Turning a 14-Day Ordeal Into an Opportunity – Reginaldo Binalla, HES ALM candidate

Reginaldo Binalla (Harvard University Extension School Master of Liberal Arts (ALM), Industrial-Organizational Psychology candidate) writes about his experience being laid off from one position during the pandemic, networking internally within his company, and finding support through Harvard Office of Career Services to secure a new role at his organization. Reginaldo continues working full time while pursuing his degree and conceptualizing a new venture at the Harvard i-lab that would have a social impact in the remote areas of the Philippines.  

Photo with Amanda Peters, Office of Career Services Associate Director, Reginaldo, and Suzanne Spreadbury, Ph.D., Dean of Academic Programs, at HES Convocation Reception, Harvard, 2022

I am vulnerable when I stay still and complacent. I must strive to constantly seek self-improvement and stay out of my comfort zone to remain resilient in a changing world.  

I learned this lesson during the pandemic. I was in Eastern Europe for a five-day program review with my international customers when the COVID-19 pandemic reached its peak. Many countries were shutting down their borders for fear of the virus’s spread, but I could not leave Europe before the five-day meeting was completed. As the Program Manager, I had to take a risk and stay until the program’s important milestone was completed. Luckily, I arrived home free from COVID symptoms, just in time before the Federal Government closed the U.S. border a few days later. Little did I know this would not be the only close call I experienced due to the pandemic. 

As the pandemic brought havoc to all continents, many countries closed their borders, and travel became almost impossible. The travel restrictions impacted my program as our manufacturing plant is in Poland, and our customer is in Asia. The pandemic impacted the travel of personnel supporting my program and crippled the supply chain critical to my program’s success. My team tried to sustain the operation amid the pandemic, but the increasing cost of materials severely impacted the company’s bottom line.  

In July 2021, fifteen months after the pandemic erupted, my managers informed me that they were laying me off, and I only had two weeks left with the company. My mind shut down, and I could not believe what I had just heard. I was so devastated. After a few moments of not knowing what to do next, I decided to face my fear that I wouldn’t be able to sustain our current lifestyle.  

Despite life’s difficult circumstances, I strived to set an excellent example for my children. And I focused on the brighter side. I agree with Johnmarshall Reeve’s (2018) statement in his book Understanding Emotion and Motivation that for us to function competently when failure comes our way, we need to not be disrupted by it but instead use what it tells us to enhance our progress in whatever we are trying to do. Knowing that my family was there to support me in dealing with these difficulties, I considered failure a challenge I could learn from and overcome through a new and improved effort.   

Taking Action 

I leveraged my deep emotions to propel me forward. According to Reeve (2018), emotions evolve because they help deal with fundamental life tasks and energize, direct, and sustain behavior. The next day, I started my hunt for a job. The good thing was that only the international business segment was heavily affected by the pandemic at that time. The other line of business in the company was still performing strongly, and there were still jobs available. I sent as many applications as I could that day. I reached out to my colleagues unaffected by the downsizing, and they helped me search for job openings. I also made an appointment with a Harvard University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Office of Career Services (OCS) adviser via Crimson Careers, who quickly gave me the support I needed to prepare for my job hunting. Harvard OCS helped me with my resume and cover letter and showed me how to connect with Harvard alumni, who helped me prepare for interviews. Having support made me confident in the application process. As my last day in the company got closer, my anxiety level surged. The worst part of my two-week ordeal was not the interviews but the waiting for hiring managers to call me back.  

On the 14th day, I was driving with my family to visit a university which my son is considering applying to when my phone rang. I picked up without knowing who was calling. My family could hear the incoming call because I had linked my phone to my car’s audio system. It was the hiring manager; he informed me that I had gotten the job. My wife was in tears hearing the news. A few minutes after the call, another call came in. HR told me to report to my new job the next day. I looked at the rear mirror and saw the joy in my wife and children’s faces.     

I’m very thankful to my colleagues and former managers who supported me during the fourteen-day ordeal and my new boss, who worked hard with human resources to expedite the hiring process. Special thanks to the Harvard University Office of Career Services adviser, who provided me with the resources available to students and guided me in every step in connecting with Harvard Alumni, who were very helpful in preparing me for the interviews. 

Though my 14-day ordeal is over and COVID-19 pandemic is lessening in urgency, I continue challenging myself to move out of my comfort zone. I spend time in Cambridge learning new things. I joined the Harvard innovation labs and learned much from my peers, guest speakers, and advisers. The other activities I enjoy on campus are learning archery, swimming at the Blodgett Pool, and practicing squash in Murr Fitness Center. I’m enjoying my new job, and at the same time, I have the opportunity to pursue my passion for learning at one of the most prestigious universities in the country. I’m happy that with my perseverance, I successfully turned my ordeal into an opportunity to share an important life lesson with my children. 

Binalla family photo; Reginaldo, two children and his wife are seated at a restaurant table

A good dinner to celebrate the end of the 14-day ordeal. I am happy to share an important life lesson with my children.

By Mignone Center for Career Success
Mignone Center for Career Success