This is how you rethink your career so the changing economy works in your favor.
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his week has been extremely challenging. I have had a large number of messages on LinkedIn from people who are desperate for a job and will do anything to get one. Then, there are the people I have worked with both past and present. They have been ringing me desperate to find work.
One man, yesterday, burst into tears when on the phone with me, as he explained how he would be losing his job next week.
He has tried so many approaches. He said his past three years’ performance has been the equivalent of an A+ according to his performance review and incentive plan. Still, nobody will listen to him. The line that got me was this: “I feel like a number — they treat me like a number.” And now he feels completely helpless…worthless even.
I felt helpless last year when unemployment hit me. Right now the best way to explain what is going on is this:
Everyone is rushing for the exits and trying to re-enter through the same door.
Some of the best salespeople I have ever met, who’ve consistently exceeded quotas, are unemployed. Amazing project managers have no projects to work on. People leaders who could inspire a nation with their words are sitting at home with nobody to lead — they can’t get out of bed.
I have never seen this many people unemployed. Let alone this many talented people — more talented than me — looking for work. The ones who planned for these uncertain times have savings and will take time off. The ones who don’t are forced back into the world of work on their knees. It’s tough to watch. It could have been me. It still could be me.
Due to the health crisis, in some parts of the world (like where I live), the ability for employers to let workers go easily and with far less notice or pay than before is a reality. It used to be hard to fire people. Now there is an excuse that can get companies off the hook, thanks to a health crisis.
What we know so far is that the world of work is changing and this has reset the risks related to your career and your ability to earn an income.
This is not a sad story but an opportunity.
Traditional Jobs Will be Risky
A 9–5 job used to be a popular choice because you had a certain level of security. If you did your job and didn’t piss off any of the senior management with your behavior then you’d probably be okay.
If your workplace became toxic you could start proactively looking for a new job and then slowly make the transition. Your career experience acted as a safety barrier. Several consecutive years at one company and a consistent industry theme on your resume would please hiring managers and recruiters.
Right now these norms are out the window. The people in the workforce responsible for hiring are inundated with applicants and that could last several years.
Employers have learned firsthand the downside of a permanent army of employees that creates a fixed cost. That fixed cost becomes hard to flex when black swan events like this health crisis occur.
Entire industries could be wiped out or see a drastic decline that doesn’t subside because of the change in economic climate. The industries that looked safe could become the risky ones going forward.
There’s nothing to be scared of, though. The reality is this: none of us can predict what will happen.
What we can do is ensure we don’t bet all of our time, skills and money on one form of work. That would be stupid in this new economic future.
These People Will Come Out on Top
The ones who will win out of this change in risk profile associated with 9–5 work will be those who get creative.
The winners will be people with two or more incomes built on an ever-expanding set of relevant skills. The skills that will be in demand will be those based on digital products and services.
Several connections that I speak with regularly on LinkedIn have lost their 9–5 jobs. The ones who don’t care at all are those who have other ways of earning a living — those individuals are loving this crisis and using it to take time off, spend time with family, and acquire new skills.
We have a responsibility to ourselves to diversify our careers.
A Financial Buffer Will be Your Savior
There will be many false starts after this crisis passes. Sitting on the sidelines with a little bit of money will be a blessing.
If you saved during the good times and practiced for the bad times, you will have bought yourself time and peace of mind.
When the world experiences huge economic resets, there are several false starts. The worst can look like it’s over and then the economic problem can have a new side appear that nobody predicted. Relying on your financial buffer known as cash in the bank allows you to not have to try and predict what will happen.
It’s never a bad time to set yourself free with a financial buffer.
A Hobby can Further Reduce Risk
Two people I used to work with last year have hobbies: one walks dogs for a small fee after work and the other experiments with balloons and puts them on Instagram.
Both of these people have turned these hobbies into tiny empires. When they get home from work, they practice their hobby and charge a small amount where they can while simultaneously increasing their skill level.
Hobbies can be risk prevention.
They allow you to explore your creative freedom and ask yourself “Could I perhaps make money from this in the future?” That one question could change your life.
Innovative Companies will Thrive
The employees that will suffer the most are the ones who have chosen companies who don’t innovate. They’re the companies who have to have twenty meetings to decide on publishing a blog post and consult the IT department on every decision.
The innovative companies have workers who all understand how to make decisions based on the digital economy. Innovative companies have a workforce full of IT workers, not one department. These are the companies that will carry less risk in the new economy.
If you have no idea where to start in this new digital economy, learn to code.
Coding is the gateway to understanding technology. As investing firm Andreesen Horowitz says, “Software is eating the world.” Don’t go hungry and learn to eat too.
People Are Still Going to Have 9–5 Jobs — They Will Just Look Different
Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. People will still have 9–5 jobs. Not everybody can be Johnny with a laptop on an island earning money from an Affiliate Program.
The fundamental point to get is that 9–5 jobs are no longer safe-havens. When the economy is melting down and the leaders looking at a birds-eye view of the world are forced to fire people, or be fired themselves, there won’t be time to talk with you and get your perspective necessarily. This is the new reality:
You can be let go at a moment’s notice.
You can be talented and lose your job.
You can be revenue-generating and be axed.
You can have been with the company 30 years and be asked to leave.
You can find yourself working for a company that goes bankrupt.
But my promise to you was not to tell you a sad story. I had to tell you the truth about this situation and what it really looks like without the rose-colored glasses, so that I might dare you to listen to another point of view you may not be ready or willing to hear.
My promise to you at the start of this story was to tell you about the opportunity so that you can survive this economic tidal wave — and then help others do the same.
So what can you do?
- Learn new skills
- Practice those new skills
- Experiment earning $10 from those new skills
- Drive the price up on those skills
- Repeat the process and further diversify your skills
With one new skill, you can then begin your separation from the traditional world of work based around a single 9–5 job with a huge amount of risk attached to it by doubling down on your hobbies (also known as the unknown), creating a financial buffer, working for innovative companies, and doing what you can to go from one income to at least two.
Having a 9–5 job is suddenly a huge risk and you have the power to cap the downside and diversify yourself. You’ve worked too hard to bet the entire farm on a 9–5 job in this economic future created by a health crisis.
Swap career risk for work diversification that leads to relaxation.