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Confessions of a professional approaching mid life crisis.
One of the most painful lessons that I have ever learnt in my entire life was not from school. This statement seems somewhat ironical as I am an educator by profession.
My late father was always passionate about his job. He had a positive work ethic. He was always one of the few who were the first to arrive and last to leave his workplace. He took pride in his work. Unfortunately, towards the more senior years of his working life, many companies in my country were badly hit by the economic crisis in the late 1990s. I witnessed my dad being made redundant.
He had difficulty getting another job that pays the bills sufficiently and was always offered odd jobs that do not even pay enough to support a family.
The rest of us in the family had to take on part time jobs while we were still schooling in order to bear the brunt of the damage created by the economic downturn.
The retrenchment my late father went through had a toll on his pride. He never recovered from the shock of losing the job he loved and was passionate about.
It was a harsh lesson that remained in my memory till this very day.
I am currently doing reasonably 'okay' in my professional career.
Like many other college educated professionals who have turned 40 with some cash savings, i have reached a stage where I ask myself ; what is next?
Having met someone that I truly care about and wanting to spend my life with, as I prod on my working gear daily, I am proud of the work that I do. I am an educator of senior high school students, namely the tail end ones. I guess I found my passion early on in life. Being an educator was not my first career choice. It only became my career choice after getting my hands on voluntary teaching on less privileged kids. I realised that I could make a difference in the lives of the young. I began to discover my passion.
Working in an industry that I am passionate about, I often fail to look beyond its periphery. I've never even bothered to look if the grass was really greener on the other side. I've never even thought of smelling the roses in other industries.
Then it began to dawn on me. I am not getting any younger. Despite being one of those who is blessed with youthfulness where I look far younger than my actual age, the reality is that I AM getting older.
Having been delved in my passion at an early stage in my life, in an industry that is relatively secure from economic downturns (at least in my country where education seems to be a means to an end, as well as an end in itself - yes I am stereotyping Asian countries) , I do wonder am I missing out on a possible way to earn outside the realm of formal education?
The answer obviously is 'yes'.
Fortunately for me, I do keep in touch with my friends from my younger days who are currently in industries other than mine. Many are badly hit by the current economic downturn. Some are retrenched, some have experienced large pay cuts.
Yes, my industry is a fairly secure one, at least for now in my country. Its a good industry to be in if you have the passion to deal with the tumultuous spirit of the young and the patience to deal with their adolescent challenges. However, despite the industry being in a recession proof state, at least in my country, skills do come and go and become obsolete, and people will come and go in industries because of this fact. Some educators will fall way behind when their skills and abilities do not match that of the current demands of the times.
In addition , even when the economy bounces back to positive levels, the country as a whole may recover, but certain sectors may experience a negative growth . Hence, industries will rise and fall, and some may start to experience a slow death.
In short, no one is safe from cyclical downturns and the shrinking of various industries or their eventual decline may cause people to lose their jobs when they least expect or are unprepared.
Now, there will be groups of people who will tell you to create your business or be an entrepreneur to overcome any form of recession. The reality is, not everyone is built for entrepreneurship. Good for you, if you have the qualities and capabilities of one.
I am highly active in voluntary work and I have witnessed a fair share of people who are struck by various personal disasters that affect their economic livelihood.
I have seen a fair share or people who were stripped of their lifestyle and live below a humane income level.
I have seen a fair share of people who lose their homes and are unable to have at least 2 decent meals a day.
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I highly encourage you to learn to monetize your passion or build up another stream of income. Creating massive wealth may or may not be your desire. But I am sure survival is. I am sure you would not want to reach a state where there is no roof over your head nor food on your table. So start creating a backup plan...
You have a hobby and you think you can earn some form of cash from it? Go start small.
Lets say you aspire to be an entertainer, start by creating videos or perform on stage or at a community fun fair.
If you love cooking, try making some dishes for your friends. Cook for trade shows or a birthday party.
If you have always been keen hairstyling, go learn the trade.
Or simply, start a low cost and low risk enterprise.
(Be careful of get-rich-quick schemes, scams and illegal stuff)
Whenever there is a will, there is a way.
In short, try out a passion that you have had and start somewhere. It may be a rough ride in the beginning. It might take a while before you see some results. It takes persistence, continuous improvement and a never say die spirit.
Or simply make yourself more valuable to the company by polishing up your skills in your profession. Go upgrade your knowledge and retrain.
Have a back-up plan.
Life is too short to not to try out your passion and interests. Maybe you might be able to monetize them someday.
I have seen a fair share of people who are caught off guard and have never recovered from bad economic times.
Many jobs will be made redundant by the technological revolution or by the fact that some industries find better business prospects in relocating to another country.
Nobody else will be interested to see you succeed as much as you do.
Several students have once asked me, why are we studying many things in school which had little practical applications in life? They pointed out that vocational skills that are closely related to the job market are far more relevant than subjects which are completely academic in nature.
While I did mention to them that the academic subjects that they learn in school are not purely for economic purposes but more towards developing them into a holistic person, one cannot run away from the fact that our school system was designed by the people of the past in anticipation of the future. Simply put, a responsible education system prepares students not just for the present moment, but for the future.
Well, not all education systems are forward looking.
Not all educators are forward looking either.
And even the most responsible of educators and education systems are preparing you for the future based on current trends and perceptions.
At the end of the day, you will be the one bearing the responsibility of your successes and failures. You will be the one who is responsible for your own fate.
In an economy where industries and large corporations rise and fall at an unprecedented pace, you simply have to start somewhere and carry out a back up plan for yourself. Start small. You don't have to quit your current job, do it part time. Usually crisis hits people hard because they are caught unprepared. Start building a back up income plan.
Written by Abraham A.L.
18th November 2017
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