On this Labor Day, I want to address the disturbing number of Americans without jobs, having trouble finding work, or worrying about stimulus payments running out in the face of a looming recession.
I’ve spent the bulk of my weekend answering texts (323.310.2844) from those of you who are feeling alone and anxious in a historically catastrophic job market: brand upstarts who are losing hope. Influencers, models, and freelancers who are being forced to pivot. Musicians who can’t tour. Recent graduates, especially, are facing the worst prospects since the Great Depression.
If this speaks to you, I want you to know that you are not alone. I’m alarmed by the number of close friends and followers who have reached out to me over the last few months seeking employment help (I’m even more bothered by the lack of openings I can find for them in the marketplace). I understand there is a certain sense of shame and disappointment associated with being jobless and nobody likes to publicize their hardships. But, it’s very real and happening all around us, if not happening to us. It’s a collective crisis.
So, if I can lend any unwarranted advice…
1. Lean on your network. The most successful people I know did not elevate in their career by blind resumes or job search engines. They were referred by friends and juiced their social connections in landing the jobs of their dreams. I know it’s especially hard to do this in a pandemic, but utilize social media contacts and scrub your Address Book for anyone who can grease that link. And you don’t need to have a fancy social scene to do this. When I say “network,” I mean your wacky uncle who runs a deli, the girl you graduated with who started an app, your friend who works at a company and can get your foot in the door.
2. Take this pause to master a skillset. Employers are looking for specific roles to fill. I get a lot of people asking if they can work for us, but when I ask them in what capacity, they say, “I’ll do anything.” I don’t need you to do anything. I need you to do the one thing. And be the best at it. For example, if you are interested in design, learn the Adobe Creative Suite by following YouTube tutorials. Master a diversity of styles by tracing other designers’ work. Once you’ve gotten fast and proficient enough in the design programs, add your personal opinion to develop your own style.
3. If you don’t know what your interests are, it’s time to open your mind and gain some experience. Look for an internship in a field that you are remotely curious about. I interned for over a year (for free) at a skate magazine. I didn’t go into that industry, but I did discover a passion for clothing and editorial through that time. Speaking of which, although there’s a lot of chatter in our culture on the subject, it’s actually pretty rare to identify passions, let alone build a career out of them. Follow your curiosities instead. I didn’t grow up being obsessed with fashion, but I was curious about the youth culture industry, and that wonder led me to where I am today.
4. Maybe you know your interests and have the knowledge, but the circumstances have to be aligned just right in order to move forward. This hesitation is a result of fear, self-doubt, and laziness. Just press Start. You have to get the car moving in order to get anywhere, even if it’s in the wrong direction. You need the inertia to steer the car and direct your life towards a destination… anyway, that’s the easy part! The hard part is getting yourself out of Park and committing to a path. Unfortunately, the majority of people will be too comfortable or scared to ever leave that space. There is no better time than Now to release that parking brake.
Lastly, if you do have a job or a means of income, hold onto it. I know I’m out here preaching inspirational messages and urging you to follow your dreams. But once the unemployment checks run dry, once the elections are over, I worry about the fallout. So, while I advise you to be reckless in your dreaming, it’d be irresponsible to also not warn you of the oncoming storm. I’ve been coaching people to lay low for the next 6 to 12 months. I know there are those of you who hate your jobs or are dying to get into your own thing. But think about launching your passion project or seeking a shinier job once the dust settles on 2020. Until then, you can always stack more skills, raise capital, or strategize your future. Just make sure the next lily pad is secure before you jump.
I hope any of this is helpful. Always here if you need me.