I’ve been out and about lately, speaking at conferences, visiting colleagues, seeing clients in remote places and meeting new contacts and prospects. The entire range of the economic condition is on view: employees with secure jobs, consultants with long-term retainers, folks out of work for a long time, consultants struggling to find new gigs, managers doing the work of their previous staff (now fired) at a lower salary.
It is a quilt of many colors. And the colors are not just of circumstances, but of responses, emotional and psychological. Those with jobs are simultaneously grateful for the work and aggravated at the pressure put on them. Those looking for work feel hope and despair and exhaustion from the emotional roller coaster of looking and not finding. Some, no matter their condition, are depressed and cannot move forward.
Older workers who anticipated retirement (once during the dot.com boom, then again these past couple of years) must shore up their energy to adjust to the long term of work before them to recover their portfolios enough to retire, if they can. Younger workers, never having experienced a downturn, don’t know whom to blame, but surely not themselves.
Those with debt are particularly anxious. Entrepreneurs seeking capital investment are finding little response. Ongoing companies needing a flow of credit for their usual course of business are facing trouble if not disaster.
My compassion goes out to every one of these folks in each scenario. The rise in the stock market of the past 3 months is helpful, but is still only a “leading” indicator, which leads by at least 6 months before “recovery” (in whatever form that might take) begins to hit the larger companies. It takes months longer to hit the small businesses and entrepreneurs and consultants.
Despite all this, I want to risk a positive thought. There is opportunity in the downturn. There are choices to be made. You must keep up your energy, your health and your spirit despite it all. Let’s face it – you can look for work or your next gig avidly and still only spend a few hours a day pushing forward on that front. There are many empty hours, and these hours sap your energy and befuddle your spirit.
The choice is to use the downtime of the downturn to create your next new thing. This may be the book you have never written, or the company you have only scribbled about in your notebook, or the technology you have never had time to plan and code. In all cases the choice includes maintaining or restoring your health and fitness so you can move forward. And any of these choices will keep the blues at bay.
The opportunity for the entrepreneur is to get the “hidden year” out of the way while there is little else to do. This hidden year involves planning, organizing, business plan writing, market testing, and initial development (in technology and/or otherwise) for that idea you have never pursued.
For the consultant, it is the opportunity to create all those marketing and positioning tools you have always squeezed in to your schedule and never completed, or only half-completed. With the new social networks, these marketing tools and materials include preparing blogs, webinars, publications, and repurposed expertise into all media, then distributing through a community you develop.
For everyone, this opportunity includes learning something new that prepares you for the upturn, for the next new markets that will arise out of this time, and for adjacent markets you will need to enter to stay viable.
Stay the course with your search for new work or new consultations. But look at the other hours of the day as your freedom to explore new realms, and the opportunity to pursue your dreams. Who knows? The next new thing you put your energy to may become your new work or your new company.