[ If you’ve ever been flat on your ass and need a fresh horse, or out of a job with the need to re-invent yourself, please read to the end of this post and grab the book that can and will pump new life into you! ]
Q: What do you do when your old horse dies?
A: You pick a new horse. Like you have any choice?
I’m talking about jobs, and careers here. I’m also talking about what you do when you’re mid-career — or even further down the line — and your job evaporates because your industry just “ain’t what it used to be.” I see a lot of it in the creative community that I’ve been a part of for over 20+ years as as a senior writer/producer and creative director in advertising.
- I’ve watched dwindling newspaper sales, like that of the Chicago Tribune, lead to the layoffs of 30 staff photographers, some of whom had been with the paper as long as 30 years. (Management said they were ‘crowd sourcing’ most of their on-going photography needs — cheaper or cost free).
- I’ve seen whole agencies subsumed by larger corporate conglomerates in both the traditional and digital spaces, leaving hundreds if not thousands wondering where their next paycheck was coming from.
- I’ve cringed as I’ve witnessed the “silent killer of” creatives, age discrimination (that’s notoriously difficult to prove) leave highly talented and experienced people begging for work while 25 and 30-year-olds who can be hired for less take their places.
This is corporate life, and let’s face it — corporate doesn’t give a damn about people, it concerns itself only with the bottom line.
In the immortal words of Leo Durocher:
“If you don’t win, you’re going to be fired. If you do win, you’ve only put off the day you’re going to be fired.”
So: You’ve lost your main play, and now you’re sending résumés out like bulk wallpaper, with your phone silent and your email box stuffed with spam instead of ham.
It’s time to pick a new horse, and the only horse available may be the one you conjure up out of thin air.
It’s also called working for yourself and it’s scary as hell.
But the upside is, you can’t be fired and all the profit you make goes straight into your own pocket.
Example: A good pal of mine, a Detroit-area art director who was making close to six figures in the 90s at a major agency, was canned and replaced with two frosh ADs at 20K each. The agency management saved a ton of money, impressed their overlords in New York and produced work that was acceptable if not stellar. And those frosh ADs never once bitched about 14-hour days and weekends at the sweatshop, either.
My friend got a new job for half what he was making at the same mid-sized agency where I was working and later resigned to start up his own monthly entertainment tabloid. I know because I joined him, fed up with the politics of cubicle life. The new pub required an enormous amount of sweat, but within a few months we were making twice what the agency had been paying us.
Though I later left that partnership amicable, my colleage has continued on, paying the mortgage, buying groceries and putting two kids through college. (He hasn’t had a real vacay in about 17 years, but that’s a whole other story).
The question is, what skills can you take with you — and which clients can you poach — from your current job?
Or, is it time to get into an entirely new field? I remember reading long ago about a senior creative, burned out to a cinder from the job, who chucked it all, downsized into a Florida condo and made bank selling gourmet hamburgers from a push cart four hours a day. The rest of the time he fished, soaked up the UV and wrote mad poetry.
I also think about the poor souls who were swept up by the holocaust, watched their entire families and friends go up the chimney and somehow survived to make it to America for a radical re-boot. Arriving with nothing, many of them started their own businesses and succeeded despite everything from depression and despair to PTSD to survive — and most importantly — to thrive.
The job market today, with its myriad parallels to open war, invites you to test your mettle.
That’s right — sooner or later it’s going to be you who needs to pick a new horse.
And who’s gonna help?
As it always is in life, nobody cares what you do unless it directly affects or benefits them, so take care of yourself first — act on your dreams. Make them real. Begin with the first step now, before the bombs begin falling around you.
There’s no time like the present for doing so.
Get the full-monty run-down on how to hack the world to your benefit in my cynical but highly rewarding book, Nobody Cares: The Ultimate & Only Self Help Book You Will Ever Need, available now on Amazon (link.)
If you don’t win, I don’t win.