“Oh, a storm is threat’ning / My very life today…”
I certainly didn’t write that song lyric from The Rolling Stones’ hit “Gimme’ Shelter” back in 1969, however that line has never felt more real than it does today as COVID-19 threatens the lives and livelihoods of people around the world.
In cities and towns everywhere, millions are faced with unemployment and the question of how to survive.
Paradigm shift of the American workforce
Setting aside the human toll for a moment, there is very likely the possibility that the virus will forever change the way many of us work. In just the first several weeks of the pandemic, the migration from office buildings in the congested cities to home offices in the suburbs represents the single greatest paradigm shift of the American workforce ever seen at any time in history. That we have made this shift in so short a time is a huge testament to American ingenuity, resilience, and fortitude — to say nothing of the technology that is needed to support such a change.
If you are one of the many who have made the shift, kudos to you.
Tragically, however, there are many whose livelihoods cannot be shifted to a home office — I’m thinking of businesses that rely on face-to-face, one-to-one contact (think hair salons, dentists, fitness trainers), businesses that rely on having people in close proximity (restaurants, bars, clubs, sports venues), and the myriad service providers that support those businesses.
I don’t know what the future will be for some of those, but I am reasonably certain that we will be living with Coronavirus and social distancing requirements for a long time.
A storm is threat’ning
It’s no surprise that much of the conversation taking place in business and social settings today is centered around how to survive these times. As I have already said, some of us have been able to make the shift to new workspaces and can survive — perhaps even thrive — in this “new normal”. My thoughts, therefore, are with those who are struggling.
I have been downsized or lost my job twice in my lifetime: first, in my mid-20’s, and more recently, at age 55.
Both times, I had to reinvent myself.
What does reinvent yourself look like?
Finding yourself suddenly out of work and faced with having to pay the rent, or the mortgage, and put food on the table becomes increasingly threatening the older we are. So losing my job at age 55 was infinitely more upsetting than getting fired in my 20’s when many more possibilities still lay ahead.
I spent the first four weeks of my unemployment getting my resumé in order, having a headshot taken by a professional photographer, and making the rounds at employment agencies and recruiters around town.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that I wasn’t going to find a job that met my salary requirement without some sort of advanced degree to my name, and even then it would be difficult at my age. I became frightened — what was I going to do?
Suddenly, at 55 years of age, when others are thinking about retirement in a few years, I had the rug pulled out from under me. I had lost my job and was too old to get another job that paid what I needed.
So my wife and I set out to make a plan — I would form my own agency, developing web, social media, and online presence for small-to-medium size businesses. I knew those particular skills and how to perform them effectively. I was good at that; I’d been doing it for years. My wife would support us on her salary until my new business took-off.
Recognizing that it would be difficult to start a new business from scratch with no guarantee that I would succeed, I also went down a second path: I trained for, and passed, the New York State insurance exam.
I decided to work at building my own business and sell insurance at the same time — then, after one year, I would pursue whichever path showed greater promise.
I was willing to do whatever I had to do.
The epiphany moment
One day, while driving back to town with my friend, Sharon, she asked me why I was pursuing the insurance sales position if I already had a business of my own that I was developing.
I answered, “Because my business doesn’t take-up all my time — I still have plenty of free time to pursue insurance.”
What Sharon said next changed everything — she said, “If you’re not working at building your own business full-time, you will never be successful.”
Taking stock of what you have to offer
For me, reinventing myself meant taking stock of what I had to offer and packaging it in a way that helps others.
I could have thrown away my knowledge of digital marketing, web design, and social media, and taken a job selling insurance.
I could have wallowed in self-pity over not being able to find a job at my age.
Instead, I chose to reinvent myself by taking the skills and knowledge that I had and packaging those into a service that could help others.
Of course, I know this will be difficult for some people — they will balk at the notion.
It’s uncomfortable; I get that.
Some will say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
But we’re talking about survival here. Reinventing yourself may be just the answer you need!
I hope that we all look back on this period in time with greater understanding.
If you need help with technology, marketing, growing a small business, or mindfulness, call me at 203-548-0070. I’ll do whatever I can to help you.