The recession seems to have struck the over 50 crowd the hardest—just when all those years of experience were set to be leveraged to do great things. Unlike the younger generations who have not expected long term careers in one place, many in the over 50 crowd never saw this coming. And now finding work is a whole new game. The recession has run so deep that there’s now a new practice of asking individuals to work for “commission only” sales or to build up their own pipeline of work or participate in preparing a project or proposal with the hope of getting the project and working on it together. For those of us who have been consultants, freelancers, or contract employees in the past—this is just a way of life. Every day is an opportunity to prospect for work. But how do you know where you should give the one thing you have plenty of during a transition-- Your Time?
It’s not hard to find others who are working at putting together a project that you can support and then earn money later—if it sells, if it gets funded, if it gets adopted or if—you name it! My advice is to treat your time during a transition like an investment strategy that’s often used by venture capitalists. They are constantly getting proposals to fund new ventures. They look at thousands of great ideas but invest in just a handful with the hope that one of those will turn into the next Big Thing. They use key criteria for making investments and give start ups a timeline with clear goals to be met. If goals are achieved, then they are given more money and if not, they walk away. The founders—if they survive—are left with the option of shutting down or looking for another investor.
You may not have a huge savings account but you do have time. Depending on your personal financial picture, you may only have a few months to spare before you must earn income and so it’s key to set a date to assess whether you should continue contributing your time to a project. Think of your time as your money to invest. It is perfectly fine to offer time to the projects that meet your criteria-- but be realistic. A great idea alone is not enough to strike it rich these days. It takes tremendous focus to mobilize marketing efforts and close a sale—if all you and your colleague talk about is an idea and there’s no business plan or marketing strategy, then it may be a long time before you see any revenue. And, take a look at what exactly you are being asked to do with your time or “sweat equity” in a project or venture. If you carry the greater share of workload, make sure the payout reflects this fact. Create an agreement that spells out what you will be getting when the work comes through so that there are no surprises.
This all sounds simple to follow but the emotional roller coaster of unemployment and instability can undermine your better judgment. Take a breath. Reflect on your goals daily. Develop a success routine and stick to it. Assess what progress you’ve made with your investment of time and adjust accordingly. Making your transition work is up to you. Abraham Lincoln said it best: "Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other one thing."