Losing someone you love forces you to acknowledge life’s brevity and serves as a relentless reminder that, in the time you have left, you had better do something worthwhile . . . or at least have one hell of a time trying. A global pandemic can have a similar effect, forcing us to question our lives, our loves, and our work, though it comes with one added bonus—plenty of time to reflect and think.
College seniors are graduating without clear prospects, millions of Americans now find themselves without jobs, and countless people are coming to the stark realization that the jobs they do have suddenly seem less rewarding. They are asking themselves what must be the most popular question of 2020: What’s next?
Now, I realize many of you won’t have the luxury of taking any time to answer that question. The jobs market has been sucker punched, so for many any job is a “good” job in the middle of a pandemic. Still others will find themselves out of work in careers they realize they didn’t really like all that much anyway. Many will continue down the similar path that we have all followed, moving without much thought from one opportunity to another like a trapeze artist letting go of one handle to desperately scramble to find the next.
But others will use this unique moment of more time to solve the abundance of problems our world is facing.
I recently counseled one young woman who is starting up her own food company while still at her well-paying, stable job. Now that she’s not traveling or commuting, she has more spare time to spend on building her side hustle. This is to say, perhaps there are worse times, aside from a global pandemic, to turn your “second shift” project into your regular “9-to-5.”
For some of these self-starters, more time means a greater opportunity to go all in. One example is Fred Kofman, who was a VP of leadership development at Google until he stepped down from his role, citing his time in quarantine as motivation. He now works for himself, advising tech titans such as Google and other startups along with founding a meditation app.
Still, others might need a bit of a push. As a result of the economic downturn, a good friend was laid off from a large company where he worked many years as a top digital strategist. Today his official self-proclaimed title is “chief pause officer at taking a moment.” Here are a few lines from his “job description”: “I’m catching my breath, having worked non-stop in my career and prioritizing my clients, my teams, and the companies I’ve worked for. In this temporary role, I am responsible for prioritizing myself and my future.”
For me, I could turn to the passing of my father as an excuse to be honest with myself, over what I wanted out of work and out of life.
To be fair, I have probably had more careers than I have had cars, leaping from journalism to public service; public service to entertainment; entertainment to public relations and public relations to my own frozen pizza startup, CAULIPOWER. I’m evidence not all career changes have to be perfectly logical. It’s been less than four years since CAULIPOWER sold its first pizza. And today we have more than $110 million in annualized sales and can boast we are the national favorite in the “better-for-you” pizza category.
During this pandemic, the world has never had more problems to solve. It can be mentally and emotionally exhausting and can feel like you are drowning in decisions without a way out. However, these circumstances also mean there has never been a greater need for entrepreneurs with solutions. The audacious challenges of this day are spurring innovation and igniting a desire in many of us to finally act upon the changes we seek.
Gail Becker is the founder and CEO of CAULIPOWER, a frozen food company. She founded the company after her father’s passing and her two sons’ diagnoses of Celiac disease. Gail previously worked in broadcast journalism and government, as well as spent years as a senior executive in large corporations.