How to rise from the ashes of the pandemic

My husband runs a small business focusing on the arts. It’s a sector in a death spiral and his clients are either in hibernation or dying. So his business needs a lift.

He applied for a government backed Bounce Back loan but took his bank 60 days to respond. The computer came back with a ‘no’. There was a marker on his account that blocked it and when he asked why, they admitted human error. “We’ll remove it immediately,” they said apologetically. “Immediately” took 72 hours.

A few days later the money was in his account. But other organisations may not be so lucky. A business can go under in 9 weeks. “They’re just dinosaurs. They don’t support their customers,” my husband raged. “Their processes are too slow and inefficient. If they don’t move faster and adapt, they’ll become extinct.”

I agree. Only the lean will survive a global recession. Fleet of foot, able to re-build, the nimble ones will pivot in a post-pandemic world. Organisations are already reinventing themselves — turning on a pin to offer new products and services.

We’re in the midst of an inferno and it can feel overwhelming. But herein lies an opportunity. In the natural world fire can be a vital source of growth. Some plants need heat for their seeds to germinate. The Lodgepole Pine has cones that are sealed with resin. This outer case melts when heated up. Eucalyptus are ‘re-sprouters’ with special buds under their bark. When the tree burns these emerge to grow into new leaves and branches. Other plants like the Fire Lily need ash-fertilised soil to flower after a fire.

This global pandemic is a caustic environment, doing real harm to people and organisations. If we look at the dark side of the circle we see sadness, regret, lost livelihoods and hardship. But on the sunny side it could be a crucible for a new way of working. Diverse, sustainable organisations that serve customers, as well as society and the planet.

As individuals we’re caught up in this fire but we can also become nimble. We can use the heat and the smoke to re-calibrate.

In my Spoon by Spoon project I’ve interviewed 100 people going through career changes and transitions. So many of them are adapting right now — diversifying services and products, setting up portfolio careers. If one thing fails here, focus efforts there. If clients go under, orient to a new sector. They are building baskets to protect their eggs.

Employees can benefit too — learn to be agile and grow through the fire. Below are a few things you could do:

Run an audit of your experience. What skills do you have? Where are your gaps? Can you brush up in another area that will be useful?

– Look at your hobbies or pastimes. They use different talents, so why not add these to your CV?

– Look around your workplace. Where are the opportunities, where are the areas of growth? Introduce yourself to people who work there. Find out where you can help.

– Offer your employer different ways of working. Can you reduce your hours, work flexibly, make yourself indispensable?

– This is the time to be courageous, so why not go for roles that are normally out of your reach?

Be bold, take a risk and try something new. Be like the seed that needs fire to grow.

This is part of a series called Spoon by Spoon — a project I’ve run interviewing 100 people going through career, relationship and wider life changes. If you’re looking for support with your own career or life change find out more here.

Photo copyright of Charlotte Sheridan

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