New Zealand Herald – Editorial – Careers Section 25th July 2012
Many people working in small business, self-employment, part-time work and contracting are experiencing quiet times with reduced work opportunities. Seasonal fluctuations in business are an on-going reality but this is exaggerated, currently, in the super-cautious market following the recession. The situation is further compounded by the on-going European debt crisis.
Whilst it appears that employment numbers have improved slightly and unemployment at 6.7% compares favourably with many countries, the real picture is much more complicated. The experience of under-employment is a growing trend. In its report on employment and unemployment for the March 2012 quarter, the Department of Labour figures show part-time employment up by 13,000, while full time employment fell by 3,000.
At present it seems that we can’t expect business as usual. The uncertainties are causing widespread caution and a volatile business market. What is happening for many is confusing and nerve-wracking to say the least, especially as living costs seem to be constantly increasing. A consequence of less or inconsistent work and income is discouragement for people, a lowering of self-belief, and often a withdrawal causing less visibility in the market place. This doubt translates into the questions “Am I in the right career?” “I need be earning more.” Often the issue is not about being in the right career. Rather, we have fewer work opportunities which results in a constant push for people to ‘up their game’ become indispensable at work, increase hours, diversify or restructure their lives.
I have been pondering the question, “How do we create work when there is little around?” The macro version of this question is about ‘we’ as New Zealanders, and our economy. The micro version is about ‘we’ as individuals. On the macro level when things are quiet we need strategies and to know where we are going, think broader to access offshore markets then gather our resources, get organised (and networked) and get going. The funny thing is that it is the same on a micro level!
Some people simply have the knack of making the most of things. The old saying “I am not what happens to me, I am what I choose to become” from Carl Jung’s philosophy is a powerful statement which points to the significance of will power. I think that we in Aotearoa New Zealand, with our strong entrepreneurial spirit, have the character and potentially, the collective will to ‘choose what we become’. We are used to pioneering, working hard and being flexible. We have a well-educated, talented but often under-utilised workforce that could achieve even more if we realised this and organised ourselves to maximise this characteristic.
These are testing times for many, yet they can be transformative times too. It takes courage to swim against the tide of pessimism, to remain optimistic, to make the most of challenging situations and to persist when the going gets tough. It also takes vision. Once I had a manager who, when business was light, said “Put energy out there and you get energy back”. This proved true every time. It spurred me on to get going and in no time work came flowing in. This is a universal principle: when one contracts, the world seems to contract too; when one expands ones world expands – often in spades!