June 22, 2020
Peter Titlebaum, Ed.D, is a professor at the University of Dayton.
It was not that long ago. It was 2008-2009 and the worst economy we had seen in many years. My goal as a professor was to try to help my students find employment in a difficult job market. You are saying to yourself, in retrospect, it is much worse today than at that time.
You are right. However, if we fail to plan, then we can plan to fail. Many students are in the same situation today. Can you look at the world with fresh eyes? If so, we can find a different or unique answer.
Here is an example I use in class. Would it be hard to get a job during the Great Depression, which lasted from August 1929 through March 1933? My students would always respond that yes, it would be hard. My response always catches them off guard.
Either I am an egomaniac or I look at the situation differently—probably a little of both. At this point in the conversation, you need to stop thinking about yourself and your lack of a paycheck. Start to thinking like a problem solver.
It's easy to say that no one is hiring right now. However, that might not be the case. This is the time to think differently. It is very easy to get down. Do you ever wonder why young children never seem to get discouraged? For example, if they want some ice cream, they ask for it. You say “no, it is too close dinner” or “go ask your mother.” How many times will they ask? The number is countless, and if you have any experience with children, you know what I am talking about, as they will keep asking until they get what they want. While it is frustrating to hear “no,” it has little-to-no impact on the child who is doing the asking for the ice cream.
The reason why, and the great thing about children, is that they do not take the word no personally. They are the masters of reframing. They might think this is not the right time to ask, but they will keep asking. The world finds itself in difficult times right now due to the pandemic. Look around at companies or organizations and think about their pain point or problem. If you can solve their problem, trust me they will have a job for you. Even better yet, start your own company and be an entrepreneur.
Creativity will rule the day. We are all self-employed, even if you are one of the lucky ones who still has a job. All of us need to think about developing new skills. Face it, the world is changing, as much as we would like to go back to life before the worldwide pandemic COVID-19.
We cannot—life has changed. Now we need to emerge from the uncomfortable. It easy not to look at the past and say, “those were the good old days.” We have to embrace today’s future, as it can be better than the past. While it is scary, we need to take educated risks.
We can ill afford not to change at this point. You love the example of "Ray" Clarence Ewry, one of the United States’ most decorated Olympic athletes. What, you’ve never heard of him? Ewry won the standing long jump and the standing high jump in 1900, 1904, 1906, and 1908. He also still held the world record of 11 feet 4 inches in the standing long jump when they discontinued the event in the 1930s. However, these events went out of fashion.
The sad fact is that some of our jobs are going to change, and we will have to reinvent ourselves, like it or not. It is okay to be worried about the future. However, the sooner we embrace change, the better off we are going to be.
As event planner, and because of COVID-19, you were furloughed, leaving you no idea when and how soon that job will be allowed again. You could bury your head in the sand. Not worry about it and think that all will get better when this over.
Instead, it is time to take inventory of your skills. You are a professional, and you need to demonstrate that those skills also have value to different industries.
While it might not be your dream job, it might just put you where you need to be. One of my favorite stories was about Mario Cuomo, former mayor of New York. You might not know that he dreamed of being a professional baseball player and even signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. However, it was not in the cards as he got hurt, and so he pursed his second love of law. Mario has enjoyed a very productive professional career.
Why I appreciate this story is because who is to define your next job choice. You will have more success than you ever imagined. While you did not pick this situation, as eternal optimists, when one door closes, we must always look for the next door or window.