April 19, 2010: The Recovery is Coming: Are You Ready?

In the news today, there are a number of accumulating signs that the economic Recession, that has plagued so many, for so long, may finally be coming to an end. Are you ready?

 During the Recession, we saw countless “negative items” that cast a collective pall on our country. Lost jobs. No merit raises. Fewer hiring opportunities. Non-existent promotions. Little opportunity. Squashed entrepreneurialism. Contraction by everyone, in every business. Tightening the belt. Playing it safe. Laying low. You get the idea.

 All of these actions, during a Recession, are not only prudent, but they are necessary for survival. However, equally important in knowing when to “shrink”, is knowing when to expand.

 In my work as not only a psychotherapist, but also as a life/business coach to dozens of gay men in West Hollywood/Los Angeles, I am always impressed by the spirit of what I call the “gay male solo entrepreneur”. Many of the clients I work with are self-employed professionals, or skilled artisans of some kind, who make their living by doing what they love with a loyal and grateful client base. These include architects, photographers, graphic designers, screenwriters, musicians, small business owners, personal trainers, real estate agents, and even other psychotherapists. During the Recession, there were many stories of how these otherwise talented, ambitious, skilled, successful men were frustrated by a pervasive economic “Climate of No”, frustrating their dreams of expansion, influence, profitability, prestige and professional reward. At the time, we did what we could to preserve, protect, and prolong sustainability and profit, but with only a rare glance toward expansion.

 Today, in the face of well-awaited and welcome recovery, we get to discard much of that. Today, we allow ourselves to focus on growth, ambition, and dreams once again. How do we do that?

 Think about your own situation. If you’re ready to get a new job as soon as one is available, is your resume updated? Have you been keeping an ongoing List of Accomplishments in a computer file or notebook at work, so that you have “bargaining power” of your contributions when it comes time to finally negotiate a merit raise? Have you been collecting the names and contact information of people to network with, who are in a position to either teach you, mentor you, expose you to other “important” people, or hire you? Have you been keeping abreast of “trend spotting” in your field, so that your skill set is impeccable now that the job market is coming alive with competing candidates for newly-available positions? Have you sat down and determined what your ideal new salary would be, and what your acceptable “settle” amount would be? Have you thought your working lifestyle, and how much travel or commuting you can tolerate? Have you calculated what benefits you need for your lifestyle? (If you have dependents, which even some gay men do, you’re going to need more life insurance than someone who is single with no dependents and no elderly parents to take care of later.). Also, any new job must be evaluated in the context of deferred compensation, such as their 401-K matching or other long-term savings that influences your financial station well beyond your annual salary.  

 If you own your own business, think about how you might expand, if you had the customers and the revenue to support it. What new products or services would you develop, if you knew the economy would support that growth? In what locations would you open second or third offices? What staff would you hire to make your life easier, or allow your business to expand, with more money floating around in the economic ether? What growth sectors have emerged in your field (especially technically) during the Recession that you could respond to? What frustrated needs/desires have your customers been keeping pent-up, that if they had a little more money to spend (which they probably will), they could be spending on YOUR products and services? The Green Movement is a collective “value” that is being increasingly cherished by American society, especially among those who are middle-class or higher in socioeconomic status. Is there anything that YOUR business could do to market to, respond to, or support those who hold “green” values?

 Finally, come back to your dreams. One of the worst parts of a Recession is people putting their dreams on hold, about new work opportunities, vacations, home improvement, hobbies, altruistic/charitable projects, and artistic endeavors. It’s time to dust those off the shelf, and make them a reality for you.

 Pacing is important, and it remains to be seen how much recovery we will have, and how fast. Having someone to collaborate with, such as a personal/business coach, might help you to identify, prioritize, evaluate, and implement the goals that fit the values, talent, skills, dreams and ambitions that you bring to your business.

 There is a new day dawning of a more stable, robust, American economy. Be there to greet it with open eyes, open arms, and an open mind. Good morning!

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