Forbes Coaches Council

How To Overcome The Hourglass Economy

Society and macroeconomics have resembled a funhouse mirror in the last year. By some barometers, such as the stock market, 2020 and 2021 could be described as having a strong and robust economy. In other ways, for those affected by layoffs and business shutdowns, it has been devastating.

Whatever your perspective, there’s no doubt that the economy has been challenging, and as the rich get richer, the middle class gets squeezed. I say we are living in an hourglass economy, in which there are growing upper and lower classes but the middle class is getting smaller. This hourglass economy has a profound impact on not only your current career but the future of work for you and your children. With more economic power in fewer hands, the hourglass economy favors career ownership and investment over the traditional paths of the middle class.

I would argue that the changes we’ve seen in the last few years have created a new type of class, made up mostly of former middle-class citizens. That is, an increasing number of people are part of what I like to call the “new career economy.” The new career economy is the global borderless aspect of the Roaring 2020s digital revolution that makes outsourcing jobs easier, cheaper and more common. Former high-wage earners are finding themselves pushed into the new career economy with more questions than answers.

Research your next move. What you definitely don’t want to do is jump at the first opportunity that comes along. That is not a plan or a smart choice. Making quick decisions under stress is often how we find ourselves right back where we started doing the same thing, working another unfulfilling job or worse, investing in a new unproven business. In fact, research has shown that we often make bad decisions when we’re under stress. While I recognize that not everybody has the luxury to spend weeks or months figuring out what their next move should be, you should take some time now to figure out what you want to do with this gift of uncertain times. You may even consider connecting with a career ownership coach for guidance and advice.

Have an open mind. When I call this an uncertain time, I’m not being facetious. That period between having an old career and a new one really can be a gift. Some people know exactly what they want their next career to be, which is great. But for everyone else, that uncertainty means they will need to be more receptive to the opportunities that come their way. There may be a job that doesn’t exist today that will be something you can grab hold of tomorrow.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worked with people who thought they were going to do one thing in life and wound up doing something completely different, that they could have never predicted, and ended up being happier than they had ever dreamed.

If you have a closed mind and assume that things are not going to work out for you, they probably won’t. We tend to create self-fulfilling prophecies when we fear change and assume the worst. The new career economy is not easy to experience, but odds are, if you embrace it, you’re actually going to enjoy it, and you may even thrive. That may be hard to envision right away, of course. When you enter the new career economy, like a funhouse mirror, what you see at first isn’t always the reality.

It’s time to dream bigger. Most people rarely quit well-paying jobs without another job lined up, and for good reason. If you’re making good money and have full benefits, you probably feel like you would be crazy to quit and go do what you really want. Even if you think you should take the risk, chances are a spouse may not be so supportive. Many people feel they need to start a business from scratch, and that is a gamble. The last thing anyone wants is to quit and then later wonder why they left that stable, yet unfulfilling, job. The good news is there are other ways, like franchising, that can provide the income, lifestyle, equity and wealth you are looking for.

If you have lost your job, and it wasn’t a career that you absolutely loved, you really could look at this new chapter of your life as a gift. You were never going to leave that job unless something dramatic happened, and now something finally has. Now, you can figure out what you want to do next — and you can take charge of your new career and do something new without a lot of second-guessing yourself.

If you did love your job but now have lost it, then that’s also a new opportunity. You can find something totally new and end up finding something that you absolutely love and never would have found if you hadn’t suddenly become a member of the new career economy. In any case, you may be in a scary place right now, but you can fulfill your potential and grow beyond your current job title limitations. It is time to dream bigger.