Letting the economy nudge you into chasing your dream

I’m a big believer in the silver lining — that what initially looks negative can turn out to be a real positive. You might just need to be willing to accept that disguised gift.

The New York Times recently ran a story headlined Weary of Looking for Work, Some Create Their Own. Part of the story says:

Plenty of other laid-off workers across the country, burned out by a merciless job market, are building business plans instead of sending out résumés. For these people, recession has become the mother of invention.

Economists say that when the economy takes a dive, it is common for people to turn to their inner entrepreneur to try to make their own work. But they say that it takes months for that mentality to sink in, and that this is about the time in the economic cycle when it really starts to happen — when the formerly employed realize that traditional job searches are not working, and that they are running out of time and money.

Mark V. Cannice, executive director of the entrepreneurship program at the University of San Francisco, calls the phenomenon “forced entrepreneurship.”

“If there is a silver lining, the large-scale downsizing from major companies will release a lot of new entrepreneurial talent and ideas — scientists, engineers, business folks now looking to do other things,” Mr. Cannice said. “It’s a Darwinian unleashing of talent into the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

As the article says, this isn’t a new trend. I remember hearing that the recession of the early 1990s was part of what fueled the dot-com boom of the late 1990s — motivated people who no longer saw a corporate job as the safe haven they once had struck out on their own and helped transform society and our economy. It goes back farther than that, too; in 1975, the Times ran a story with the headline Jobless Becoming Entrepreneurs; Relief From Recession’s Ravages Is Goal Jobless Becoming Entrepreneurs.

For some, that might mean leaving the life of a salesman to become a DJ. Throughout the country, the economy is pressing people to re-evaluate — either because the job they’ve always done has gone away and isn’t coming back, or because once the golden handcuffs were unlocked, the world looked a lot different. Maybe you didn’t love your job, but you kept going every day because the pay and benefits were pretty good or you just couldn’t bear the thought of a job search.

A Times story that in the print version today carries the headline “Creme de la Career” but online is called With Finance Disgraced, Which Career Will Be King?   evaluates some of the ways the economy will shape how we all spend our days. After all, jobs are subject to the basic economic rules of supply and demand, so if you want to collect a paycheck, you need to offer something someone is willing to pay for.

Today, the financial crisis and the economic downturn are likely to alter drastically the career paths of future years. The contours of the shift are still in flux, in part because there is so much uncertainty about the shape of the economic landscape and the job market ahead.

But choosing a career is a guess about the future in which economics is only part of the calculation. Prestige, peer expectations and the climate of public opinion also matter. And early indications suggest new career directions that are tethered less to the dream of an immediate six-figure paycheck on Wall Street than to the demands of a new public agenda to solve the nation’s problems.

The deep recession has clearly battered industries — and professions — whose economics were at risk before the downturn. Law firms are laying off lawyers as never before and questioning the industry’s traditional unit of payment, the billable hour. Journalism is reeling from the falloff in advertising and the inability of newspapers and magazines to make a living on the Web.

(By the way, yes, I know that some people equate the New York Times with snooty liberal intellectualism. But I live in New York and it’s my local broadsheet newspaper — and a pretty great one, at that. I admire the feisty headline style of our local tabloids but they’re not quite my speed.)

If the recession has given you a career wake-up call and you’re thinking of starting your own business, here are some resources to help you think it through:

Good questions to ask as you begin your business plan: http://www.entrepreneur.com/startingabusiness/businessplans/article38292.html#determine
Templates for a good business plan and other pointers:

And some other bloggers you might check out for inspiration on the entrepreneurial path:

— The Arizona Small Business Development Center has a post called Starting a Business in a Recession
Ladies Who Launch has tons of resources to help you find your way — even if you’re not a lady
— The New York Times Shifting Careers blog has a post titled What ‘Should’ You Do in Your Career? Sadly, the blog has ended as the Times decided to pseudo-pink slip the freelancer who had been writing about topics related to the fluid relationship between employment and entrepreneurship. Just another reminder that you need to be following your own advice, right?

— Are you starting your own business? Or thinking about it? Are you doing it on the side while you still have a day job, or are you using your unemployment check as a safety net while you launch your dream business?


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3 replies


  1. Career Change a Luxury for Most Working Parents « The Mama Bee
  2. Changing careers ain’t easy « Newvine Growing — exploring evolution, revolution and living life intentionally
  3. Selling your services retail instead of wholesale: becoming your own boss « Newvine Growing — exploring evolution, revolution and living life intentionally

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