Will Bachman 00:02
Welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional Unleashed is produced by Umbrex, which connects you with the world’s top independent management consultants. I’m your host Will Bachman. I am so pleased to have with us today Dr. nyla. Bari, who got her PhD studying how different people recovered from the last recession in 2008. And Nala was on a guest on the show on episode 97. And that remains one of the top five downloads of all the episodes we’ve done. So also, if you love this episode, check out 97 as well. nyla It is great to have you today.
I’m really glad to be back. I wish it was under different circumstances, of course. But I’m happy to be back on the show and talking with you about how to make sense of this period of time and how it might impact our jobs and what we can do about it.
Will Bachman 00:58
Thank you, nyla. So let’s start with what were some of your key takeaways from studying how people responded to the last big recession that we had I if I recall correctly from the last discussion, some people actually ended up their careers actually took off after getting laid off. Yeah, I mean, talk about what happened last time.
Sure, sure. So what I did was take a look at people who’d been impacted by 2008, and 2009. And I talked to them, most cases between three to five years after their layoffs. And what I was interested in understanding is what people had learned from the experience and what had happened to them, and why some people were having different results or different outcomes than others. And the thing I was really surprised and delighted to learn to the experience, were a couple of really behaviors that people could engage in to have different kinds of results and to have a relationship with work that is different after such a traumatic event, such as a layoff. And I think what that was a relief to me, because I had always thought, well, there’s some people who are either luckier or they just have better attitudes. And they are have a well of resilience and optimism that some of us may not be lucky enough to have. And what I found in my research is that kind of behavior drives the resilience, it’s not so much that resilience drives the behavior. And I love finding that out because it puts a set of tools into my hands into the hands of a lot of people I work with, that we can draw on even when things feel dismal or bleak. Or we feel like we don’t know where to begin, there are some steps we can begin with. So that is some of the stuff that I found. And one of the other things that kind of mentioned it in passing just now is that the people who had different kinds of outcomes, really started to understand that they were in a relationship with the work that they do, and that they were going to be life in any relationship we have in our lives, our low points or higher points are points where things just seem like they’re steady. And that provides a source of hope, I think. But it also provides a source of agencies that we can kind of take some control over the relationship and build the kind of relationship that we want to have, which I found and I’ve continued to find changes the way people come out of work, trauma, whatever it looks like you have
Will Bachman 03:18
so this is really encouraging. So what would be some of the behaviors that characterize the people that actually ended up even doing better after they got laid off? And, and maybe contrast that? And what are some of the behaviors of the people that ended up kind of flatlining, or even maybe having their career goes south afterwards? Yeah. What are the differences in behavior that you found?
Sure. The first thing I want to say is that when I talk about having good outcomes, a good outcome to me is not just having a great job again, a good outcome to me is having what I call the source of career renewal or having that sense of agency in the long run. So being able to navigate and build the relationship with work that can handle what you know, the inevitable ups and downs that are going to happen. Anyway, if you would ask me when I did the research, I didn’t think it would happen again so soon. But part of what is so interesting to me is that the people who had the good results, the good outcomes, they were more capable of handling the ups and downs that happened even in the window of time in which I was working with them. So I don’t define success as just having landed another great high paying useful job in the world. I think about it as developing a set of capabilities to handle whatever might come next, having confidence about the value that you add in the world, being able to talk about it and deliver it to people where they need it, having certainty about your professional identity and then having that capacity to weather the storms that are coming, one of which we’re in right now. So when I talk about the behaviors that really make a difference, they come into kind of two families of behavior. Some of them are what I call inner work and some of them are called outer work and the inner Work is stuff that has us really assessing our skills, our talents, our value to the market has us doing some exploration and some designing of what ideal work is for us like exploring those desires of the ways in which we want work to integrate into our lives, the kind of work we want to do, the kind of people we want to work with the kind of impact we want to have on the world, I call that inner work, because so much of it does happen. Internally, it happens, you know, at your dining room table with a pen and paper or it happens on a long walk where you are kind of going inwards, to understand yourself better to make sense of the history of your work, whether they were good moments or less ideal moments. And it doesn’t happen necessarily totally in isolation. But it is work that is thought based or allowing us to be really in touch with our feelings and our bodies and all the things that are our our own instrument to figure out. Then there’s a set of behavior that is I call outer work that has to do with engaging with the marketplace to your really strategic networking, understanding where jobs are, what kinds of people are hiring, for what kinds of role and understanding how my skills might match up with what the market demands, testing things out through experimentation. And so people who are having the greatest outcomes are pivoting between that inner and that outer work and doing what I call data collection is always getting new data from both their internal source and from the outside world. And what I love about this is that it’s a set of behaviors and activities we can engage in, even when we’re home, like these days, we’re home, largely sitting in front of our laptops, or our computers. And I do think there’s an opportunity to engage in a number of these behaviors even now.
