Imagine yourself in this scenario: You’re working for a global Fortune 100 company in Midtown Manhattan. The money is great, you have the opportunity to learn every day from the best in your field, and the prestige that comes with working for a large company lends itself to plenty of networking opportunities. You seem to be on the sure track to success…
…until one day, when that opportunity and all that comes with it disappears. Budget cuts, shifting priorities, management changes, a cheaper replacement, or any of the above send you out the door. You are left with no choice but to pick up the pieces and find your way, sooner rather than later.
Terrifying, right? The unfortunate truth is that it happens often, at all levels of an unbalanced job market and economy. Even worse is the fact that there is often little we can do to stop it from happening to us.
However, there is good news. There is always opportunity in the discomfort of starting over. This baptism-by-fire forces us to be resourceful and allows us to try new things; to re-invent and re-discover who we are and what we offer to the world.
You’ll be more prepared for that opportunity, should it arise, if you are already accustomed to challenging yourself in your free time. In fact, in an age where job security has diminished significantly, you should constantly explore – and create – new opportunities.
What you do with Free Time
Ask yourself something: What do you do when you come home from work? Do you typically zone out in front of the TV for the rest of the evening before heading off to bed, or is your free time dedicated to more productive hobbies?
If you chose the first answer – and let’s face it, a lot of us do – ask yourself another question. If you lost your job tomorrow, how would the time spent plugged into your favorite shows have prepared you for the challenging road ahead?
There are loads of more productive activities to choose from, even if they seem at the surface to be purely recreational hobbies. But, before you can make a choice, you might be so wrapped up in your routine that you can’t seem to remember ever having hobbies. In that case, take some time to get back in touch with yourself, as suggested in my previous article. Once you have done that, pick what you are most passionate about and focus on it, free of distractions, for an hour or two every night.
Gradually, you will begin to see this hobby take shape into something slightly bigger. You will have the opportunity to learn new skills, processes and ideas, and you will notice your passion continually gaining a greater presence in your everyday life.
The discoveries therein have the potential to improve your career. In the best case, you will be able to apply what you’ve learned to your “day job” and improve your performance, making yourself a more valuable asset to the company.
In the worst case, you will be faced at some point with starting over. However, your productive free time will better equip you to A) appeal to your next employer or B) turn your passion into your profession.