Now what? How younger millennials/Gen-Z can professionally pandemic-proof
For reference before you start reading this, I’m 25, this is my first crisis, and I have a small business.
On the surface, the COVID-19 pandemic is the most Millennial/Gen Z-positioned crisis we could possibly compose:
- Stay either on your couch or in bed to save your health
- Use social media to connect with the world to stay sane
- Order take out as much as possible to save the economy
Everything we’ve been dragged over the coals for for quite some time is the cure for this public health and economic crisis. I’m clearly poking fun about a very not funny situation that has drastically impacted lives, imploded our economic and employment situation, and taken lives. But I do want to draw attention to the age group under 30-ish who are experiencing this.
It’s unique and it’s not. Every generation faces something in their adult years when they are active, functioning members of society trying to climb or survive that rocks the system they’re trying to play. For a lot of people aged 18-30(ish), this is that. In this sense, it’s not unique. In the sense that this is an acute event with unseen magnitude and consequences, it’s unique.
In a way, dare I say, economically lucky with this being our first crisis. This is no 2008.
We have an acute, dramatic phase that is going to momentarily clear out the noise, reveal patterns, accelerate what has already been gradually shifting, and expose weakness and opportunity. For those who are listening and watching.
Most crises do this. Rarely are they acute, relatively controllable, and potentially short lived. That’s on a very macro level. I will outline that in a separate blog.
What I want to focus on here is the personal work a crisis like this can spark for young millennials and older Gen-Z. This is also an opportunity to reveal what’s not working, what is, and a clearer, stronger path forward for us personally in finance, career, and mindset.
Seek out the opportunities and industries that appear when everything washes away:
There is a winner or handful of winners within every crisis. What’s interesting is that most of the companies, technologies, brands, etc. that emerge as winners are normally something that we have been shifting towards for a long time. Or they are technologies that were already slowly changing a current system. Conversely, the biggest losers and those companies/industries that don’t survive crises are often the ones that were on the way out initially. The super hot opportunities that emerge are often what is core to disruptive transformation and the new trends that get suddenly pushed to the forefront by a crisis.
Here’s an example: retail vs eCommerce vs mobile eCommerce.
The loser: retail
Am I saying retail is dead? No. Am I saying retail is in trouble, was hurting before, and retail companies need to adopt omnichannel existence in order to make it through the crisis and after? Absolutely.
The winner: eCommerce
Before this crisis, eCommerce was taking over how we shop as retail foot traffic had fallen by over 30%. Our shopping habits had already shifted online. I realized this when I I went to Nordstrom with the same friend 2-3 times in a week to pick up her online orders and return them instead of looking at any of the clothes in the store even once. The Nordstrom our moms had shopped in as kids was now an online order pick up for us primarily. This crisis has temporarily shifted our habits to online shopping only but these habits will likely stick in a more significant way.
The big opportunity: mobile commerce
Any technology that supports mobile eCommerce in particular. Prior to this, over 50% of eCommerce transactions were expected to be on mobile devices by 2021. I think this has accelerated that. We have broken single-day app download rates for shopping apps this week (March 17th) alone. We’ve shown that we love to shop on our phones and technology and eCommerce sites are catching up with our expectations for mobile commerce now. Any technology that supports this will be a winner. We’ve already seen Square, Stripe, Salesforce, and Shopify be the only few to really win in this crisis period indicating their fundamental piece in a new paradigm.
This is just an example. There’s a lot more like this across industries. You have to look.
Learn the players:
You’ve got to know who is driving what’s next forward and make sure to keep your eyes on them. This is something that people in tech are used to but those who work in other industries tend to learn about these things a little later. However, it affects where you should be looking in terms of stable, lucrative career opportunities. I don’t mean we all need to be developers but we all need to find our place in what’s next. Knowing who is moving us forward and setting the blueprint helps us to better conceptualize that.
Align and package your skill set for what’s next:
Again, there is a place for all skill sets within whatever is next. Discovering what that is and packaging it correctly for companies and entrepreneurs I think some young professionals do very well and others don’t. I spent a long time trying to niche down, productize, and improve the selling process of my skill set. You have to think of yourself as a directly valuable product that companies and entrepreneurs can purchase. Always, when you are pitching your skills, services, experience, etc., think in terms of “What direct value does this provide this person or company? What pain point am I alleviating? How am I saving or making money?” If you can do this and communicate this, you have an opportunity.
I don’t want to get into this because I feel it’s policial and complex. I think we’ve learned that we have to make changes (at many different levels as individuals and society) that allow us to have solid savings accounts earlier. Cash is still king and always will be. A security net that we control has a renewed importance.
Investment isn’t a far off dream. Opportunity is now:
When I was little, the stock market, bonds, index funds were all far off or part of a corporate job I would one day have. I’m 25 in the middle of this crisis, I’m self-employed, friends of mine don’t have a portfolio even though they work corporate, and it’s time to get this going regardless. THis is a huge opportunity. I’ve actually started my portfolio this week and it’s something I’m happy I’m doing now (for obvious reasons) but this is the first time I’ve been really woken up to the value of having a portfolio and starting younger with understanding how this can support long term financial goals. I’m not saying we should dump our last dollar into Boeing stock before the stimulus deal goes through but I am saying we should take our long term finance goals into our own hands and seek these opportunities in the future.
This is not the last crisis we will face. This is a test run for us and if we look closely at the challenges and opportunities we have right now in this, we can better position ourselves for the next time and excel in until then.
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