Will Bachman 06:51
Great. So let’s take each of those in turn and make it really practical for me and for listeners. So let’s take in our work. So get it loose, get it from the real practically, what do you suggest? Like, is it writing in a journal? Or do you have some assignments that you would give your your clients like? Is it you know, how do you kind of take just the general idea of thinking and pondering and taking a walk to something very tactical, actionable, actionable, that we can go do this afternoon?
Yeah. So I mean, I will say that I think what makes this moment in time, a little bit different than what I looked at 10 years ago, is that we’re still in it, right, we’re still we’re still there’s so much we still don’t know. So I would say the first type of inner work I would do right now, where I’m prioritizing for myself, and for the people I work with is a really substantial and meaningful form of care for yourself, whatever that means, like, trying to eat well, and sleep and your body and do something that you can do to make yourself feel okay in this moment where things are so disrupted. And I say this, because I knew this from my research in the past, and I see it now. It’s hard when we’re impacted, it’s hard when work is difficult. It’s hard when we feel loss, and fear. And those are all really real things. And I would never suggest it just head down and get back to thinking about the future. I think we have to acknowledge what we’re going through. And I think we have to take care of ourselves to the degree that we can in the moment. And some of that is by doing this work that you and I are going to talk about and some of it is by doing really nice things for yourself outside of work, right. So taking a walk with your family, if you can, or riding your bike, or whatever can bring you peace of mind, even for a short moment. So that’s the first thing I’ll say, one of the things I learned in all my research, and that now is a requirement for anyone who does work for me or with me is this idea of reflection. So when I did my original research 100% of the people who had good outcomes, meaning this healed relationship with work and the ability to do their work in the world, again, we’re doing a form of reflective practice. For me, and for most people I work with journaling is the most available tool we have. And I would say a practical thing most people can do today is start by doing work history of their own in their journal. And well in the in the most basic form, what I ask people to do is draw a horizontal line on a piece of paper and put their top work experiences above the line and their most terrible work experiences below the line. And you can sometimes do it in timeline format, if that that works for most people, and then just start to detail what made the things that made it above the line great. What are the things that made it below the line? What made it terrible? And let’s try to look for patterns, you know, is it about the work you’re actually doing? It is about the environment in which you’re doing it? Is it the people you’re with? Is it about resources. We are our first and best data source. And so I say to people all the time, like you have to really understand your own work history and excavated for truth and excavate it for patterns and x data for insight, you don’t need a ton of time to do this, most of us can do it within an hour or two, it’s just a massive data dump. And I find that it is often a source of wisdom that people were not paying attention to, that they haven’t really asked themselves. Hey, why did I Why do I still hold on to the memory of that job from seven years ago with something that was really great, other than I loved my boss, like, what is the real meat behind that? So that’s one activity I suggest to people. The other thing I say is like, let’s start to think a little bit about the future. And that’s hard to do right now, because so much is unknown. But I do think it’s an opportunity for us to reflect on and to imagine, what ideal work would look like for us like, what is work worth doing? What is work that you want to spend 40 5060 hours a week doing? What kind of impact do you want to have? What strength Do you want to use? What problems do you want to solve? Those are two of the activities I like to do with people from the outset, look back a little bit. And let’s look forward a little bit. I think, again, paper and pen is an excellent set of tools. I think a walk with someone you love, whether it’s your person who you’re at home with, or it’s a dear trusted friend on the phone as you’re walking was is a great idea. I’m actually having some really powerful conversations on zoom these days. That’s where I would start.
