We've read lots of the doom and gloom stories about people losing their jobs because of the recession. Most of those stories look at the dark side of career loss, particularly for those in mid-life. Yet there is a bright side to this picture. Losing your job can also provide a forced opportunity to re-examine your life and pursue those unfulfilled dreams.
In working with executives, business owners and professionals for the past 30 years, one thing has become clear to me: Few people are motivated to make big changes in life and pursue unfulfilled desires when things are going well. For many, it has taken the trauma of a lost career, a failed relationship or health challenge to provide the impetus to step into new territory.
According to Bruce Fraser, writing in The New York Daily News, laid off Wall Streeters are flocking to training programs in acting, music and other arts in schools such as NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and Greenwich Village's HB Studio. The Freelancers Union in New York says that membership grew 40% in less than a year. Lucy Cohen Blatter, writing in amNew York, says that large numbers of New Yorkers are pursuing dream jobs during the recession they may never have sought out before. Blatter cites Allison Hemming, president of the talent agency The Hired Guns: "I believe the other side of the recession is what I'm terming The New Individualism Movement," arguing that people are looking to become entrepreneurs like never before. Lisa Druxman, writing in Women Entrepreneur, says that large numbers of mothers, reentering the job market, are choosing to become entrepreneurs, rather than the traditional work world. Steve Hendrix, writing in the Washington Post, describes the lives of several people, whose careers were suddenly terminated, arguing that "idle and anxious workers often reconnect with dormant dreams."
Recessions don't just realign the job market and business results. Recessions create shifts in our thinking and behaviors. One such shift is that many people have gone from being spenders and optimistically accumulating debt to becoming more frugal and savvy consumers.
Some economists claim that recessions actually do our society a service by correcting and rebalancing the economy and sparking innovation. One thing is for sure--we won't be returning to business the way it used to be. Also, the recession causes people who have jobs to reflect on these questions: What would I do if lost my job? And, maybe this is a good time to pursue that life long dream I've had?
Barbar Sher, author of Escape From Corporate America, comments that "some of the most seemingly successful corporate movers and shakers...hate their jobs," citing Gallup and other polls that show high job dissatisfaction levels. Sher claims that despite higher salaries and better benefits, corporate workers are more miserable than those in other types of jobs, citing a study that shows 87% of free agents and entrepreneurs are happy with their jobs.
Sher argues that the problem with many corporate environments is that they are still patterned after the work world of the 1950s, in which undying loyalty is expected of employees while the company goes through a series of downsizing, layoffs and mergers with the inevitable impact on employees.
According to the Concours Group, which conducted a study of thousands of U.S. workers, "corporate America is not aligned with the needs of its increasingly diverse workforce and the radical changes in attitudes of young Americans." A recent study by The Conference Board found that 17% of those making $15,000 a year are satisfied with their jobs, compared to a surprising 14% of those making more than $50,000 a year.
What if the choice is between the well-paying and relatively secure job that you hate and a less lucrative dream job? Economists John Helliwell and Haifang Hong of the University of British Columbia found that money is not as critical to life satisfaction as we would assume, and only likely to boost your overall life satisfaction by 10%.
So whether the recession has caused people to reflect on how secure and happy they are, or an opportunity to consider reaching that lifelong dream, the economic downturn may actually provide some inspiration to make some positive life changes.