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From Pilot to supermarket shelf stacker

A shock redundancy has helped Kit Alexander to realise he is much more than his job.

Prior to Covid-19, if anyone asked the Christchurch man who he was, his default answer was ‘I’m a pilot’.

“We often see ourselves as our job. But that’s not true,” says Kit.

After being made redundant at Virgin Australia during noho rāhui / lockdown, and eventually securing new jobs; one packing shelves at New World and the other delivering pizzas to get by, his answer is now a very different one.

“Now I would say ‘I’m so much more’. I’m a dad, husband, son, brother and I love doing all these different things that make me, me.”

Kit, a father to two girls, worked as a pilot for 24 years. Based out of Christchurch, he flew the Tasman route, and to the Pacific Islands. That was until he lost his job when Virgin Australia shut its NZ operation two days into lockdown.

“It was scary and sad. I imagined myself being in that job through to retirement. We went to great places, and worked alongside awesome people. Everybody says that’s the saddest part - losing the people and that comraderie.”

Kit says he and his colleagues were all left “shell-shocked” at the move.

“Combined with lockdown, it was really tough and we couldn’t catch up with colleagues to talk about what was happening.”

Then came the matter of finances and paying off a mortgage.

“It was scary thinking about what we were going to do.”

Kit says he initially sat at home, not knowing what to do with himself.

“After one week, I thought ‘I can’t keep doing this’.”

So he made a schedule, got up at the same time every morning, did some exercise, and started his job hunt, all to “keep moving forward”.

“Otherwise you get stuck and I didn’t want that.”

Then out of the blue, an old friend messaged to check in on him. It was a connection that led to him trialling an online coaching programme.

It was a course that was both freeing and liberating, helping Kit to discover his strengths and think about new ways of applying them.

While completing the course, he applied for at least 50 jobs to no avail.

“I had over 20 rejection letters and then most of the jobs I applied for I didn’t even get that. I got one phone call from a supermarket, after applying for about seven of their positions, but I think she was ringing to tell me to just give up.”

It just so happened that a friend of Kit’s knew a guy who owned a supermarket – and Kit had taught his brother to fly.

After a 20 minute chat with the owner, he was granted 25 hours a week as a grocery assistant, packing shelves.

“I really thought I would find a job easier than I have. And I massively appreciate the work I’ve been given. A few friends have had to list their houses because they just can’t get anything.”

Through word of mouth, he was also able to secure a job delivering pizzas Friday and Saturday nights.

As he considers his future prospects, Kit is working on obtaining his truck license, looking for driving work, and considering going back to study.

“We’re able to get by on what I’m doing now. We’re not going forward right now but we’re not going back either.”

If there is anything this time has taught Kit, it’s that ‘family is the most important thing’.

“I still feel sadness at losing the job but I’ve really realised the job isn’t me and I am not defined by it. You don’t need a high-paying job if your family is happy and healthy.”

And to those looking for work right now, and who have been made redundant, Kit says to be kind to yourself and celebrate your small wins.

“Just take a small step forward, regardless of what it is and even if it’s just to look after yourself.”

For Kit, this has meant cutting back on pizza deliveries, to give himself time to switch off.

During this time alone, he gets out of the house and goes for a walk round the park.

“It’s also really important to know you’re not alone in where you are right now.”

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