Will Bachman 11:23
Okay, so inner work. And then let’s talk about some of the outer work. Let’s do that. And then I want to come back to another inner work I think we should be doing right now anyway, but I you can you can, you can keep on in the work that I keep going. Yeah,
there’s one more. One more thing on inner work right now. I just finished teaching a course at the School of Public Health at Columbia, which is a very fascinating place to be these days anyway. But my very wise ta said to me, she studies actually disasters and the impact of disasters on public health. And she was encouraging all of us students and me to, to write it down to write down our personal narrative of this experience. And I think that is a way in which we can be doing inner work that is both restorative and healing to what we’re going through right now. But also informative about where we might want to go in the future. And I’m thinking about questions for myself around like, what is my daily experience? Like right now? How is it different or similar to how I was living my life prior to this? I’m thinking about what is coming very intuitively and naturally to me, in terms of problem solving right now. And what I’m struggling with? And because I think that starts to build for me, like a personal course of study, also, like, what are the things that are hard to me right now, like, I’ll tell you, for me, like I’m pretty social creatures. So being home alone, with just my immediate family is a little hard on me, like I love being with my kids and my husband, of course, but I miss my friends, I miss some of the casual interactions that I might have at the library or at the coffee shop in town. And so I’m trying to figure out, Okay, if I if work does not change for me for the next few weeks and months, how do I manage around that social need. So I think that something beyond looking at our work history and anticipating our work future, I’m also really compelled right now by the idea of looking at our present and what we’re learning what we’re experiencing, because there’ll be payoffs in the long run for the narrative history of this moment in time. But I also think we are experiencing something so transformative, that it’s an opportunity to figure out what we’re learning right now, or what we want to learn to become better at right now. So I’m going to add that on as a piece of inner work right now.
Will Bachman 13:35
You know, because afterwards, three or six months from now, it’ll all be so compressed. We need to remember, like one high point or one low point, but you kind of forget what your experience was like day to day. So So kind of write it down. This this unique period. Okay, cool. So what are the steps are on the outer work?
Yeah, so I normally out of work for me, it looks a lot like, first of all, like I’ve already touched on investing in yourself through relationship throat. So connecting through really intelligent strategic networking, I actually think this is still a great time for that. I like I just mentioned, I’m sitting in my house, with the same three other people who I adore more than anything, but day in and day out. And I love having an opportunity to connect with both friends and also professional contacts right now. I think this is a really interesting time to be offering an outlet for meaningful connection, through phone calls through zoom through Skype, whatever your preferred tool is. I am encouraging people to continue to network. And I think one of the things I had said to you last time we spoke is that I really think of networking as forms of learning rather than forms of transactions. And I think that’s different than how most of us think about or been educated to think about networking. It’s kind of like you do this for me. I’ll do that. For you. I think that this and that really are around learning right now. And what I’m really enjoying and what I’m encouraging people to do or have conversations where we are exploring how we’re living through this, what is showing up for us and for our organizations and our teams that is challenging are things that are surprisingly easy, and that have fallen into new habits really easily, their understanding of how their industry might be impacted how they might be impacted. I think people want to connect, and I think this is a chance to problem solve and explore and brainstorm together. And so I think that’s one of the most useful forms of outer work even in more stable times. And I think it’s particularly useful right now. So I’m telling everyone, like, make a list on a Monday or a Sunday night, make a list of three to five people you want to talk with, and prepare for a conversation that will allow you guys to learn something, I like to always think about my ask and my offer in those kinds of conversations. And I encourage people to do the same thing, like what am I bringing to the conversation? That’s interesting, it could be an observation about how my organization is handling things? Or what I’m curious about? And what kinds of purposeful questions Do I have to engage with someone else about, and I think it needs a lot of needs we have right now,
Will Bachman 16:19
