From Dr. Jane's Notebook

“Build your own pushcart,” be your own boss

My great-grandparents immigrated to this country around the turn of the 20th century. Like so many other families in the early 1900s, they had the ominous task of resettling their family and earning a living. Fortunately, my great-grandfather was a tailor and since people were always in need of clothing, he was always able to work for himself. Although my great-grandfather died at an early age, he left behind a legacy of self-sufficiency which my great-grandmother was sure to instill in their offspring, and in turn, in their grandchildren down the line. My father recalls her saying, “Jerry, whatever you do, you’ve got to have your own little pushcart”.  His interpretation of this advice was ‘it’s okay to open up your own lemonade stand, if that’s what you love; just don’t depend on anyone else to give you a  job.’ More than one hundred years later, that legacy still serves our family well. 

In these times of uncertain employment, we all need to have a back-up plan. Here are a few more thoughts on the matter. 

·        Keep learning. Nearly every job has some form of continuing education or in-service training. If we allow our skills to get rusty or choose not to keep up with new ways to doing things, like using computers, we are in jeopardy of becoming that member of the herd who is falling out of line with the rest. When this happens, watch out for hungry lions and pink slips.

·        Develop a back-up career. Give some serious thought to the kind of work you love to do.  Years ago, I read a book called, “Do what you love and the money will come”.  I’ve misplaced the book but I’ve never forgotten the concept. If you were forced to change jobs tomorrow, what would you really love to do?

·        Prepare yourself now! If something happens to your job, have your fall-back plan in place. New careers require new sets of skills. Now is the time to take courses and learn how to run a successful lemonade stand, if that’s what you want to do. America used to honor the small business person, the entrepreneur. Family businesses were considered to be more personable and reliable. In fact, anyone who successfully got their own business off the ground was considered somewhat of a local hero. While little shops have gained more competition in recent decades, most people have some sort of marketable skill that they can offer to the public.

·        Losing a job is a terrible thing. Even under the best of circumstances, separation from our work feels like failure and rejection. Realistically, companies go out of business every day, or they decide to down-size, right-size, reorganize or phase out certain departments. Even when it’s not your fault, job loss is almost always accompanied by feelings of humiliation, a sense of unfairness, blame, scape-goating, or betrayal. The trick to survival is to distinguish between the ‘death of a job’ and ‘the end of your career’.

After the trauma of job separation, it takes time to grieve this loss and heal the wounds to our self-esteem. For many, this is a time when our emotions go through great fluctuations.  If we think too much about the future, we get anxious. If we think too much about the past, we get depressed. However, for those who have prepared themselves, it is simply the time to re-invent themselves.

One friend of mine recently created her own success story. Having seen the ‘hand-writing on the wall’, she knew her days were numbered after 15 years of service to an agency which was headed for re-organization. Fortunately, she was trained in skills which would transfer with her. Unfortunately, she also knew that working for another agency was no guarantee of long-term stability and happiness. While she had never worked for herself, she decided it was time to take a risk, even if it meant living modestly for a while. To her great surprise, business soon began to come her way, and she made a few decisions which made all the difference in the world. First, she set her own hours; second, she set her own dress code; and third, she made a decision to eliminate negative attitudes in her workplace.  Today, she is happier, healthier, and less stressed by the looming fear of losing her job.  Now the only boss she has to please is herself; now she has her own little ‘pushcart’.

©Copyright, 2007, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.            

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