On September 30, 2008, I published Bail Your Own Self Out to encourage you to look more to yourself than to traditional employment to further your financial and lifestyle goals. Earlier this week, my IBN member Emily Caswell of The Favor Stylist shared an ABC News article about a middle class family that I think needs to read that article. And this one. The ABC article summarizes the story of Rich and Mary Conti (not pictured below), in their early 40's, and their children. Rich has been laid off twice since 2007.
When he was laid off the second time, in 2010, a layoff for his wife soon followed. At one point, Rich was out of work for 17 straight months. Mary, a college graduate, has not found a job since the 2010 layoff. Today, Rich works six days a week, from 6:30pm to 3:00am as a mail sorter. When I read the ABC article, my heart went out to the family. I know what it's like to wonder how you will feed your children next week, or how you will pay the mortgage (which is already behind), or where you will go to fill up the gas tank so you can get to your next destination. Or if you even have enough gas to get to the gas station. But I also know that there is hope.
There is a path out of this situation, and while it may involve a traditional job, that's just a stop gap measure. The way out begins with a decision. A decision to refuse to seek the “same old same old” solutions that worked in times past, but which clearly do not work today. With that backdrop, I want to share a path out, for those who have been laid off, and who fear they will be laid off, and who, for whatever reason, have not been able to find a traditional job after months of searching.
- Adjust to the new normal. Accept that your current financial situation is reality for now, but don't settle that it will be this way for an extended period of time. This new normal can be temporary. But moving in a new direction requires a fundamental shift in how you approach the need to generate income for you and your family. You must shift from placing your future in the hands of an employer that has financial interests that are often diametrically opposed to yours. (They want to spend less money and you are an expense.) There was a time when delegating control over your financial and lifestyle well being was a sensible thing to do. Jobs were plentiful, layoffs were short-lived, and a new job was right around the corner for those who pounded the pavement consistently for a month or two. This is no longer a smart way to proceed. It doesn't work any more.
- Heed the wake-up call. This is a wake-up call. That should be obvious by now. This is a time to begin to look for new ways to support yourself and your children. “Go to college, get a job,” as Mary mentions in the ABC article, is so 90's (or before). It's just not what it once was. You cannot change a situation by doing the same thing that doesn't work, over and over again. If you do the same things, you'll get the same results. Something has to change, and I'm sorry to say, it won't be the economy any time soon. You have to change. You must change the way you think and the things you do must be based on a new way of thinking.Begin by setting aside intentional time to learn about entrepreneurship. The best way to do this is to read stories of successful entrepreneurs.
One to get started with is Delivering Happiness by Zappos founder Tony Hsieh.
- Set specific financial goals. Set goals and pursue them, one at a time if you have to. Create ways to make money on the side so you can reach those goals. Whether it's paying off debt or saving for a new car, find a way to do it by producing income on your own. I hear those of you saying things like, “Well, I can't think of any thing to do,” and “entrepreneurship is not for everyone.” What are you talking about? You are at risk of losing your home and you are still thinking you're not cut out for entrepreneurship? What are you cut out for? Foreclosure?I know this may sound uncaring, but really? As the economy sits in purgatory and you can't find a job, it's just not OK to complain if you're not trying to think of an alternative. Sorry if that sounds awful, but I'm not trying to make you feel better. I'm trying to spur you to positive, results-oriented action.
- Connect with people who are positive about today's economic situation. If they are also entrepreneurs and small business owners, all the better. And don't tell me you cannot find them. They are everywhere. Start with MeetUp. Create your free account, find your town (or a town near you) and search on “entrepreneurs” and “small business.” You will be flooded with options, and they'll even send you an email each week with newly scheduled events. Not all are free, but some are — so go to those first. You'll meet other people, some of whom responded to a layoff by starting a business of their own. You won't find better inspiration. If for whatever reason you cannot do this locally, start reading blogs and magazines and newspaper columns about people who are making money via small businesses. Great articles at this blog is a great way to start! Search online for free webinars and calls on how to start a business. Yes, you'll have to sit through some sales stuff, but you can ignore that part. Go to learn what you can and siphon off the rest. Take notes. Each and every piece of information you collect will put you one step closer to supporting yourself and your dreams on your own terms.Oh, and one last thing … if there are people in your life who insist on complaining constantly about how awful everything is, avoid them as much as possible. They would probably rather stay where they are and complain because that's easier than joining you as you take the bull by the horns.
- Ask for help. While you're going through this, get help wherever you can. Your true friends will applaud you for being proactive and they will be happy to help you be successful. A friend can watch the kids so you can go to a meetup. A church service can provide one or two meals per week. Second hand clothing instead of new are always a great temporary option. Partner with a neighbor to share crock pot meals, BOGO deals on kid shoes, or produce from the local market. Everyone needs help at different times in their lives. There is no shame in it.
So there you have it. A basic road map. It's not perfect, but it's better than letting two more years go by without any promising job prospects, don't you think?
I am certainly not in a position to tell anyone else what is right for their family. I have never been laid off a job, so I cannot begin to know what it feels like to be tossed out after years of dedicated service.
But lived through the same recession you lived through, and my business is stronger than it was before the recession. And it's not because I'm special. It's because I got used to a new normal of my own — and I'm still getting used to it.
And I can tell you this because I know it's true: no job is not guaranteed in any sense. Not guaranteed to feed you, to provide you with health insurance, to fulfill you personally or to sustain your well being. A good job can help in those areas. But a good employer is not responsible for you. You are. And if an employer isn't helping you create the life you love, you don't need that employer — unless it's a temporary weight station on the road to what you really want to achieve in life.
Of course there may be exceptions. I have friends and family members with really good jobs. My employed friends like their jobs and I am glad they have them. They are typically paid well, and their positions seem secure (whatever that means today). But their numbers are dwindling. And the trends is not reversing, friends.
Even they have to embrace an entrepreneurial mindset. One that says, “Employed or not, I will not delegate my responsibility to live the most fulfilling life possible, and I will not put my (or my family's) financial well being completely into that hands of a third party.”
The truth is — no matter your age or employment history — now is the time to start putting a small business platform in place. It doesn't have to be a big, huge thing. Start small and grow from there. Not only will it give you something to fall back on, it will also make of you a more confident and positive person.
Entrepreneurship is a fantastic personal development tool, and even if you never become financially rich from your small business, you are certain to be personally enriched in so many other ways.
Read the article about Rich and Mary Conti at this link.
Learn more about IBN member Emily Caswell and her business at her FaceBook Page.