in some ways, the doors are more open now than than ever, right, in terms of both reconnecting with old friends, with family members, as well as people at other organizations, if you’re, if you’re, if you’re, if you’re still employed. And if you’re an if you’re, you’re connecting with, you know, kind of peers at other companies who are doing something similar, you know, if you’re the head of HR, talk to the head of HR somewhere else, you know, if you’re running operations, or supply chain, what are tips and tricks someone else can share with you? And if you’ve lost your job, you know, finding out what other people are doing to deal with it or, you know, going to, like you said, learning from from others of what they’re going through. Yeah,
yeah. And I find that this is also a period of time where I mean, I’m a little bit overwhelmed by content, as I sure I’m sure a lot of you guys are. But if I’m selective, and I’m paying attention to the thinkers, the writers, the researchers that I’m really into, a lot of them are offering not just free content webinars, but they’re, I mean, I emailed someone whose mailing list I’m on who I don’t know, personally. But I just wrote to her saying, I really appreciated something in one of her newsletters, and she wrote back, we’ve been engaging in a back and forth. And I think partially she’s also like, although she’s a provider of so much training for other people she’s looking to connect to, and she wants to know how people like me are experiencing this and what we’re thinking about and what we’re hoping for an outcome. So I agree with you. Well, I think that there’s the hunger and almost like a generosity, I’m seeing as a as a outcome of this right now. And I think we can be participating in really good conversations. I have not had one person say to me, I’m too busy right now. That’s amazing. And yeah, so I think that’s something for us to be thinking about. That’s one form of outer work. The other thing I’m saying right now is I think this is a good time to be making work. So when I talk to people who are in job transition, we do work together to figure out what could be next for them, I usually provide them with a starting operating equation, to think about how to use their time. And roughly I start people by saying spend a third of the time you have available to job hunt, applying for appropriate work, spend about a third of the time that you have available, doing really intelligent strategic networking, and spend a third of your time doing what I call making work. And I, I start people out with a third, a third and a third. And I said and then over time, you will adjust that equation to be more suitable for you. Right, you might be having great results applying for jobs, you might be having great results. Networking, most of us right now I think are going to have good results doing what I call making work, which is to produce something independent of an organization or an employer. And I say this to people who are entrepreneurs. And I say this to people who are part of organizations like I think this is a great time. My coach and my friend Pam slow uses the expression of codifying the IP like codifying your intellectual property or intellectual capital. So what are the things you know how to do? How do you document them create artifacts that reflect your knowledge, and sometimes it’s for our personal benefit. It’s like my own personal playbook of what I know how to do. And sometimes it’s for consumption for other people. Because part of your portfolio for how you talk about your own work and how you demonstrate your work to the world. For some people, it’s like teaching other people how to do things. So if you are someone who has a skill that people need, bigger making work means figuring out how to get it out into the world so that you can teach it. It might mean making Something literal like art, or food or something that is brings you joy, but leaves and leaves the artifact behind. I think that is a piece of outer work, it fits into that family of experimentation that I learned from studying people who’ve succeeded through layoff is designing these small prototype safe experiments where you get data back around what the market will bear what you’re really great at what you love doing. And honestly, I think now’s a good time to be doing that it gives us agency gives us some personal authority over how we’re spending our time. And it gives us information, which I think is critical.
Will Bachman 20:38
Well, I, I want to really celebrate that what you just said, and I feel so strongly about that, in that it’s, you know, addition to creating the content, if it’s if you’re creating content, as opposed to some physical thing. It’s also such a great way right now to, you know, gain some supplementary skill set. Yeah. So, you know, and if you are a premium member on LinkedIn, LinkedIn learning is free and has amazing courses on so many different software programs. So you know, if you’re writing, write great, but then also maybe learn how to produce a Kindle ebook, and just go all through the steps of figuring out how to format it, and upload it to kindle and publish it there. Or if you’re into video, just with your cell phone, you can actually miss pretty fantastic videos with captions, and B roll and all this. And you can learn on how to do that for free or audio editing, you know, put up a podcast, you can even do it for free on on certain platforms. So even if you don’t know how to do those things, now, it’s a great chance to invest in your skills, learn how to, you know, some of these more software for creative professionals to become a double or triple threat in the future, you know, for consultants who know, also know how to produce video or also know how to produce audio, or can also do graphic design. It just makes you so much more valuable in the future.
