cannot be refuted that many of us in the 50+ cohort faced professional and financial challenges fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting us to explore what’s next in our work lives. And that’s why I want to share with you some powerful insights from author Mark S. Walton in his new book Crucial Creativity: Never let a crisis affect your business or career. It shows us that we are all creative and can find a positive way to overcome almost any setback.
This is something that I have focused on in my work. And Mark and I have come together through this confident and proactive approach to cope with change. I first met Mark four years ago when I joined a team of nationally acclaimed experts to be part of the launch of Second Half Institute, a college curriculum focused on mastering midlife and beyond. Our program began at the University of California-Riverside on its campus near Palm Springs. And the faculty included Marci Alboher, vice president of Encore.org and author of The Encore Career Handbook, Barbara Bradley Hagerty, author of Life Reimagined: The Science, Art and Opportunity of Midlife, and Mark Miller, columnist for Reuters, Morningstar, the New York Times and editor of RetirementRevised.com. Mark Walton was the leader of the pack. He is president of the Center for Leadership Communication, an executive management and career consulting firm whose clients include leaders, managers, and professionals in many of the world’s leading organizations, including Toyota Motor Corp., GlaxoSmithKline, Bank of America, NASA, and the Navy. of the U.S. and Marine Corps. He is also a Peabody Award-winning journalist who was a senior CNN correspondent and host early in his career. I recently spoke with Mark about his research, his new book, and his views on workplace changes for workers over 50. The highlights of our conversation are below and have been edited and condensed. In general, what has been the economic impact on people over 50 in terms of work and jobs? It’s not a pretty picture, Kerry. In a typical economic downturn, older workers are more likely to hold onto their jobs than younger workers, who have less experience and seniority. But that has not been the case this time. In fact, during the first months of the pandemic, people over the age of 55 were almost 20% more likely to become unemployed than younger people. And that doesn’t even take into account the economic cost of the pandemic to small business owners over 50 who have been forced to downsize or close their doors. Collectively, the people in middle age and beyond whose businesses, careers, or retirements were affected or derailed undoubtedly number in the millions. Based on the research you’ve done for your book, what is the best approach or mindset you can take if you belong to that 50+ age group whose career or business has been hit hard by a crisis like the pandemic? I have found that the people and companies that have thrived after a major crisis are those that have been proactively creative. By that I mean that they have deliberately and strategically invented new and different jobs or careers for themselves, or products and services that are particularly well suited to the post-crisis economy. Why is this? Because life after a crisis is rarely, if ever, the same as before. A crisis like this pandemic, and the post-crisis period that follows, are times when consumer needs, wants, and tastes change dramatically and markets rapidly evolve in an attempt to keep up. As the famous Bob Dylan song says, ‘times are changing’. Since periods like this can be terrifying, it’s understandable that some of us tend to duck and cover. We wait for things to happen in the hope that we will either be hired again in the same type of job we had previously, or we try to run our businesses the same way we did before the crisis broke out. But that’s often a losing strategy because the ‘new normal’ after a crisis will be different than how things used to be. So what the smartest career professionals and entrepreneurs do when a crisis hits is get moving, even if they’re not immediately clear about the final direction. They start early to create a future for themselves instead of reacting to whatever tomorrow may bring. They get on the phone, talk to people, read the data, try to gauge where things are going, seek out new ideas and opportunities, and use their skills and abilities to ride the waves of change rather than being crushed by them. They approach a crisis as an opportunity to create something new and plant the seeds of their next success. But what if you don’t consider yourself “the creative type”? How can you get creative or increase your creativity in a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic? The biggest misconception people have is that being creative is unique to certain types of people or companies. That is simply a myth, a notion that many of us have accepted at some point in our lives. I have spent a lot of time studying highly creative people in many fields, and they basically tell you the same thing, which is that creativity, whether in the arts, science, business or any other activity, is not a personal attribute, but the The result of a deliberate strategy, a series of actions, that any of us can learn and put into practice. In my writing, I call this strategy “The Three Acts of Crucial Creativity.” The first act, which we have already covered a bit, is observation: studying the evolving market for ideas, information and opportunities. The second act is what Walt Disney called “Imagineering,” which essentially means generating mental blueprints for a new job, products, or services that, based on your observations, are likely to be successful in the evolving marketplace. The third act is the Upgrade, which involves applying your personal skills or business capabilities to make what you have designed a reality, to bring what you have imagined to market. In your writing, have you discovered any particular tips or methods that may be especially helpful for people in their middle age or older, even people who may need or want to earn income in retirement? Absolutely. Perhaps the most important thing that I have learned from studying people over 50 is that we all have skills and abilities that we used earlier in life but that we have forgotten, or that we have never used, but that we harbor within us, that can be put on. in practice with surprisingly positive results. In fact, the leading neuroscientist in this area, Michael Merzenich of the University of California, who pioneered the phenomenon called brain plasticity, is an advocate for people over 50 to discover their hidden skills and abilities when trying new careers or retirement jobs that intrinsically interest them. or fascinates them. I have written about people who have done this and interviewed Dr. Merzenich for my book. But the bottom line is this: no matter your age, never underestimate the possibility that you can start a new career or business, or earn additional income for retirement, taking advantage of personal capabilities that you may not be aware of or that you may have forgotten to. has. . How do the business leaders you’ve spoken to seem to be viewing in the post-pandemic period? Many of them believe that it is not a question of whether there will be a post-pandemic economic boom, but of when it will start and how big it will be. Keep in mind that the worst crises are often followed by good times. The period after World War II was one of the best on record in both productivity and economic growth. And it is sometimes forgotten that a century ago, between 1917 and 1920, the United States experienced five major crises in a row: World War I, two recessions, the Spanish flu epidemic, and a period of violent domestic unrest. Yet by 1923, the ‘Roaring Twenties’ were underway, a huge economic boom that was ignited when a wave of new American technology and creativity met pent-up consumer demand. Of course, there is no way of knowing if we are heading into an era like that, something that could be known as ‘Madness 2020’. But it’s entirely possible, which makes it even more crucial that we accelerate our own creativity, not just to survive the rest of the pandemic, but to capitalize on what’s to come next. Kerry Hannon is a leading expert and strategist on work and jobs, entrepreneurship, personal finance, and retirement. Kerry is the author of more than a dozen books, including Great Pajama Jobs: Your Complete Guide to Working From Home, Never Too Old To Get Rich: The Entrepreneurs Guide to Start a Business Mid-Life, Great Jobs for Everyone 50+, and Trust in money. Her on Twitter @kerryhannon.