Wednesday, December 2, 2020

It was a Friday. Though it felt like most other pandemic days in the time of COVID-19—indistinguishable from the day before. Like so many events since the University of Iowa closed campus and moved classes online, the 2020 Tippie Student Leadership Awards had been moved to a Zoom video chat, and the mood that day was muted as were the microphones of most of the people on the call.

Zooming in from San Francisco, Sukriti Nayar (BBA12) was in the middle of showcasing why as a student she was the head peer-mentor of the Frank Business Communication Center with a speech that was engaging despite the medium. She exhorted students to “…reach out and make a difference in your community, however you can—and know how and when to ask for help.”

Then she dropped a bombshell.

“In the spirit of vulnerability, I'm going to share something with you that most of my family and many of my friends don't even know. Five weeks ago, I was laid off from my dream job.”

When Nayar revealed on that Zoom call that she had lost her job five weeks before, she was in a precarious position.

“I was probably about a week away from packing up all of my stuff and moving back to my parents’ basement,” Nayar confessed.

According to Cindy Meis, director of career management for the college’s specialized masters programs, Nayar did a number of things right in the wake of a job loss, including taking a moment to grieve the loss—"I took the weekend off and cried about it”—and telling people that it happened—"I called my two best friends from business school and asked them to review my resume and mock interview me.”

“You have to be brave enough to share the news because otherwise your network won’t know you need support and help,” said Meis. “It’s natural to feel shame and fear the stigma of a job loss, but it’s not uncommon—especially during an economic crisis.”

Looking for her next opportunity became Nayar’s full-time job. Nayar’s former employer was committed to helping laid off employees find a “soft landing” and were proactive in giving Nayar referrals that ultimately would get her in the door of several opportunities in addition to referrals from business school peers. After weeks of hardcore resume refining, interview prepping, and story-mining, Nayar ended up with a number of paths and ultimately chose to accept a position at Slack as a customer success manager.

“I truly think it was a combination of a miracle and good luck that I managed to find a job in the middle of this environment,” said Nayar. “I hit the jackpot in the sense that I started my career at a large consulting firm dedicated to serving Fortune 100 clients. I worked in a small startup wearing many hats and created a rotational program for myself. And now I'm rounding out [my experience] by being at a growth stage company that happens to be one of the few companies that's doing well in the middle of what is, I think, the worst economic recession the world has seen.”

Nayar said while she was grieving the loss of her job, she came to recognize how much of her identity was wrapped up in her career. “That was very valuable self-reflection for me, and I spent a lot of time unraveling that.”

Hunting for a new job? Update your terminology. “Pricing Manager is likely called Pricing and Data Analyst in current job postings,” said Cindy Meis, director of Career Management at the Tippie College of Business. 

This article first appeared in the winter 2021 issue of Tippie Magazine as part of the feature story titled "Fearless: Tackling professional and personal challenges with the Hawkeye spirit." Read more Fearless stories here