Yeah, I think you know, one of one of my core philosophies that’s emerged, not just from my own research, but from my life in the last few years is this idea of having parallel streams of work, right. And I think it’s a source of resilience when things are unpredictable. But I also think it’s a source of personal thrill, just to have different kinds of work different kinds of things, to engage in different partnerships to produce work. And so when I talk about making work or experimentation, obviously, a lot of it is external facing, right, like getting, you mentioned, all these things we can learn on LinkedIn or other platforms, is something I’ve been really just admiring in the last few weeks is the gyms that I’m a part of a where I take classes and how fast they’ve had to move to if they want to stay relevant, if they want to stay as paying members turn their wits normally in person experience into digital learning of its own kind, right. And so turning workouts into things on Facebook Live or recording workouts or holding zoom meetings where we’re doing activity together. I think all of that is so fascinating. And I’ll be really curious to know how some of the sticks beyond this crisis. But I also want to encourage people to think about making work is a personal endeavor, like it’s not always have to be for consumption or for sale. I think part again, this idea of having a course of study, like your own personal curriculum through this is what have you, what do you know how to do? And how do you? How do you capture that? so that by the time you are interviewing, again, by the time you are talking to people or pitching services, you have created your playbook. You know, what you know how to do? How would you imagine your first 30 days back on a new job? How would you want to prioritize your time, I was talking to a colleague of mine, I’ve one foot pretty firmly in higher ed and I was talking to one colleague who you know, the cycle of hire and so disrupted right now, but it’s anticipating what a new class will begin for an orientation program. And she’s in between jobs right now. I said, Okay, let’s design the ideal orientation program for the new normal, if we can even anticipate what that might be. But you have 10 years of things to draw on, create a playbook create a mock agenda, like let’s not let ourselves get mentally soft or hopeless. I think it’s an opportunity to create, it’s hard. Listen, it’s easy to just watch CNN right now and fall into the pit that a lot of us are finding I find myself falling into it too am when I can’t sleep. But I think the antidote to that is to make work. It’s put your mind to doing something that leans on your strengths and your experience, and that could be useful in the future.
Will Bachman 24:42
Yeah, if I, if I could build on that just a little bit. nyla. You know, I think there’s a big opportunity. If you know about some content area, that’s fantastic. It’s it’s really therapeutic to make work based on your own internal knowledge. But you could also combine these two things that you’ve talked about, about the relationship building And then making work by making some work that involves interacting with people. So I love that. I love that. So I mean, that’s kind of what I’m trying to do on this show. And so whether you like audio and you want to interview people into a podcast, or you don’t you prefer to write, and you want to interview people and write blog posts, or white papers, or, but, you know, so if you know about the chemical industry, right, you could write about the chemical industry, from what you know, or you could interview, you know, 50 people across the chemical industry and build relationships while you’re making work.
Yeah, and design a prototype for something in the future. I think that’s the other thing I saw a lot of in my study that I see a lot with my clients who do have great outcomes is that they’re willing to prototype, you know, create something with a colleague or a new friend or a new colleague, test things out run sample classes, let’s host a webinar, see what happens. A lot of what I learned in my research, and what I think is, is relevant now is to really adopt the learners mindset, that kind of idea that we’re all navigating pretty much in a very, very dense fog, if not the dark right now. And so as long as we can be open to experimentation, and to, you know, of course, correction, pivoting, when we need to, I think there’s there’s a ton of ways to stay motivated and curious and stay relevant in the marketplace. By increasing your your personal curriculum, and partnering, I think it’s a brilliant idea. Well, I love it.
