Nearly 50 million Americans, including self-employed individuals like myself, filed for unemployment benefits as the pandemic shuttered supply chains, triggering massive layoffs and furloughs.
What a difference a year makes. U.S. workers are now quitting jobs at the highest rate seen since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began collecting such data in 2000. And while 8.5 million jobs were lost from February 2020 to February 2021, the labor market is heating up and returning to pre-pandemic levels. Help-wanted signs are everywhere. But supply and demand just aren’t syncing up, causing real concern about Corporate America’s ability to recruit and retain talent. It also makes filling shifts and managing teams much more challenging.
Could work and life possibly get any more surreal?!
Organizational psychologist Anthony Klotz calls it “the Great Resignation,” a trend that he and other experts attribute to burning out from longer hours logged at home offices with significant work-life challenges. I’ve seen plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting a disconnect between employer and employee perceptions of how workplaces were managed during lockdowns. I’d imagine that a combination of growing resentment and low morale, along with recalibrated expectations and personal priorities, also could be factored into the mix as possible explanations.
Whatever the case, I see a silver lining. Far too many of us have settled for jobs and careers for which we could not care less. Showing up for work may be pure drudgery or difficult bosses ruin a perfectly good gig. Those folks dread spending endless hours in toxic environments. Some have pursued paths that were expected of them to please loved ones, while others gave up on their dreams along the way.
In my case, COVID-19 may have been one of the best, albeit harrowing, things that has ever happened to me. Although I was suddenly furloughed from two of three steady gigs by the end of March 2020, and as a result had to defer plans to buy a home, I mustered the courage to restart a decade-long pursuit of the job I’d been pining for.
It was my pandemic pivot – a phrase I’ve been hearing a lot in conversations over the past 15 months. While it’s too early to assess whether the investment will pay long-term dividends, it made me thirsty for more of the success I tasted in the early months of sheltering in place.
If you truly love what you do for a living, you’ll never work a day in your life – so the saying goes. I’ve been lucky enough to say it has applied to me through a long and fruitful career in B2B journalism. Covering the workplace takes me back to my roots in the newspaper business because virtually every assignment is a human-interest story. There’s real humanity in the human resources field, and I’m grateful to be a part of it.
But now it’s my Plan B, which isn’t such a bad fallback position. I’d rather focus on ghostwriting memoirs that enable accomplished individuals to document their legacy for posterity and business or self-help books that are the ultimate calling card for serious entrepreneurs who believe deeply in the power of publishing their thought leadership.
Ten years ago, I had no idea what ghostwriting books entailed, though I had done my share of a more modest version with trade magazine articles published under the bylines of subject matter experts. I also edited manuscripts that were handed to me. But I absolutely love the long-form format, which allows for more meaningful exploration, which is ironic considering that I was never in love with literature as a child.
My journey began as a happy accident when I ghostwrote and project managed the self-published memoir of an elderly man in South Florida who was big into philanthropic causes involving the Jewish community. I was hooked, but became overwhelmed by the new opportunity that arose – unable to determine the best way to market my new service.
I had a few nibbles from prospective clients, some of whom I found through simple word of mouth. Inertia took over, and I figured this dream would be deferred as I kept busy with journalistic endeavors, along with writing whitepapers and paid content, hosting webinars, covering conferences. etc.
Then I was approached in the fall of 2019 by a savvy digital marketing strategist in Australia named Bjarne Viken whose pitch was intriguing. He could help me find book ghostwriting clients with the help of customer relationship management software that integrates with LinkedIn’s SalesNavigator. The only problem was that I was so busy with my steady clients and a revolving door of folks who’d come and go that I didn’t have the bandwidth for it – until COVID-19 blew a gaping hole in my career.
It was time to pivot. I circled back with Bjarne in April 2020 while twiddling my thumbs and nervously anticipating what would happen next. I hit paydirt immediately, landing three clients in as many months. I even had a verbal and written commitment from a serial entrepreneur who had four or five books in mind to come on board when my schedule loosened. I was on top of the world, but some of the best-laid plans simply don’t materialize or match our desired timetable.
In short, my dream gig is a work in progress – or lack thereof. Pursuing anything worthwhile in life involves taking risks and paying dues. It’s similar to when I decided to become self-employed in 2000. My former employer was the sole client, followed by nearly 110 others over the course of two decades.
Building a new business is a combination of sweat equity, tenacity, perseverance, optimism and undying faith in your talent and what you’re hoping to accomplish. It isn’t easy and can take years, but when you reap even a modicum of success following your passion, the journey is as sweet as the destination.
The moral of my story – and so many others like it – is to turn adversity into opportunity, never settle for anything less than what you really want to do and always embrace change. You never know where it might lead.