed, graduation ceremonies cancelled, and with concerns about what your future holds as the ill-effects of the pandemic continues to bear down on all of us.

Many of you may be wondering what this means for summer jobs, internships, or permanent employment opportunities in the months to come?

Lorene Phillips Column Bermuda May 2020

Here is what I do know: You are the generation armed with all the creativity and skills necessary to innovate what you want and how you want to do it. I am confident that this class of 2020 will make it through this crisis and while the losses cannot be replaced I recommend that you start to make plans to celebrate this occasion together with your former classmates while temporarily separated.

Here are three things I learnt from my experience during the 1991 recession and three decades of a successful career in a dynamic industry that is built on and driven at its core by uncertainty.

It was not that long ago that I returned home to Bermuda armed with an economics degree and a professional insurance qualification plus some work experience both in Bermuda and London. The year I am talking about was 1991 and it was a recession. I returned with such a sense of accomplishment, aspirations and hopes for my future.

I was new to the [re] insurance industry still trying to figure out my way forward. For me, this recessionary event was really my first real life experience of unplanned and unexpected set of events, a crisis, and uncharted waters.

After a few moments of self-pity and expressing passionately to my mentor how disappointed I was that, after doing all the right things, I could not find a job. She then offered me the most invaluable gift of all – access to her network. Shortly after, I interviewed for an opportunity in an area which I would not have previously considered.

I was able to secure employment and discovered in a very short time how this opportunity strategically placed me in the right position for commencing my career – back on track but much wiser for the road.

I know that my experience probably pales in comparison to what you are experiencing right now – both in terms of magnitude, global impact and the resulting deep feelings of loss, disappointment mixed with feelings of anxiety. This situation is a small part of the reality of your journey, but this is not the whole story.

My focus today is to provide you with hope, inspiration and courage gleaned from almost 3 decades of work life that will arm each of you with good information that will support you and set you up to succeed this time around.

Yes, there is a lot of uncertainty and change is constant and evolving each day. The good news is that there are things you can start doing right now to focus on making yourself more appealing even during these times of unprecedented economic disarray.

1. Use this time to discover and explore the best career path for you:

  • Review your skillset and explore how you could perhaps use them in another field.
  • Look at your interest in hobbies and leisure activities to gain some understanding into what your ideal future career path would be.
  • Make a list of your likes and dislikes and try to determine the motives that drives your sense of success.

In other words, what does success look like for you? Typically, we graduate from university and we either take the first job that we are offered, or we go into a career that we were told we ‘should’ pursue. Now you have the time to determine what your ideal career would be and how that aligns with your values and beliefs.

Open yourself to the possibility that the career you choose may be not what you thought before this crisis.

One thing life has taught me is that a rich career is built on twist and turns and perhaps you have an opportunity here to craft a job experience that will be uniquely yours.

2. Develop a ‘learn it all’ mindset versus a ‘know it all’ mindset:

Now more than ever the opportunity to learn new things is right on our screens and in some instances they are free.

  • What is it you have always wanted to learn?
  • What skill [s] are you missing that could position you well to seize the opportunities that lie ahead?
  • Start doing your research and stay engaged – read, read, read! This is the time to develop a learning and growth mindset so you can be energized and mindful of the opportunities as they present themselves to you.

Remember you may have to ‘do what you must do until you do what you want to do’ [Oprah said it too!].

3. Breathe in, breathe out: develop good stress management skills – start early:

Studies continue to show the significant impact breathing exercises have on reducing stress in just days. Aggressively take care of yourself, physical, mentally, and emotionally to stave off the ill-effects of poor care. It has been become even clearer that Health is Wealth’ so start taking care of your bodies and your mind.

  • Staying within the mandated guidelines, start Walking, running, hiking, swimming, golfing – just start something.
  • Yoga and meditation
  • If you are a minimalist like me then your ‘go to’ breathing exercises are just fine [in the sun!].
  • Journaling helps to create and maintain a positive mindset by letting go of what is out of your control and focusing on what is. A balanced thought life will allow you to show the empathy and compassion to others that is desperately needed, and you are a nicer person for it – a more well thought of employee as a result.

You win all around when you engage in these practices. Learn these coping skills now so that when the time comes, and it will, you will have the capacity and the mental resilience to thrive in the new normal world that is yours to lead.

So, what will be your story when you come through on the other side of this crisis? If you are reading this article, I am confident that it will be a great story that will demonstrate your creativity, resilience, and patience. You will be better as a person and future employee because of this experience.

I know it does not feel like it some of the time, but I know that you will be OK. You will push through all the barriers and show the world the very best of yourselves. You will be inventing new ways of doing and new ways of being for all of us to experience from this moment forward.

So, to the graduating class of 2020, we are counting on you not giving up, propelling us into the new possibilities [I will be kicking and screaming with excitement] and please give us your best ideas and solutions. Please continue to be safe and stay well because we need you in our future – Bermuda needs you.

- Lorene Phillips is a former [re]insurance executive turned founder of Clarendon Wallace, a corporate coaching & training firm for professionals seeking promotion, that next level role and buy in from their teams and bosses. She is also a Lifestyle Family Coach and Author. To know more about her services please contact her at
Clarendon Wallace, Linkedin, Instagram, Facebook.


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