Will Bachman 26:31
Any, what other advice do you have nyla, for someone who’s now working from home, whether they’re, you know, they’re still employed, or whether they, you know, maybe they’ve been laid off, but what are some things, other things that you want to bring up, that can help build resilience and, you know, increase the chance that you’re gonna be one of those people who does? Well, after, you know, you know, as we recover from this thing,
I think we’ve covered a lot of the activities that I like to engage. And I think, like, the themes that really matter to me, that I hope people pay attention to is that there is not such a distinction between I mean, I talk about the idea of a relationship with work, I also talk about the idea that work is the place in which we express a lot of our humanity and the people who we are or are becoming. And I do that because I you know, we listen, we spend more time at work than we do anywhere else. But I think what that is an invitation to do is to think about your whole life, and growing yourself, your capacity to handle setback, your capacity to be resourceful your capacity to connect, and be of service and to ask for what you need in all domains of your life. So it’s not the curriculum, I would have designed for myself, of course, but I think in this period of time, not only my learning how to build and exercise the muscles of professional resilience, I’m also learning how to exercise and build the muscles of personal resilience. So I urge all of us to be thinking about how work intersects with our lives and how we want it to intersect with our lives. And to think about it as one unit that we are healing and working towards. So that’s a theme that’s really important to me. And that’s, you know, we exercise that through investing in ourselves outside of work. In terms of connection, which are not strictly professional, even if you are meeting someone on zoom for the first time to talk about a professional project, I think there’s plenty of room to engage personally and to connect personally in to offer yourself as a source of strength. Personally, right now. That’s one thing I would say. And the other thing is just to not discount the value of the quiet moment with your thoughts. It’s easy to run from that, I think right now. But there’s there we’re all a source of great wisdom, most of the time, and this is a this has the capacity to build our wisdom if we’re paying attention and capturing the thoughts that we have. And some of it’s very, very small, right. Like, again, I think one of the things we should be writing down right now is how life feels different and the same from how it felt a month ago. I don’t know what the outcomes of that is going to be. But I think it’s important to write it down. You know, the minimum for our children’s sake, you know, I want my kids to understand what life is like right now was like a month ago might be like in the future there. You know, I have teenagers at home. And of course they’re experiencing it, but they don’t have the 40 something years of, of life to compare this to. So I would say there’s there’s a lot of activities we can engage in. But I think we also just need to be very, very kind to ourselves right now. Because there’s so much change happening and we’re we’re in it right now. That’s where I might, I might stop
Will Bachman 29:45
nyla tell us a little bit about your current practice. And you know what you’re doing professionally right now. I think your coaching folks could just tell us a little bit about your about your firm.
Yeah. So I have what I call a portfolio of work, I do, I would say three primary activities. The first is I teach and facilitate. So I teach at the graduate school level. And I do a fair amount of corporate teaching or facilitation. So this might be like leadership development, work manager capability building, you know, in a classroom, your standard now virtual classroom, as I’m learning more about, that I do a piece of work around that. I do some consulting, largely in higher education or other nonprofits, or companies who want to grow their human capital capacity. So again, manager development, thinking about performance, those types of things HR related. And then I do a lot of coaching, executive coaching within companies, and also a personal coaching for people who are in career transition or looking for greater outcomes and meeting from their work. So those are like the families of work right now. I mean, I’ve been fortunate a lot of my work is continuing, I’m learning how to teach online, doing a lot of my coaching remotely, which has been fine. I’m also doing a little more writing these days trying to get some of these ideas out there. So I’m publishing a little bit on medium and on LinkedIn. And I’m launching a podcast, I took some guidance from you about a year ago will. And my friend Eric Johnson and I are launching a podcast later this month. It’s called inside job. And it is about work. It’s about how we relate to work and how work can work for us or work against us and how powerful we are to have some agency or how we experience work. So that’ll be available on all of your major platforms, around April 15.
Will Bachman 31:39
And that is such a fantastic name for a career podcast. inside job. We thought it was pretty funny too. Oh, yeah. We’re excited. Awesome, awesome inside job. Alright, so I’m going to be so psyched to listen to that nylo people can obviously will be able to find inside job on iTunes, Spotify, overcast, Stitcher, and all the platforms. Where can people go to find you online, you can give a Twitter website, email, whatever, whatever you like.
Thank you for asking. I’m at nyla Bari calm and a ylabhri.com. It’s the same handle I use for everything. Sometimes it’s Dr. nizari, but always my name. I have a newsletter, it’s not obnoxious, it doesn’t come out that frequently. It’s usually pretty useful. I try to post all my stuff on there if I’m on a podcast or if I’m doing some writing. But that’s the best way to stay in touch with me and I you know, I thinking these days about how I can be of service. So if you have ideas or other people have ideas, I’d love to hear from people about how they’re handling this period of time. What they’re thinking of is any of the ideas I offered are useful for them if they want more. There’s a worksheet on the website you can download about creating your highlight reel which is one of the forms of reflection I have people do which is to really think about the times in which they’ve been the strongest and been the most impactful in their organizations. And now’s a great time to do that kind of work. So I’d love to have people download it and
Will Bachman 33:14
let me know how it goes. Wow. That is awesome. So inner work out of work, listen for inside job and nyla Bari comm those links will be in the show notes. nyla. Thank you so much for joining today. Oh well. Thanks for having me again. And we’ll be in touch