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  • Paul Sharp

All Change Please!



Most of us will not look back at 2020 with unbridled joy in light of the #COVID19 pandemic. Having worked in the travel industry for 25 years, I've been through my fair share of crises; wars, terrorist events, financial crashes, tsunamis, ash clouds and diseases. As the old saying goes "travel is always the first to get hit in a crisis, but also the first to recover".


But, not this time. This pandemic really has rocked us to the core.


We are living through "unprecedented times". As much as I am weary of hearing this phrase - often used as a convenient excuse to justify less than exemplary behaviour - I don’t think any of us could have predicted the business travel industry's fight for survival. It's like we're at war with an invisible enemy. Like many others, I became a casualty of this war when I was informed on April 1st that I was being made redundant.


The Rollercoaster Begins


My career in Learning & Development roles has spanned 22 years and has covered a whole spectrum of topics from: IT systems training, to staff inductions, sales, customer care coaching; with a particular penchant for change management.


My redundancy hit me like a bombshell. The emotional rollercoaster ride had begun. I found myself walking through Elisabeth Kubler-Ross change curve of shock and denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.


What I really learned during this process is, although I teach people about change and am very aware of the stages involved, like most I found the change uncomfortable.


Coming to Terms with Job Loss


What has been the biggest challenge for me? I didn't dislike my job - I loved it - so, stepping away to do something totally different was daunting. Leaving the industry was not an option. I'm good at what I do and, most importantly, I love this industry.


So, I've accepted that I'm staying and then my thoughts turn to, what do I do now? The next question I ask myself is, other than paying the bills, what is really important to me? As I begin to come to terms with my redundancy, I genuinely start to feel liberated. I am in charge of my future and I can shape it as I want.


My passions are developing people, but I also love the cut and thrust of being on the travel frontline. Outside of that, I have an open mind. Consequently, I decided to start my own training and coaching consultancy business, called IREKIA - a Basque word for "open mind" - and, that's exactly the new approach to what I do. With that in mind, I am also embracing the portfolio employment model and have bought a travel agency franchise. This allows me to indulge both my passions.


The Power of your Network


I am under no illusion that this will be easy. People have quizzed me on my decision - “why go back into travel when people are not travelling?”, “why training? companies have limited budgets to invest!”


They have a point, but I think there are three things at play here:

  1. Readying people for whatever the new normal ends up being will require some level of new skills and coaching.

  2. Lockdown has proved the value of face to face meetings, so many are keen to travel just as soon as it is safe to do so.

  3. What Covid-19 has taught us is the value of relationships, networks, and support in times of crisis. So, the travel consultant has a valuable part to play in restoring traveller confidence.

What if it doesn't work?


Of course, I would be lying if I said it hadn’t crossed my mind, but what if it does work?


I know myself well enough to know I will do my utmost to make a success of the future, whatever it looks like. The gift of this situation is that if we can adapt once, it proves we can do it again.


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