Finding new direction during turbulent times
By Joyce Alla
Carolyn Morrell, a radio DJ at various stations for decades, was most recently a highly rated midday host in Boston. She was laid off early in the COVID-19 crisis. Sudden unemployment came as a shock, and in many ways, Morrell, who is in her Bucket years, mourned the loss of her dream job. “I’ve always loved music, and I had a lot of autonomy during my show. I got to meet and interview musicians, see concerts and theater, and talk about them on-air,” she says. “I also really missed the great people at the station.” One thing she didn’t miss? Her almost two-and-a-half-hour daily commute.
Given the diminishing future of traditional radio, and lack of job opportunities during COVID-19, Morrell had to ask herself: did she want to keep doing what she had been doing, or find a new career that fueled her passion the way radio did? “About 30 percent of my income had been coming from voiceovers, so I knew I wanted to keep that going,” she explains. “And, I’ve always loved word games and trivia and had been quizzing family and friends and hosting game nights for decades. So, I decided to explore how that could become a future career.”
Re-examining priorities and exploring alternative careers may be the silver lining of COVID-19, especially for Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers who make up over 40%* of the 41 million who’ve filed for unemployment insurance in the United States. According to Johns Hopkins Corona Virus Resource Center, worldwide COVID-19 fatality numbers top 400,000 (110,000 in the U.S.). Unemployment, coupled with constant reminders of mortality can provide powerful motivation for change.
Life’s big questions
Morrell worked with her friend and certified life coach, Amy Berenson, of Compass Coaching, to consider the larger questions around change. Berenson says, “I help clients explore their motivations, assumptions, fears, and joys around a career or life change so that they [can] assess its impact on their lives carefully and realistically.”
“Speaking with Amy sparked bigger picture ideas…” Morrell says. In addition to social events, Morrell hopes to capitalize on corporate team building opportunities over videoconferencing, and, eventually, in person. She can customize her games to specific topics, and all games are played in teams, so no one feels singled out. “I’m already deriving the same joy from creating Brain Games that I’ve always gotten from music and my career in radio.” Morrell has created a website for her voice-over and trivia/ games businesses and has corporate clients as well as social groups raving about Brain Games.
As a life coach, Berenson is accustomed to helping clients find their way through times of dramatic change. “We read about people seeking ‘their passion,’ but often there isn’t just one thing that a person is meant to do or can enjoy. Entering a more explorative mode allows clients to see a myriad of possibilities and then choose accordingly. Getting them to think way outside the typical parameters opens up their minds to greater possibilities.”
Berenson recalls working with a client who wanted to leave his job as an engineer to launch a handyman service. “With him, and with most of my clients, we take time to explore and discuss what’s really important to them, what impact they wish to have in their life, and even write a life purpose statement.” She says, “The better they know themselves, and what drives them, the better they can make decisions aligned with who they are.” Adding, “Logistics just fall away…”
Allow creativity to flow
Amy Brassert, MSW, RSW, is a clinical social worker and therapist who has been helping clients learn to work in the new reality of COVID-19. “Many clients,” she says, “are wondering how to pivot to a new job or even a new career. With all of the losses happening, some people are more aware of how they want to spend their time, their life, and the legacy they want to leave.”
When a client is unemployed and considering next steps, Brassert asks them to take time to explore their emotions. “First feel…” she recommends. “Are you sad? Are you relieved? Have you been unhappy or stuck? Or, are you in mourning over what was?” Brassert explains that self-exploration and reflection are essential to make change. “If you take time to explore your emotions,” she often tells clients, “then creativity can flow.”
Don’t re-create the wheel…or souffle
Phyllis Stein has forty-plus years of career coaching experience and was the Director of Radcliffe Career Services before launching her own practice in 1997. The majority of her clients are in their 50’s and 60’s and while Stein agrees self-assessment is essential, she also emphasizes research and reality. “I like to use the souffle analogy,” she explains. “If you have a dozen eggs, are you going to go in the kitchen and try to figure out how to make a souffle? Or, will you use the expertise of others?” There are countless books about making career changes. Stein encourages clients to browse through a few books, and then just pick one to read (to avoid redundancy.) Here are some of her recommendations:
- Encore Career Handbook, by Marci Alboher
- Working Identity, by Herminia Ibarra
- What Should I Do With the Rest of My Life, by Bruce Frankel
- The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk and Adventure the 25 Years after 50, by Sarah Lawrence Lightfoot
When Stein works with clients who are considering major career changes, they set up both short-term and long-term goals. “People need to be realistic about the time frame. I encourage clients to explore what they’d like to be doing while keeping reality in mind.” Some short-term goals might include researching, gathering new skills, or volunteering in a desired field. “There are jobs and careers that didn’t even exist before this pandemic,” she adds. When considering a new career Stein recommends thinking about “growth, learning, new skills, and exploration.” And, if a client is currently unemployed, they actually have time to take on these tasks.
Become the person you could be…
Paul Mayer, president of The Schegg Group, a career management consulting firm in Connecticut, agrees that unemployment during COVID-19 can be a time of great personal and professional growth. Mayer works with an array of clients, but many are in their 50’s, 60’s and even 70’s. Whether launching a new career, or seeking employment, Mayer recommends considering improvement at three levels: physical, educational, and spiritual.
“Now is the time to drop those few pounds you’ve been thinking of losing,” he recommends, adding, “or at least take some time to be stronger and better than before.” Whether on video conference or eventually in person, Mayer reminds his clients they don’t want to look like they’ve let themselves go. “You want to present yourself as full of energy and vitality, and ready to work with your new employer or investor.” Adding, “and physical activity helps maintain a positive attitude while lessening pessimism and self-doubt.”
Mayer also recommends taking time to strengthen and learn new skills. “Perhaps you know you’ll be doing more Webinar presentations. Now is the time to become an expert in any areas you may have been lacking.” Companies like SkillUp, Google, and Linkedin offer free and paid programs to learn skills and earn certificates in an array of fields. “Also,” he says, “the State Department of Labor and adult education courses are a great value.”
Mayer believes a great way to tune into your spiritual world is to “consider the needs of others and volunteer.” He advises clients to sign-up for a shift at a soup kitchen, build with Habitat for Humanity, or even donate blood. “Helping others increases your confidence and leads to bigger questions about your purpose in life,” Mayer explains. “This is an opportunity to challenge yourself and ask what you could or should be doing next in life, and how you want to be remembered.”
The experts are united in agreeing that this pandemic has given people the opportunity to examine priorities. “If you are lucky and not in food and shelter mode,” Berenson notes, there are two ways of reacting to change: “You can be miserable, or you can adapt and even thrive.”
Carolyn Morrell has decided to take this time away from the radio business to answer her questions, “What brings me joy?” And, “How can I use this time and business environment to my advantage?” She is now waiting to answer the feasibility question and hoping that her new Brain Games business is a hit!
*Data from state of California
About the Writer
Joyce Alla, Bucket Age 33, is a freelance writer working on her first novel and blogging at AllaMartinis.com
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